Saturday, May 31, 2008

How to Be a Good Student

One thing that always surprises me about taking classes is how much one person can change the tone of the class. One rude student really can ruin it for everyone. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen. We're all friends here, so let's establish some rules for proper behavior in an adult continuing education class.

1. Show up on time with all of the required materials. (If you have questions about the materials, contact the teacher a few days before the class to clarify.)

2. If you're late, apologize and then quietly try to catch up. I once took a one-day workshop where a fellow student showed up an hour late, then proceeded to complain all day about how behind she was. She even yelled at the students who used the equipment for certain steps before she did. That was two years ago, and it still makes me mad.

3. Be a student. As in, don't try to be the teacher. I recently took a class at the Art Center about PMC (precious metal clay), and a fellow student kept interrupting the teacher and giving her own mini-lectures about her experience as a silversmith. She didn't notice the rest of the students rolling their eyes.

4. Be positive. Sometimes it's frustrating to learn something new, especially if you don't get it right the first time. But you're there to learn, so keep trying.

5. Turn off your cell phone.

6. Enjoy the learning process instead of focusing on the end result. In one silver-smithing class I took, several of the students complained because they didn't like one of the projects we were doing: a silver ring. One woman said, "I would never wear this! I've really wasted my money today." My response: "No, you didn't. You're here to learn, and you did that."

I'm personally guilty of breaking the fourth rule, and I still feel badly about it. I hate the fact that I might have ruined the experience for my fellow students in that particular class (a very poorly organized book-making workshop at the Art Center). If you're out there, I'm sorry!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Star-gazing at Butler University

One of this city's best-kept secrets is the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University. The observatory offers interesting and educational planetarium shows on Friday and Saturday evenings, and afterward you're allowed to climb the tower to gaze through the observatory's giant telescope (weather permitting).

Bonus: The planetarium shows cost only $3 for adults. That's a pretty cheap date.

At the moment, the planetarium show starts at 8:15 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; doors open at 8 p.m. The current topic is "Secrets of Saturn."

When we last visited the observatory, the topic was the Roman understanding of astronomy (tied into the art museum's Roman sculpture exhibit). It was a fun activity for us as a couple, but the families who were there also seemed to enjoy it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: Advanced Flower Arranging at IUPUI

Like most of the flower-arranging classes in the IUPUI Community Learning Network, the advanced flower-arranging class is a five-week course of study. I wish it were forever. What am I going to do now?

Seriously, though, I have the highest respect for instructor Sara Thompson, who also manages the wedding department at McNamara. She has impeccable taste, and the class projects are more than just pretty; they're also meant to teach specific floral design skills.

Thompson assumes that students in the advanced class know how to prep flowers, how to use floral foam, and other basics. Instead, the class focuses on types of designs and schools of flower-arranging thought (such as Japanese ikebana). The goal is to develop students into floral designers, not just flower arrangers.

Another great thing about Thompson's classes is the atmosphere. We always had fun as we learned, and questions were always welcome.

If you'd like to start your own track of floral design courses at IUPUI, sign up right away for Thompson's "Fundamentals of Flower Arranging" class, which meets on Monday evenings in June. The next step, "Intermediate Flower Arranging," meets on Mondays and Wednesdays in July.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Classes with Carmel Clay Parks & Rec

Last week, we covered the summer classes available through Indy Parks. For our north-side readers, don't forget that Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation has some great classes, as well.

The focus is on fitness, dance and art, as you might expect, but there are some random classes scheduled, too. One of the most interesting: a series of astronomy hikes. Neat.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Free Course Materials from MIT

We've discussed how to audit a local university course, and we've talked about the outstanding audio courses available from the Teaching Company. Here's yet another option for taking that class you regret skipping in college: free course materials from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

MIT has posted more than 1,800 classes to its Open Courseware system. You can review lecture notes, watch video or listen to audio of lectures, and even test yourself with actual exams. It's the most convenient and least expensive way I can think of to learn something new.

It's no surprise that the site's most popular classes are things like "Linear Algebra" and "Introduction to Algorithms." (I'm really more in the market for a class like "How to Add Without a Calculator.") For the rest of us, classes are available in about three dozen departments, including architecture, philosophy, literature, music and writing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Update: Hardware Store Clinics

Did anybody take advantage of Home Depot's in-store clinics this month? If you're still putting off those home-improvement projects, here is the store's June clinic calendar to get you started.
  • Grilling 101: 1 p.m. Sundays
  • Exterior Painting and Staining: 10 a.m. Saturdays
  • Tiling Floors and Walls: 11 a.m. Saturdays
  • Installing Pavers: 11 a.m. Saturdays

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Learning Opportunities at Indy Parks

Sometimes, it seems like a shame to shut yourself in a classroom on a beautiful, sunny day. For some outdoor educational opportunities, check out the Summer Fun Guide from Indy Parks and Recreation.

At Holliday Park, for example, you can learn about bird-watching, consult with a gardening club or take a hike to learn about edible plants. The park also offers a series of Teach and Toil workshops, where you'll spent part of the class learning about a gardening topic and the remainder of the class working to restore the park's Rock Garden.

