Are you looking for things to do in western Massachusetts? Seeking place-based learning ideas? Are you a self-directed, life-long, and/or experiential learner? Are you curious or wanting to support the interests of your family? Our weekly Suggested Events list includes suggested learning ideas, resources, and fun events for all ages, each week!
Pioneer Valley Ballet returns with the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Join Clara as she battles the Rat King to save the Nutcracker Prince, then travel through the enchanted Snow Forest and beautiful Kingdom of Sweets. This production is a treasured community event that features dancers from across the Pioneer Valley performing roles ranging from sparkling snowflakes to the tiniest reindeer. A one-hour performance, live on stage December 10-12, 2021 at the Academy of Music in Northampton. Perfect for families of all ages. General admission seating. Reserve your tickets and view the health & safety policy at aomtheatre.com. For more information about the Pioneer Valley Ballet company and school, visit pioneervalleyballet.org.
FEATURED EVENT Playing in the Cold: A Talk on Winter Gear for Infants and Toddlers Friday, Dec 10 @ 4:30pm
Outdoor creative free-play is essential to every child’s health and well-being. However, winter in Western MA can be challenging with keeping kids warm while playing in the snow and exploring their frozen landscape! On Friday, December 10, 2021, at 4:30pm, Wild Garden of Childhood Nursery in Northampton, MA, is hosting a talk, “Playing in the Cold: A Talk on Winter Gear for Infants and Toddlers.” with Nicole Thurrell. Nicole is from the Institute for Wild Med: Wilderness and Emergency Medicine and will be talking about playing in the cold with infants and toddlers. For more information: 413-231-4454; wildgardenofchildhood.com; email@example.com. All are welcome!
Dinos return to the Valley! Piti Theatre & Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association are bringing DinoFest back to Greenfield (and online) on Saturday & Sunday, December 11 & 12, 2021. Blending science, arts, and community-building, DinoFest features “Dexter and the Dinosaurs,” a historical dramedy for all ages at the Garden Cinemas with special guests (and their fossils) from the Jurassic Roadshow, a Dino Improv session, a child dino expert Zoom session, and more! Dinofest grew out of Piti’s “Your Town” program that leverages local history to help us better understand the present. Schedule: ptco.org/dino. All events are FREE to the public. The Greenfield Garden Cinemas is located at 361 Main St. in Greenfield, MA.
FEATURED YOUTH MUSICAL PRODUCTION Oklahoma! Northampton, MA
Did you know that the Academy of Music Theatre presents a fully staged youth musical every year? Come hoot and holler with them in Oklahoma! – part of the “Getting to Know Rodgers and Hammerstein” series. Open to ages 9-16, no experience necessary. Rehearsals start on January 4, 2022, and run on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week from 5-7pm at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton, MA. The final performances will be on March 10 & 11, 2022. Visit aomtheatre.comand click “Academy Youth Productions” under the Youth Programs menu to register. Email Education Director, Susan Dillard, with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creativity, self-expression, and the joy of music are gifts that last a lifetime, so the Community Music School of Springfield is making music lessons easy & affordable for your loved one this holiday season. All of their packages for private music lessons feature buy-4 get-1-free pricing, the choice of virtual or in-person instruction, and perfect match teachers. Ordering online or over the phone is easy & they can deliver gift certificates via email or mail. You choose the length of the lesson (30, 45, 60 min.), and the recipient selects the instrument & time that works best for their schedule when they redeem their gift package. Start date for lessons is Jan 2022. Learn more or purchase today!communitymusicschool.com/gifts413-732-8428.
Give the gift of music this holiday season with the Berkshire Music School (BMS) 4-lesson trial package! The package includes four consecutive 30-minute lessons in any orchestral or band instrument as well as voice or theory for $140. One-month instrumental rental included. Take a private lesson in-person at BMS’s historic campus or online from the comfort of your home. Private lessons may be arranged for 30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes each week to meet the individual student’s needs and may begin at any point throughout the year. BMS’s fun Community Group Classes are offered on a pay-what-you-can basis with a new winter session starting in January. Visit the BMS website for class offerings and check out the new online registration feature!
Are you looking for a unique gift for a child in your life? The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA, invites you to Give the Gift of Reading! For just $25 a month, the child that you enroll will receive a handpicked book based on the age, interests, and reading level that you provide. From newborns to young adults, no child is too young or too old to join! Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with their Gift of Reading Coordinator at email@example.com for more information. Odyssey Bookshop. 413-534-7307. 9 College Street, South Hadley MA.
Children only get one preschool experience. Experience The Common School. The Common School, serving children ages 3-12 years, has two preschool classrooms for children ages 3-5 years. These classrooms provide strong student/teacher ratios, a diverse and inclusive community, opportunities for experiential learning, a stellar social and emotional curriculum, environmental awareness, play based learning, significant time spent outdoors and many resources, such as an extensive library, music and movement class. Prospective families are invited to meet their teachers and tour their newly renovated facilities, including outdoor learning spaces for extended time outside.
