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August 1999

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Continuing education

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 for kids.

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 Danvers (978-739-4333).

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 (617-556-2555).

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 Writers (617-975-0001).

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 Education.

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 Center.

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 be exhausting.

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 Education.

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 Zygomates (617-542-5108).

David Valdes Greenwood is a freelance writer living in Somerville.

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