30 Community-Based Educational Highlights: Forensics to Cosmology. Fiber Arts to Local Museums.

Paleontology to Contemporary Art. Forensics to Cosmology. Literature in Translation to Robotics. These are just a few of the community-based learning highlights we’re featuring this week. Peruse our list and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured seasonal highlight this week:

Historically, living without refrigerators in New England required strategies for prolonged food storage and preservation. Early New Englanders didn’t have the luxury of refrigerators, but they did harvest ice from frozen lakes and ponds to keep food stored without spoiling. The frozen chunks of ice harvested were kept insulated by materials such as sawdust in a dark, cool place so that the ice would last beyond the winter months. Throughout the winter, check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for community events and demonstrations of ice harvesting. Here are three featured resources in Western MA to add to your itinerary: Ice Harvesting: Community Events & Resource.


COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT: Have you ever chatted with an owl? You may get the chance during the Owl Prowl with Dan Ziomek on Friday, February 1, 8-10pm. Learn about these nocturnal predators with a venture into the woods to call to them. If you’re lucky, one or more will answer. Dress INCREDIBLY warm for standing around outside in the dark. Bring your sharp ears, a flashlight, and a thermos of something hot to drink. Ages 8+ w/adult. Hitchcock Center for the Environment. 413-256-6006, 845 West St, Amherst, MA.

SELF-INITIATED ACTIVITY: Intrigued by birds? Follow up your owl expedition with a search for various nests, perched low and high throughout the landscape. Read more about searching for nests in winter at our post, Western Mass Winter Brings Tracking Opportunities. And get your youngest excited about owls too with this video, the title song “Owl Singalong” from Raffi’s family album:


COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT: Model railroad fans from throughout New England and beyond come together to share their passion for trains of all sizes at the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show at the Eastern States Exposition on Saturday, January 26, 9am-5pm and Sunday, January 27, 10am-5pm. A great intergenerational hobby, model trains can support a variety of interests, from history to carpentry to economics to set design. Come curious and ask questions. Real-life railroads, scale model railroads, historical societies, art shows, flea market dealers, and photographers are all featured. View railroad layouts of all sorts, from the tiny Z scale to the monster N-Trak System. The Amherst Belt Lines, an HO scale model railroad operation, is a show highlight. 413-267-4555. 875 Memorial Avenue, West Springfield, MA.

COMMUNITY RESOURCES: Though the possibility of train travel in western Massachusetts feels new and exciting, railroads have been an essential part of the region’s history. By visiting museums, exploring local landmarks, and following the former paths of trains, families can dig deep into the history of the development of communities across western Massachusetts! Read more in our post 6 Community-Based Resources: Train Travel with Local History.

SELF-INITIATED ACTIVITY: Coming down the tracks and headed straight into the hands of young enthusiasts are three picture books about trains previously featured in our monthly column, Open Sesame. If you have little engineers in your life, the ones who sleep with trains under their pillows, who hear the whistle from miles away, who build tracks from one end of the house to the other, then check out these exciting books. Featuring both modern and vintage trains, and artwork that transports the reader to railroads near and far, these books will have train lovers wanting to climb aboard. Read more in our post Railroads & Locomotives: Three Children’s Books About Trains.


COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT: SciTech Café presents: How the Universe Ends. How will the Universe end? How do we know? What’s going to happen to the Earth? What will astronomers of the future see? Is there any hope for a Universe that lasts forever? Dr. Katherine Mack a theoretical astrophysicist who studies a range of questions in cosmology will present on Monday, January 28, 6-7pm. SciTech Cafe events are open all those with curious minds regardless of age and background. Union Station. 413-341-3161. 125 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA.

Resources: MUSEUMS

Don’t overlook our local museums, tremendous community-based educational resources offering a multitude of family programming this week that support learning including literacy at the Eric Carle Museum, paleontology at the Springfield Museums, contemporary art at MASS MoCA, and fine art studies for new parents at The Clark. Check with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to borrow.


SELF-INITIATED ACTIVITY: Differing from regular mending in that it’s meant to be seen, visible mending offers a creative take on clothing repair. Possible to do with just a few basic sewing skills, visible mending offers a great fix for the inevitable rips, tears, and threadbare patches that well-loved clothing inevitably experiences – plus it’s an easy way to upcycle! Read more in our post, Visible Mending Blends Fiber Arts with Sustainability.

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENTS: In Western MA this weekend and next week, there are several community-based educational opportunities to learn new skills while being aware of consumption. Fashion and clothing trends add to much of the world’s problem with waste, but this week you can either swap clothes or learn to mend them rather than discard or donate. You can also learn how to fix broken household items or repair your bike and are invited to join others to discuss why it’s better for the enviornment to fix and share than to buy new.

Interest: FIBER ARTS

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT:  The Mending Café, hosted by Art & Soul and First Churches of Northampton. happens on Wednesday, January 30, 12noon-3pm. The Mending Café follows in the story-cloth making traditions of African-American, Native American, Hmong, Mexican, Amish, Laos, and Hawaiian women. Quilting expert, Sherril Willis, will work with all levels of experiences to design and make a unique story cloth using a wide variety of fabrics and textiles. RSVP: artandsoul.wm@gmail.com or call/text 413-348-2385. First Churches of Northampton. 129 Main St, Northampton, MA.

SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING: “Kapa is the traditional Hawaiian cloth made from tree bark. Wendeanne Ke`aka Stitt makes kapa today using natural dies and ancient techniques. As a master quilter, she’s also pushing the tradition to new places.” Learn more here…


COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT: Did you know that we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic every year? Only a fraction of the plastic that we create is ever recycled, so where does all that plastic end up and how does it impact our environment? Get curious and bring your questions to a special screening of the documentary film, “A Plastic Ocean” on Saturday, January 26, 2-4pm. A discussion will follow. Westhampton Public Library. 413-527-5386. 1 N Rd, Westhampton, MA.


SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING: With chilly temperatures and icicles, we have the perfect winter for some great snow studies this year! Read more in our post, Snow Studies: Crystals & Frost.

COMMUNITY-BASED EDUCATIONAL EVENT:  Homeschool Discovery Day: Snowflakes and Crystals happens on Tuesday, January 29, 10am-2pm Have you ever taken the time to notice the beauty of a snowflake? Learn about “Snowflake” Bentley, who spent his life photographing snowflakes, appreciate how these and other crystals form, and go on a winter adventure! Ages 6-12. This is designed as a drop-off program. Limited to 12 participants per program. Hitchcock Center for the Environment. 413-256-6006, 845 West St, Amherst, MA.


If you’re intested in music studies, there are opportunites to enjoy performances by the Apple Hill String Quartet, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, and music by Beethoven at Smith College. And history buffs can support their interests through events exploring women’s studies, nonviolent protests, native voices, and winter traditions. Other interests supported this week with community-based educational opportunities you can attend include forensics, cosmology, political science, marine biology, literature in translation, transportation, and robotics.

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Agawam, Gill, Shelburne, Buckland, Hadley, Tolland, New Salem, and Westhampton Cultural Councils, local agencies that are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

[Photo credit: (cc) Tony Webster]

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