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Partner with Hilltown Families in your online advertising! Delivering your message each week to over 25,000 subscribers, web visitors, and social media followers each week, Hilltown Families can bring your message to thousands of families in Western Massachusetts. Serving the region since 2005, Hilltown Families is an award-winning, online communication network, recognized as a leading family strengthening initiative in the region, promoting “positive parenting through the social norm of community social connectedness.” A trusted partner in your online marketing! To find out how we can partner together in your online marketing and outreach, contact us for info on our affordable options and packages: firstname.lastname@example.org. Have an event, resource, or opportunity you’re ready to promote? Click HERE to submit your information.
WILDERNESS SURVIVAL. 1-2:30pm. Discover how native animals survive in winter, what they eat, how they find food during a Hunter/Gatherer Hike at Mount Greylock State Reservation. For ages 12 & older. 413-499-4262. 30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough, MA.
When you think of desserts during the holiday season, what comes to mind? Sugar cookies? Fruit cake? Gingerbread houses? Pies? How about Bûche de Noël, Sufganiyah, Panettone, Tembleque, Panetón, Christstollen, Pasteis de Nata, or Plum Pudding? These special desserts are made during the December holiday season in many parts of the world, embodying cultural and/or religious significance. Learning about their origins, history, and pastry art methods in their preparation make these desserts a delicious lens into learning through your interests. Often passed down from generation to generation, regional holiday desserts are also part of family traditions that may have traveled to new locations from their place of origin. Get curious about these desserts, learn about their heritage, bake together with your kids, and maybe even create new recipes to pass down within your own family.
Is there anything better than the sound of children happily discussing whether gumdrops or gummy bears make for better foliage in a confectionery garden? Grown-up architects debating the merits of Lifesavers vs. melted lollipops to convey gothic stained glass? The hum of conversation and laughter as designers of all ages bring their inspiration and creativity to bear on gingerbread walls, roofing material, and piles of buttercream mortar? Building a gingerbread house is a fantastic way to include creative folks of all ages in creating a delicious, well-engineered work of art, along with skills in architectural design, engineering, geometry, communication, and collaboration.
Learning about traditions and celebrations worldwide that mark the longest night of the year can support a broad spectrum of interests. For example, take Saint Lucy’s Day, a festival that marks the start of Christmas in Sweden on December 13. What is the origin of this festival, and how is it celebrated? Is food a part of this celebration? If not, why? If so, what? Are there costumes and traditions in which families participate? Is this a day celebrated in the community, at home, or in a place of worship? Find Sweden on the map and learn about the habitat and weather patterns during the darkest day of the year. Getting curious about the food, habitat, and cultural heritage associated with Saint Lucy’s Day can support learning about world culture, food traditions, and human behavior.
December is known for the tradition of giving gifts during the winter holidays. Let’s take this tradition and look through the lens of wrapping paper as a catalyst for learning about math, history, production, environmental impacts, and wrapping techniques.
In the colder months, when we’re bundled up inside, sleeping under a pile of blankets, and scuffling about our homes in socks and slippers, we might find that we often encounter electrical shocks when we touch doorknobs or tiny bolts of “lightning” emitted from blankets as we toss about to get warm and comfortable. Static electricity is to blame! This phenomenon is the perfect opportunity to learn about the physics of electricity and why we get tiny shocks more often in the winter than in the summer months.
Every year in December, there are stories that are shared that mark the season. Some of these stories are often translated into film and theater. Take How the Grinch Stole Christmas, translated into an animated television special and a Hollywood blockbuster. Or A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, acted out as plays and performed as musicals. These are just a couple of examples of literature in translation that ties into the cultural traditions shared this time of year. Get curious and see what other writings have been translated into similar fashions, comparing and contrasting the original writing with the translated performance.
Christmas and Hanukkah have a bank of associated words that we can use to support learning about word origins and world languages. Let the holiday season lead the way in learning through language art!
Online and in-person events and resources shared above are done so as a courtesy and not as an endorsement. While we do our best to share accurate and up-to-date information, please take the time to confirm information, age appropriateness, registration requirements, safety protocols, and associated costs.
Hilltown Families’ list of Suggested Events is supported in part by grants from the Agawam, Amherst, Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont/Hawley, Chester, Chesterfield, Chicopee, Colrain, Dalton, Deerfield, Easthampton, Gill, Goshen, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Heath, Hinsdale/Peru, Holyoke, Huntington, Leyden, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, New Salem, Northern Berkshire, Northfield, Palmer, Pelham, Plainfield, Rowe, Shelburne, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Southampton, Springfield, Tolland, Tyringham, Westhampton, Windsor, and Worthington Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.