Monday, December 22, 2008

Last-Minute Educational Gifts

Why buy a thing when you can give someone an experience? This holiday season, buy your loved one a gift certificate to one of Indy's many continuing education venues. Bonuses: no mall traffic, no gift wrap, no overnight shipping fees.

For Mom, try a gift certificate to Kiss Z Cook or Frasier's Gourmet Foods. You get bonus points if you attend the class with her.

For Dad, consider Conner Prairie, which offers classes on wood-working, blacksmithing, arms-making and more.

For the fitness buff in your life, consider Brick House Fitness, recently recognized by Indianapolis Monthly as the city's best venue for fitness classes.

For the loved one who has some creative flair, stop by Boca Loca Beads or the Indianapolis Art Center.

Need a gift for someone who lives out of town? Order a gift certificate from The Teaching Company, which offers a staggering selection of college-level audio courses.

And for the loved one who already has everything, order a gift certificate for the IUPUI Community Learning Network. The wide variety of classes -- from business training to flower arranging -- means there's truly something for everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reader Recommendation: Photography Classes

I just received a note from a reader recommending the photography classes at Indy Photo Coach. She says: "I've taken one of their classes, and it's fantastic. The classes were small, the instructors were easy to relate to and very understanding, and it was inexpensive." It looks like IPC has several classes coming up in the spring for both beginners and intermediate photographers, and private lessons are also available. Thanks to Sally for the tip!

If you're interested in this topic, you can also enroll in the certificate program at the Indianapolis Art Center, or take classes via the IUPUI Community Learning Network.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Best of Indy Awards

Drum roll, please! It's time to present our 2008 That'll Teach Me Best of Indy Awards, recognizing the best continuing education classes, teachers and venues in the city.

Best class - The Summer Fruits cooking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods. Taught by pastry chef Joseph Allford, this was the most educational -- and tasty -- two hours of my year. I still use several of the recipes Allford demonstrated, and I now know everything there is to know about vanilla harvesting.

Best continuing education venue - This was a close one, but the award goes to the IUPUI Community Learning Network for its tremendous variety of engaging, relevant classes (including the spectacular flower-arranging classes). Runner-up: The Indianapolis Art Center, which truly offers something for everyone.

Best instructor - I've taken several classes with floral designer Sara Thompson, and they are always a delight. Thompson is well prepared, attentive to her students, and skilled at fostering class camaraderie. My only disappointment: I've already taken every class she offers.

Best educational museum experience - No question about it: The winner here is the Follow the North Star program at Conner Prairie. The experience, which puts you in the shoes of a runaway slave, is memorable and powerful. It's not fun, but it's like nothing else you'll ever experience. Runner-up: Conner Prairie's delightful Conner Prairie by Candlelight holiday event.

Strangest class topic - We saw some bizarre classes this year: how to make your own canoe; how to build a dulcimer. But the wackiest of our Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know feature was the series of birch bark art workshops at the Eiteljorg Museum, including how to make birch bark picture frames and how to do birch bark etching. To each his own.

Finally, thank you to the hundreds of readers who have made the first year of this blog so successful. It's been fun to share my learning experiences with you and build this community of like-minded people. I'm looking forward to an educational new year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Conner Prairie by Candlelight

Happy holidays! I've been so bogged down in buying, wrapping, baking and decorating that I haven't told you about our wonderful experience at Conner Prairie by Candlelight last Friday evening.

This is truly my favorite local holiday event. Wrapped in several layers to keep warm, my husband and I followed the candle-lit path through Conner Prairie's 1836 Prairie Town. At each house in town, we warmed up by the fire and heard an actor describe how his or her "family" celebrates the holidays. We learned about traditions from several religions and cultures, all in a magically authentic historical setting.

When we were finished, we explored the museum's gingerbread house exhibit. The gift shop is also open, and you can tack on a dinner at the museum restaurant, too.

If you go next year, remember to sign up early; the later time slots sell out quickly. And be sure to wear warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. I spotted one woman in a short skirt and heels, and I'm sure she was miserable.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Classes: IUPUI Community Learning Network

Hooray! The IUPUI Community Learning Network has posted its schedule of winter classes. Why not chase away the winter doldrums by learning a new language, making jewelry, working out with zumba or studying classical Chinese philosophy?

