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REMEMBER THE FEELING you had as a child when your alarm used to startle you awake before dawn? When you knew your mom would soon be force-feeding you breakfast so you could run for the school bus, just so you could spend all day trapped inside a building while adults filled your head with useless information?

This is the feeling many of us associate with learning and education - and it's not a good one. Even so, most of us do occasionally get the urge to expand our horizons beyond the limits of Survivor and The West Wing. Just the other night, my roommate stayed up until 3 a.m. watching a program about evolution on the Discovery Channel. If you too are jonesin' for some learnin', but the thought of any sort of traditional education brings back bad fifth-grade memories, sample one of the following courses. They're not only useful, but fun.

Let the stars - or Bill Gates - guide you

Note to all you men for whom the prospect of visiting the Museum of Science evokes boring field trips from your youth: we can prove that taking a class here may in fact help you get women. For more than two years, the museum has been offering two boating courses designed to help you head in the right direction when you're out at sea. Brent Jackson, manager of education programs, says the ever-popular Coastal Navigation and Celestial Navigation courses are usually attended by boating enthusiasts who want to learn more about navigation and safety. Why will this help you meet the ladies? Well, women like men with boats, and if you can actually sail yours beyond the edge of Boston Harbor, think of how impressive you'll be.

In addition to its science and astronomy courses, the museum also offers a series of computer classes held in conjunction with the Boston Center for Adult Education.

"If you're looking for a new job, brushing up on your skills, or acquiring new skills, we have a course," says Jackson.

Classes range from Introduction to Computers for the Slightly Nervous Beginner to Publish Your Own Web Page in One Day. There are courses for both Windows and Macintosh users, and those who have yet to jump on the information superhighway can take classes on how to use the Internet.

The Museum of Science is located at Science Park, Boston. Call (617) 589-0300. Coastal Navigation and Piloting begins January 15 and runs for eight Tuesdays. Celestial Navigation begins March 12 and runs for eight Tuesdays. Cost is $187 per course for nonmembers; register for both courses by January 22 and take 15 percent off the combined price. Computer classes meet in the museum's ComputerPlace; register through the Boston Center for Adult Education by calling (617) 267-4430 or visiting Museum members receive a 10 percent discount on classes.

Cooking up some trouble

In this age of Wendy's and frozen pizza, home culinary arts have suffered a bit. Remember that mouth-watering tortellini dish you had at Bricco in the North End? Well, if you sign up for one of the many courses at the Boston Learning Society in Needham, you may have the opportunity to learn the skills of the skillet from Bricco's head chef himself, Bill Bradley. Many of Beantown's most renowned chefs regularly teach seminars in the center's demonstration kitchen, says Kathy Brady-Romanelli, the BLS's executive director, who adds that the chefs tout the kitchen as the finest in Boston. Antoine Camin of Brasserie Jo, Andy Husbands of Tremont 647, and Lynette Mosher of Zephyr have all made appearances here, delighting students with their tasty specialties. One upcoming workshop offers a lesson in Christmas-cookie baking (December 6) with Susan Lombardi, founder of the Dancing Deer Baking Company. Wouldn't it be nice to leave Santa something other than Pepperidge Farm treats this year?

Although Brady-Romanelli says culinary programs are its cornerstone, BLS also offers classes in fitness, home and gardening, business, finance, health, and many other areas. Brady-Romanelli tries to maintain a selection of courses in four different areas: art, play, profit, and self. Since starting the center, an affiliate of the Providence-based Learning Society, she tunes into the day's hot topics and tailors her classes around current events and trends. For example, Dr. Rhonda Waters, president of an agency that offers consulting, education, and skills development, will give a timely seminar on what to do if you get a pink slip (November 19). On a lighter note, you can get tips on how to glam up in a hurry from Leon & Company, an award-winning Belmont Center salon (December 5). Lonely men take note: the majority of the students at the Boston Learning Society are female. True, most are also married, but at least you'll learn how to cook a torte.

Boston Learning Society is located at 1089 Great Plain Avenue, Needham. Classes, which are ongoing, range from one-time workshops to multiple-week courses. Check out a full schedule online at, or call (781) 453-9800 for a free catalogue. Registration is accepted subject to space availability until the first day of a class. Course fees vary in price; those who pay $39 per year for a BLS membership receive a discount.

All sewn up

Do you know how to sew a button on a shirt? How to fix a hem? Do you even own an iron? Almost all our female ancestors could make a stitch in time to save nine, but our generation got lost somewhere between a cross-stitch and an inseam. But fear not - you can learn to thread a needle and put it to use by taking a course at area Fabric Place stores. Courses are offered for all levels of expertise, from Sewing 101 to making a Polarfleece vest.

Special events are also held periodically, with expert quilters and knitters sharing their secrets. And if you find you just can't put your needle down, you can join a quilting, knitting, or fashion club.

Workshops are held weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays at area Fabric Place stores. Call (800) 556-3700 for locations and information, or visit Students should sign up a week in advance for workshops.

Horror and hoops

Horror stories and basketball - for some people, the two are equally frightening. This winter, the Brookline Adult & Community Education Program will give students an opportunity to face both fears, offering a class on how to write frightening fiction and a class for women who want to master the rules of basketball. Whether you were inspired by Carrie or you just want the knowledge to tell your boyfriend where he can put his full-court press, these BA&CEP classes will help you out.

