A round-up of must-take adult-ed classes, from A to Z
by David Valdes Greenwood
Schools are finally discovering that many students learn better in short bursts
of energy, through hands-on activities that cut down on the incidence of
lecture-induced comas. This holds just as true for adult students as it does
Welcome, then, to IGU: Instant Gratification University. There's no single
campus and no fixed degree, just a compendium of some of the most interesting
courses for adults in and around Boston. To qualify as an IGU course, each
class must meet only once or twice. Most of the classes are truly interactive,
and are not the sort of gen-ed courses you could take just anywhere. Some of
these courses may lead to degrees or careers, but all of them are ways of
improving yourself, expanding your mind, and having a good time without the
pressures of the Ivy League.
Adult CPR. Knowing CPR is a requirement for many who work in the
education, social-service, and hospitality fields. But even if you don't need
to know CPR for your job, taking this course, literally a hands-on experience,
will make you a more valuable asset to society. Offered by the American Red
Cross, this single night teaches you the basics of CPR. Whether you need the
certificate (which is valid for one year) or simply want to find your inner
lifesaver, this course is indispensable. And you never know when you'll need to
be a Good Samaritan. August 17 from 6:15 to 10 p.m., $39. Offered by
the American Red Cross of Newton (617-527-6000).
Bouillabaisse. Your evening will begin with a toast of French regional
wines, the perfect salutation for a class in the preparation of
Provençal bouillabaisse. Before you tackle the main course, scarf down
an appetizer of shrimp in garlic-and-sherry sauce, for strength. (Yes, this is
learning.) Students will work as a team to prepare the bouillabaisse as a
celebration of "joie de vivre." When that's accomplished and devoured, you'll
treat yourself to a crêpe suzette of your own making. Course Code: FRNT.
September 10 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., $36. Offered by the Cambridge
Center for Adult Education (617-547-6789).
Choreographing the Moment: Dancing at Your Wedding. It's no pressure,
just several hundred eyes trained on you as you and your new spouse nervously
take the empty dance floor all by yourselves to execute the first dance. If
you're not already Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire, sign up for this class, which
will help you choose the right song and teach you the basics of the fox trot,
an impressive first-dance choice. Learn how to play to your audience and
include planned touches that will look spontaneous: little kisses, winks, and
spins. When your kids watch the wedding video someday, they won't believe that
was you. Course Code: GWED. August 20 or 23 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., $31.
Offered by the Boston Center for Adult Education (617-267-4430).
Diving. What would you rather do with your weekend -- watch TV while
slouched on your couch like an invertebrate or get your diving certification?
The folks at New England Diving Adventures call their diving-certification
course a "weekend intensive," and they mean it: classroom time, pool training,
and then instructor-supervised open-water dives in dry suits (they provide all
the equipment). Test your strength, get a whole new perspective on coastal
living, and impress the hell out of your lazy friends. Ongoing; call for
available weekends, $249. Offered by the New England Diving Adventures of
Encaustic Painting. In the first and second centuries, a beautiful and
durable paint made from melted beeswax and resin was used to create lasting
artworks, including the Fayan Mummy Portraits. With its adaptability to a
variety of surfaces, encaustic painting has made a comeback in the 20th
century. In this two-day workshop, you'll learn how to prepare and apply the
materials, both by observation and by practice. Even if you decide not to make
any portraits of the dead, you'll still be part of a tradition nearly two
millennia old. Course Code: ENCA. September 18 and 19 from 9:30 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m., $132. Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Funds. Want to learn the ins and outs of mutual funds? Afraid to admit
you don't even know what a mutual fund is? This class is for both true novices
and investors who want help scoping out good funds. Find out what are sound
choices for you, learn what to avoid, and lob questions at experts from
American Express. The course description actually promises you'll learn to
"impress your pals at the office" with your "mental firepower." So by Monday
morning, you'll be a market titan -- at least around the water cooler. Course
Code: MFUN. September 18 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., $55. Offered
by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Gardening. Your tiny city yard is hardly pastoral, but you're nostalgic
for the small-town childhood summers of your past, or wishing you could get
away to the country for more than just a weekend. At Garden in the Woods, make
your reveries real by taking a class in Wildflower Meadows. You'll learn how to
plan your own mini-meadow, how your site affects your options, and what
conditions you need for different kinds of plants. You'll also visit an on-site
wildflower meadow for a large-scale example. Bucolic living will be yours.
Course Code: HOR4300. August 21 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., $31.
Offered at Garden in the Woods in Framingham (508-877-6574).