All of the fantastic usual classes are there, but here's a quick look at what's new this season:
  • Light on Great Brightness: Arts of the Ming Dynasty, Then and Now
  • Modern Chinese Cinema and Chinese Culture
  • At Sarah's Table: A Lincoln Dining Experience
  • So You Want to Write a Book?
  • Waking Up to Spiritual Enlightenment
  • Decorating Kitchens and Baths
  • Nepal Himalaya: Trekking, Mountaineering and Culture of Nepal

Friday, December 5, 2008

Accepting Nominations: 2008 Best of Indy Awards

As we wrap up our first year together, it's time to start what I hope will become an annual tradition: the That'll Teach Me Best of Indy Awards. Let's recognize the best classes, instructors and venues -- the ones that have taught us something new and expanded our horizons.

Submit your nominations now in the following categories:
  • Best class
  • Best continuing education venue
  • Best instructor
  • Best educational museum experience
  • Best spot for cooking classes
  • Best spot for art/craft classes
  • Strangest class topic

Want to see a different category included? Just let me know!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Butler Lecture: Fossils and Mythology

In school, I was always the girl who loved English class and dreaded science and math. But, as odd as it seems, I just can't get enough of the J. James Woods science and math lecture series at Butler University.

Last year, the series brought us Michael Pollan, and the lecture topics never fail to intrigue me: the psychology of cognitive dissonance, the nature of dark matter, the forensics of evolution.

Last night's lecture didn't disappoint, either. Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist and historian of ancient science, discussed how early fossil finds influenced Greek mythology. After all, what were those ancient Greek farmers supposed to think when they plowed up gigantic bones? The largest animal they'd ever seen was a horse, so they naturally assumed the bones belonged to mythical gods and monsters.

One great example: the legendary griffin, with a lion's body and a bird's beak and wings, was probably inspired by a common dinosaur fossil in the area. Same goes for the Monster of Troy, which was painted in the image of another giant fossil.

What I really love about the Woods lecture series is this: You probably haven't spent much time thinking about ancient fossils, dark matter or cognitive dissonance. But this lecture series manages to make the topic not just interesting but also relevant to the way you view the world. Now, that's really something.

Next up: biologist and deep-sea explorer Edith Widder, who will discuss our methods of observing deep-sea environments (7:30 p.m., March 4).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spring Classes: Stutz Artists Association

I adore the artistic community at the Stutz. There's nothing like those bleak, gritty industrial hallways to make you feel like you're on the cutting edge of the local arts scene.

Interested in stopping by? Check out the spring class schedule from the Stutz Artists Association. Next season's classes focus on painting, drawing, color mixing, precious metal clay and gelatin plate monoprinting.

Or, check out the silversmithing classes taught by Andre'a Jackson, a resident Stutz artist. I took one of her weekend workshops a few years ago, and I highly recommend it. She managed to cram many different techniques and projects into just one session, and I left with several pieces of wearable jewelry.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Indianapolis Monthly: Best of Indy

The December issue of Indianapolis Monthly recognizes some of the best things about Indianapolis: the corn puree soup at Meridian, the playground at Holliday Park, the bargain furniture at Homegoods. It also highlights a few of our favorite continuing education venues, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Mass Ave. Knit Shop.

But here are a few highlights we haven't discussed much:
  • Best free film series: Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church offers left-leaning films about politics, the environment, social justice and other controversial topics. As a bonus, you can pick up a latte or green tea from Indy's only fair-trade, organic coffee shop.
  • Best unconventional workout: Confident Woman of Indy helps you get fit with the fine art of pole- and lap-dancing. Don't worry: Classes are for women only and are closed to spectators.
  • Best fitness classes: Brick House Fitness offers a huge range of classes, from dance to strength training. Today's schedule alone lists 17 options, running from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Best music lessons: Arthur's Music Store, located in Fountain Square, provides the usual music lessons (guitar, piano) and some unconventional options (bagpipes, hammered dulcimer, mandolin).
  • Best welding classes (yes, really): The welding classes at Sutton-Garten are taught by a local metals artist, Chris Foster. The facility is now enrolling for December/January classes, which meet for five Monday evenings. Want to see what you can do with a little welding know-how? Check out Foster's online gallery.