If you're more in the mood for physical education, try the classes and rec-league teams for swimming, softball, golf, yoga, tennis, cycling, soccer, basketball and more.

For rainy days, Indy Parks also offers plenty of indoor learning opportunities, including:
  • Open studio painting and sculpture at the Garfield Park Arts Center.

  • Flower-arranging, gardening and koi-pond classes at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

  • Sewing, drawing and painting classes at Broad Ripple Park.

  • A variety of dance classes in multiple locations.

  • CPR and first-aid classes in multiple locations.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

This week's installment: The timber framing class at Conner Prairie. Yes, for a mere $150, you can help construct the Prairietown Carpenter Shop using traditional timber framing techniques. According to the museum's new summer brochure, you'll also learn "how to sharpen and use traditional tools like corner chisels, slicks, handsaws and t-handled augers." To each his own. If I'm going to build a building (and possibly slice off a finger), I'm not going to pay $150 for the privilege. But that sounds harsh; I can see how you might enjoy it. Just watch out for your fingers!

The class takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, July 11. Registration required.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Historical Society Discussion Group: Food and Immigration

While gathering information about the Indiana Historical Society's free film series (see previous post), I ran across another interesting learning opportunity. The organization is accepting registrations for an upcoming book discussion group called "Our Food: Immigrant, Ethnic and American." Here is the course description, from the group's events listing:

"Examine the story of food in America, looking at how Americans and immigrants have changed their cooking and eating habits over time – often in response to each other and to the local ingredients available. Discover where our foodways came from and how they have evolved and intermingled with those of other cultures."

Sounds like fun! The reading materials include Donna Gabaccia’s "We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans," and the course description promises food tastings.

The discussion group takes place from 10 a.m. to noon on four Tuesdays in August. Cost is $10 plus the cost of the reading materials; you must be a member of the Historical Society to register, but you can purchase your membership ($40 for an individual) when you enroll in the class. Registration deadline is July 22.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cooking Classes at Williams-Sonoma

The Williams-Sonoma store in the Fashion Mall has several cooking classes coming up in June and July. I've taken one class there before, and I wasn't impressed; it should have been called a demonstration, not a class. On the plus side, you get to sample everything the chef prepares, and you leave with a stack of useful recipes. It can be a good way to fill a specific gap in your cooking knowledge.

Here's the schedule. All classes are 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and cost $45 (yep, kinda pricey). Reservations are required.
  • Tuesday, June 3 -- Healthful Cooking: Fish.

  • Tuesday, June 17 -- Making Pizza at Home.

  • Tuesday, July 8 -- A Simple Mediterranean Dinner.

  • Tuesday, July 22 -- Summer in Provence.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Films at the Indiana Historical Society

Here's a good reason not to eat lunch at your desk: The Indiana Historical Society is presenting a free film series this month on the history of the railroad. Here's the schedule (all from noon to 1 p.m. at the Indiana History Center):
  • May 15: "Glory Days of Steam," which focuses on travel during the steam engine years.
  • May 22: "She’s a Hoosier Line: A Retrospective on the Monon."
  • May 29: "One Man's Trolley," a look at electric railroading through the years.

Railroad history not your cup of tea? In June, the film series focuses on historical disasters, such as tornadoes, floods and flu epidemics; in July, the focus shifts to military history.

How to Audit a Local University Class

I've spent the past five years regretting the fact that I never took a philosophy class in college. What's your regret? Art history? Psychology? I've already raved about the Teaching Company's outstanding audio classes, which are a good option if you'd like to fill a specific knowledge gap. But if you'd prefer the authentic, lecture-hall experience, you can always audit a class at a local university.

Every school handles auditing differently, but I've done some research to get you started. It looks like Butler has the easiest process in place (and the best bargain).
  • Butler University: You must apply to the Audit for Enrichment program and provide transcripts of previous academic work. Cost is $100 per credit hour.

  • IUPUI: Open to enrolled students only. Audit requests must be approved by course instructors, and full tuition is charged.

  • Marian College: You must complete an application for audit, which is available at the admissions office, and get approval from the professor. Fee is $140 per credit hour.

  • University of Indianapolis: Visit the School of Adult Learning for an application to the Lifelong Learning College. Half tuition is charged, so you'll pay about $150 per credit hour for evening classes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Indian Market and Festival at the Eiteljorg

I got a brochure in the mail today for the 16th annual Indian Market and Festival at the Eiteljorg Museum, and it looks like a great opportunity to learn more about Native American art and culture. According to the brochure, the event features 140 artists from 60 tribes, as well as a number of music and dance performances.

The best part, however, might be the family activity areas, which offer some interesting hands-on learning opportunities. You can learn to make everything from abalone shell necklaces and trade bead bracelets to old-style Miwok-type dolls and Inuit finger masks. You can also watch artists make pottery and drums, learn a traditional dance and sit in on story time. With so much to do, it's impossible not to walk away with a richer understanding of Native American culture.