Handpainting on Fabric. Martha Stewart isn't the only person who can
control every single aspect of her aesthetic life -- you too can put your
personal imprint on everything from linens to wall hangings by learning the art
of handpainting on fabric. In two days, you'll learn all the basics, from dye
mixing to the finished product, all in a hands-on process. Best yet, you won't
just get the basics -- you'll also focus on design and on employing your own
style. That way, the end results will bear your signature just as surely as
Martha's bear hers. Course Code: NC204 September 25 and 26 from
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., $165. Offered by the Mass College of Art
In-line Skating. Back when it was new and still called rollerblading,
this activity seemed less like athletics and more like a way to cruise the
Esplanade looking for love before you wiped out. At this end of the '90s, it's
a serious sport, and its practitioners love to show off their skills. With
certified International In-Line Skating Association instructors, you can learn
how to move, stop, and turn, and then blast on up to the realm of crossing
through cones and racing. Bring your own equipment and take part in "the
fastest-growing sport in America." (And you can still cruise the Esplanade, but
now you'll fall down less.) Course Code: RLBL September 8 from 6 to
8 p.m., $32. Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Jewish History. "Jews in Boston" is a historic tour reflecting 300
years of Jewish presence in Beantown. On a mellow 1.5-mile sojourn from the
Financial District to the North End, you'll discover the roots of Sephardic
grandees, learn about Germanic Jews and the Ramaz who anchored the Russian
Jewish community, and find the connections -- and differences -- between these
groups, whose descendants live in Boston today. Ask your US Park Ranger tour
guide about Jerusalem Place, and find out why Salem Street is also called
Shalom. Course Code: JEWS. September 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
or 3 to 5 p.m., $30. Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Kayaking. So it never occurred to you that kayaking and barbecue go
together -- well, why not? The Summer Kayak Paddle and Barbecue on the Charles
is an opportunity to live the good life while acquiring a new skill. The staff
of Charles River Canoe and Kayak will teach you basic paddle strokes and then
lead you along the Charles for practice. Any anxiety you have about your
prowess is likely to be soothed by the view of the skyline at sunset.
Naturally, right after burning off calories from kayaking, you'll want to
replace them with barbecue from Redbones, the famed ribs joint. All you need to
bring is clothes you don't mind getting wet and dry clothes to change into.
Everything else will be provided. Course Code: GKPB. August 20 from 6 to
8:30 p.m., $53. Offered by the Boston Center for Adult Education.
Lapidary. You trust jewelers to do what you ask and probably never
imagine that you could do any of the things that they do. But the art of the
lapidary is not out of your grasp. This beginning lapidary workshop will
introduce you to the art of polishing and cutting gemstones for jewelry. By
day's end, you'll have cut 10 or more stones. No experience or equipment is
needed, just a desire to be precise and craft gems of your own. Even the people
at Tiffany had to start somewhere. Course Code: NC875. October 16 or 17
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., $85. Offered by the Mass College of Art.
Memoir Seminar. Dying to tell your story? Consider Grub Street Writers,
a hot young writing program that has grown by leaps and bounds in the last
year, offering what it calls "extremely interactive" workshops. Camping out at
Brookline Booksmith for seven hours on a Saturday, you'll do readings, writing
exercises, and group activities, all geared toward helping you understand plot,
structure, character, perspective, memory, and voice. At the end of the day,
you'll be jazzed to tell your story to the world in your own way.
August 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $100. Offered by Grub Street
Negotiating. Maybe you're easily provoked in debate, which loses the
argument for you; or maybe you find you're too meek to shout down aggressive
types and get what you want. This workshop helps you spot your opponent's
tricky tactics and then neutralize them, employing tips from Harvard
Negotiation Project's Win-Win, Bob Woolf's Friendly Persuasion,
and Brian Tracy's Negotiating Strategies. Bring practical negotiating
questions and learn how to personalize your strategy to fit your temperament.
Course Code: SUNN. August 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., $96.
Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Open Studio for Life Drawing. A certain Motown song proclaims there
"ain't nothin' like the real thing," and that's especially true in art. If
you're going to render the human figure with any skill, you need to spend time
observing and depicting actual specimens. Every Saturday and Sunday, live
models pose for hours, changing positions every one to 15 minutes (the shorter
poses actually help you speed up your ability to see the essential lines of a
figure). Bring your own materials and sign up in advance, because these courses
are popular. You'll be following in the footsteps of the greatest artists of
all time -- you can be sure that Michelangelo's David was inspired by
"the real thing." Ongoing, Saturdays from 12:15 to 4:15 p.m. and Sundays
from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m., $8 each session.
Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Polaroid Transfer. Overheard at an exhibition of Polaroid print
artwork: "I don't think my camera does that!" Artists have long loved the
possibilities for creation with Polaroid film, and now you can learn one of the
secrets. Bring favorite slides to this course and use the Polaroid transfer
process to print them onto Polaroid film. Then you can make emulsion or image
transfers from the print, which you can individualize. You'll learn the process
and how to use the equipment, as well as how to continue at home. Get those old
family slides out of storage and -- voilà -- turn your memories into
high art. Course Code: NC231. October 23 from 9:30 a.m. to
4:30 p.m., $130. Offered by the Mass College of Art.
