PITTSFIELD — If you invite a mouse to a library, it might want a cookie. And if you give a mouse a cookie at the local library, it might make people curious and want to check out the library too.

That's exactly what happened on Saturday morning as more than 100 children and family members gathered in the Berkshire Athenaeum for the third annual "Curiosity Day," co-presented with multiple community partners.

A larger-than-life-sized "Mouse," from "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, attended the event as its keynote character, reading stories, playing music and, of course, noshing on cookies with newfound friends.

In addition, more than a dozen volunteer educators joined in on the fun to lead activities at stations around the library, which were based on the theme of "STEAM," or science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

"This is how kids learn with their families. They're down on the floor playing and interacting with each other," said Karen Vogel, Community Impact Program manager for Berkshire United Way. She helped coordinate the event with Nan Pearson, the Athenaeum's supervisor of children's and young adults' services.


The STEAM event and activity stations stemmed from a 2014 "Full STEAM Ahead" grant of $7,500 from the The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, under a federal program to help provide STEAM materials and activities for families. This fall, Pearson said she's looking forward to being able to debut 25 STEAM Activity Kits, which can be borrowed from the library, each filled with books, toys and multimedia materials based on a different theme.

First-time Curiosity Day visitor Tristan Manzolini attended with her husband, Paul Manzolini, and their three children, Egan, 8 months, Gannon, 4, and Waverly, 2.

"We're looking to home school and this is a good way to be around other parents and kids and get ideas," Tristan said.

Paul Shepherd just moved to Pittsfield with his daughter Lola, 2 1/2, who particularly enjoyed the cookies and "instrument petting zoo" offered by Berkshire Music School staff.

"Kids don't often get a chance to explore these kinds of things in this way," Shepherd said.

Berkshire County Head Start teacher, Lauren-Lee Barry, said the structured activities were the same kind of brain-boosting offered in her classroom.

"I saw some of my students here today. The more we can do this in the community in an outside setting is great," Barry said.

Jenn Faulconer, the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Programs coordinator for Head Start, agreed. She leads multiple playgroups in schools and libraries throughout the county. In addition to reading, she talked about how simple activities can lead to the development of critical thinking.

"Parents think that technology has to be computers, but it can be as simple as a balance and weights, using rulers as a tool, or magnifying glasses and talking about what you see," she said. "Learning is all around us, and we learn best through play."