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 21-22. Cost is $8 in advance or $10 at the door.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reminder: Broad Ripple Art Fair

Don't forget to make time this coming weekend for the Broad Ripple Art Fair. The event will feature 225 artists, with whom you can have face-to-face chats about their inspiration and technique. The best part: The event supports one of the city's best venues for adult continuing education.

The fair is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $12 for adults and $2 for children.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Saturday Smorgasbord of Classes

Looking for something to do tomorrow? Try one of the many educational classes and events taking place around town Saturday -- everything from herb gardening to Asian bridal fashions. Here are a few options:
  • Herb gardens -- Learn how to plant herbs; 2 p.m. at Smith & Hawken; free.
  • Stepping stone workshop -- Learn how to make a decorative stepping stone; 10 a.m. Saturday at Garfield Park Conservatory; $5 (includes materials).
  • Wire sculpting -- Make two pendants and learn basic wire-working techniques; 10 a.m. Saturday at Bead Boutique (Carmel); $50 (includes materials).
  • Asian festival -- Starting at 11 a.m., the Garfield Park pagoda will play host to an Asian festival, which features food, cultural entertainment, vendors and even a bridal fashion show; free.
  • Home improvement -- Don't forget the Home Depot workshops on topics such as container gardening and laying tile. See previous post for details.
  • Cooking -- The Chef's Academy is offering a class on fish identification and cookery; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; $75.

I'm not listing any classes for Sunday, because you should be very busy pampering your mother (or being pampered by your kids).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Review: Tarot Card Class at Lawrence Township

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, people who take a class on tarot-card reading must be a bit ... strange. That's what I thought, too. So imagine my surprise when this class, offered by Lawrence Township Community Education, was attended by perfectly normal people and taught by a perfectly normal instructor. No seances, no crystal balls, no pulsing auras -- just a fun, interesting discussion of a centuries-old method of divination.

The class met on five Monday evenings, and our focus was on learning the meanings of the 78 tarot cards and how to interpret them. We also learned different card layouts and a little bit of tarot history, as well as how tarot interacts with astrology and other disciplines.

For the skeptics, our instructor emphasized that there was no need to be psychic, or even to believe in the metaphysical. Instead, reading tarot cards can simply be a way to unlock your own intuition or explore your feelings.

Because of the size of the tarot deck, the process can feel overwhelming at first. So we started with the most basic possible reading: Ask the deck a question, and pull just one card. The next week, we moved to three-card readings. Eventually, we built up to elaborate 10-card readings using traditional layouts like the Celtic cross.

Our instructor was well prepared for the class, and she provided lots of useful handouts and reading recommendations. Whether you finish the class as a skeptic or a convert, it makes for an interesting way to spend a few evenings. The class is a bargain at only $44, plus the cost of a tarot deck of your choice. And who knows? Maybe you'll find what you've been looking for.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Historic Ghost Walks in Indianapolis

Looking for a fun way to learn more about the history of our wonderful city? I think a ghost tour is in order. Sure, some of it will be cheesy, but there's bound to be lots of great history and trivia mixed in with the rest.

Historic Indiana is offering walking ghost tours of downtown Indy at 8:30 p.m. on May 30, June 6 and June 27. According to the company's Web site, the tour focuses on "a midwest serial killer, local early 1900 gangs and ladies of the evening." The tour is about 1.5 miles long and lasts about 90 minutes. Cost is $15 per person, and reservations are required.

The company's other walking tours focus on the Chatham Arch/Lockerbie area, Noblesville and Westfield. Bus tours are also available -- but why waste this lovely weather?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Topic Overview: Making Silver Jewelry

I have two kinds of silver jewelry in my jewelry box: the kind from the jewelry store, and the kind I've made myself in various classes. I wear it all, but it's the hand-made stuff that typically garners attention and compliments.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own silver jewelry using metalsmithing techniques, you have several options.
One excellent local instructor is Andre'a Jackson, of F.C. Drea Jewelry Design. She offers 11-week classes starting in late May ($345), as well as private lessons and jewelry-making "parties." A few years ago, I took a one-day workshop Jackson offered through the IUPUI Community Learning Network. In just eight hours, I made a ring, necklace and bracelet and learned a wide range of basic metalsmithing techniques.

IUPUI now offers classes with a different instructor, Mary Tinkle. Sterling Silver Jewelry 1 meets June 28 and focuses on making a ring or pendant. Cost is $99 plus a $15 materials fee. (If you've already taken that class, Sterling Silver Jewelry 2 meets tomorrow.)

Another option for silver jewelry classes is the Indianapolis Art Center. The center has several general metalsmithing classes this summer, as well as an eight-week, jewelry-specific class that meets on Tuesday evenings in June and July ($268). Not prepared to make a semester-long commitment? You'll have to wait for the center's fall calendar for any weekend workshops related to silver jewelry.
An alternative to traditional metalsmithing techniques is precious metal clay (PMC), a clay-like substance that turns to silver when fired in a kiln. It's easy to use and provides instant gratification. I've taken several great workshops on this material at the Art Center, but there aren't any currently scheduled. I'll post those as they come up.