QuarkXPress. If you've scanned help-wanted ads for graphic designers,
you've seen the QuarkXPress term, which is the page-layout program used most by
design pros. But you don't have to work as a designer to enjoy creating nifty
printed materials for your personal use, your family, or your office. Learn how
to position, edit, and format text on an electronic paste-up sheet, then add
headlines, boxes, ornamentation, and copy. Whether you want to land a killer
job or package your family genealogy in a memorable way, this class will get
you started. Course Code: QURK. September 17 from 9 a.m. to
6 p.m., $170. Offered by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
Rock Climbing. "Top roping" sounds like a rodeo category, but it's
actually an exciting style of rock climbing. If you've never climbed anything
higher than a bunk bed, fear not. Introduction to Rock Climbing is led by a
supportive staff that won't pressure you. After you learn knot tying, rope
handling, belaying, rappelling, and climbing commands, the staff will help you
choose a route that matches your abilities, from easy scrambles to gradual
vertical slopes. Wear loose clothes and sneakers or lightweight hiking boots,
and bring your lunch and water in a non-glass container; they'll provide the
rest. Meeting at Middlesex Fells Reservation in Medford rain or shine, this
class is headed for the top. Course Code: GIRC 04. August 21 (must
register by August 19) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $75. Offered by the
Boston Center for Adult Education.
Soap making. Bath, Bubbles, and Beyond -- even the title of this
handcrafted-soap workshop should lift your mood. You will learn the physical
process involved in making soothing bars: choosing equipment and ingredients,
handling lye safely, and creating recipes. Play with scents, get whimsical with
color, or toss in a dash of herbs and spices as you create soaps worthy of
holiday gift-giving. Varieties you'll learn to make will include cinnamon,
oatmeal honey, peppermint, and evergreen. When you're done, clean up with your
own handiwork! Course Code: R118. October 12 and 19 from 6 to 9 p.m.,
$60 plus $12 materials fee. Offered by the Brookline Adult and Community
Education Center (617-730-2700).
Tanglewood. If you love great music but perhaps would love to know more
about what you're hearing, get the full experience by taking a BCAE bus out to
the Berkshires. Use the ride time to ask musical questions of your tour guide,
Bill Sano, a choral director and symphonic analyst. Eat lunch at the Tanglewood
cafeteria or bring a picnic, then enjoy a guided tour of the grounds before
settling in for an afternoon concert of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9,
performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus. With
the scenic locale and the heavenly music, you'll be transported to another
world -- and still end up back home by dusk. Course: TWOD O1. August 29
from 9 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., $69. Offered by the Boston Center for Adult
Understanding Finance. "How To Read the Wall Street Journal"
is the perfect opportunity for anyone who has noticed the Journal's ads
taking aim at younger readers and wondered whether it's too late to get a grip
on the financial news. This course will help you make sense of the Dow Jones
and learn how to decode the symbols and terminology that make tracking stocks
seem like reading a foreign language. An experienced financial adviser will
walk you through the publication in one evening, and you'll emerge better
informed than ever. Course Code: B111. October 6 or 13 from 6 to
8 p.m., $50. Offered by the Brookline Adult and Community Education
Vegetarian Cooking. Didi Emmons, author of Vegetarian Planet,
leads this one-night cooking equivalent of a travelogue; she aims to make your
kitchen "a global kitchen." Emmons, who's cooked at Hamersley's Bistro, the
Blue Room, the Delux Café, and now Pho République, has proven
that vegetables are more than just an accompaniment to meat. She'll whirl
through Greek skordalia spread, Malaysian noodles, Italian torta, Javanese
bean-curd-and-peanut salad, Southeast Asian fruit salad, and more. You don't
need a passport or ingredients, just stamina and an appetite. Course Code:
JVPL01. August 18 from 6 to 9 p.m., $58. Offered by the Boston Center
for Adult Education.
Webmaster Services. Start a Webmaster service company and you'll be on
the front end of one of the hottest Internet opportunities around. Zillions of
Web pages have been posted on the Net, but ineffectual management has kept most
from reaching their potential. Webmasters contract with businesses to manage
their sites, from link checking to on-line promotion and search-engine
partnerships. Get in the know while the market is still ripe for new
Webmasters. Two hours one evening could lead to a lifetime of work. Course
Code: BWEM 01. August 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., $36. Offered by the Boston
Center for Adult Education.
X-Files. Stay home and relax for a night. All these classes can
Yoga. At the end of a work week, you need to let the lost files,
clueless temps, and petty superiors fade from your view so you can enjoy your
weekend. But how to let those stresses out when you can feel them in your very
muscles? Try a session of ashtanga yoga, which will relax and stimulate you all
at once. For 45 minutes, you will learn postures that will center you, followed
by meditation and relaxation. Western medicine is finally beginning to take the
benefits of yoga seriously; you can find out for yourself, and banish the
demons of your work week in the process. Course Code: PYOG 02. August 20
from 5:15 to 6 p.m., $20. Offered by the Boston Center for Adult
Zygomates. One of the rare Boston restaurants that established
reputations on the strength of their wine cellars, Les Zygomates wants to share
the wealth of its staff's knowledge. Each Tuesday, it offers Wine Tasting with
Lorenzo, in which four to five wines are introduced and sampled along with
appropriate foods. Call for details about what region or family of wines is
being offered, and go once for the fun of it, or every week for a true
education. Tuesdays, seatings at 6 and 8 p.m., $25. Offered by Les
David Valdes Greenwood is a freelance writer living in Somerville.