In writer Erin Dionne's Frightening Fiction class, you'll dissect the horror greats from Bram Stoker to Clive Barker. Beginning-to-experienced writers will learn the difference between reading and writing great horror stories, and Dionne will then help students put pen to paper. She will not, however, hold your hand in the dark after class if you've scared yourself silly.

To scare your significant other with your sudden knowledge of all things hoops-related, sign up for Girlfriend's Guide to Basketball, a course taught by Jonathon Alsop, who coaches freshman-girls' basketball at Brookline High School. The second in a series (other subjects include unlocking the secrets of football and baseball), this course will help take the madness out of March for those whose sweeties have become crazed by the sport. Watch videotapes, learn plays on the blackboard, head to the gym to run drills, and then sit down and watch - and understand - an entire game. Your guy will be so impressed with your new skills that he'll be happy to hit the showers with you.

These are just two of the nearly 1800 courses offered by the BA&CEP, one of the state's oldest and largest public-education programs.

The Brookline Adult & Community Education Program is located at Brookline High School, 115 Greenough Street, Brookline. Frightening Fiction: An Introduction to Horror Writing ($87) begins January 8 and runs for eight Tuesdays, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Girlfriend's Guide to Basketball ($70) begins February 25 and runs for four Mondays, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Students may register while space remains available in the classes by calling (617) 730-2700 or by visiting

Heart and soul

If you're looking to improve your body and mind, drop in on the tai chi lunch hour at the Charles River School of Shiatsu. Offered Tuesdays and Fridays, classes are relaxed and diverse: you may sit next to a computer programmer, a doctor, or even a Big Dig worker.

"People come to get relaxation, stress relief, build their own confidence, and improve their health," says Patricia Carusone, the school's owner.

Based on Chinese medicine, shiatsu focuses on healing and martial and cultural arts. In addition to tai chi, kung fu, yoga, and meditation, the school's comprehensive curriculum includes studies of herbal medicines and acupuncture. We're feeling more enlightened already.

The Charles River School of Shiatsu is located at 180 Mass Ave, Arlington. Tai chi classes cost $15 each, or discount cards may be purchased. The tai chi lunch hour is held Tuesdays and Fridays from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Call (781) 643-1545 for more information, or visit

Picture this

There's a lot of ground to cover between remembering to keep your thumb out of the frame of a snapshot and learning to hand-color black-and-white photographs, but at the Boston Photo Collaborative, you can master it all. The center even offers a class - designed for total novices - that promises to teach photography in a weekend. All you need is a 35-mm camera. For 10 years, the nonprofit organization has offered high-quality classes to people who wouldn't normally have easy access to darkrooms or to tips from accomplished photographers and artists. Alisa Dichter, the associate director, says people of all ages and from all walks of life take classes at the BPC. Some aim to be the next Ansel Adams and some just want to take a decent family photo.

Upcoming seminars include workshops on making your own color photographs and hand-coloring black-and-white photographs. The cost of the course includes all materials except camera and film.

The Boston Photo Collaborative is located at 67 Brookside Avenue, Jamaica Plain. The Intro to Photography Weekend ($125) takes place December 1 and 2. Introduction to Color Printing ($135) begins January 10 and runs for four Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Hand-coloring Black and White Photographs ($45) will be held Wednesday, January 23, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Call(617) 524-7729 for details, or visit

Salsify me

Bodies moving, music pulsing, lights flashing - no, you haven't accidentally flipped to our Erosphere section. We're still talking about education, but education of the sensual kind: it's time to let your mind rest and give your body a workout. Since 1999, Bostonians have been learning to shake their bonbons at Sophia's, the club where pretty people go to get their Latin groove on. Dan Marshall, an Israeli-born mover and shaker, had been tearing up dance floors all over Boston when he decided to share his moves with those of us who lack rhythm. He and his partner, Angela Shamsi, teach free salsa classes every Tuesday at Sophia's, and they've never had less than 30 people eager to get in on the salsa action. Marshall, a computer engineer by day, prides himself on making up his own moves nightly, so that no two classes are ever the same. What is consistent is the acceptance given to dancers of all skill levels. "People who come want to learn to dance, not just pick up somebody," Marshall says.

Marshall's class proved so popular that Sophia's added two other nights of lessons, Wednesday with Olaf Bleck and Friday with Uche Amaechi. Laura Marx, bar manager at Sophia's, says each night is packed, and the instructors tailor their lessons to the crowd. The classes draw people of all ages and backgrounds, and couples are just as likely to come, Marx says, as a group of single girls out on the town.

Sophia's is located at 1270 Boylston Street, Boston. Lessons are offered every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:45 to 10:15 p.m. Students have free access to the club after class. Tuesday lessons are free; Wednesday and Friday lessons cost $10. All lessons are 21+; sneakers and jeans are not allowed. Call (617) 351-7001 for information.

Rhythm got you?

If a few hot salsa nights at Sophia's left you yearning for more, the Dance Complex in Central Square is the place to try new and exotic dance, as well as tap, ballroom, and more traditional styles. The nonprofit, volunteer-based, artist-run organization is so open that everyone feels welcome - and everyone feels he or she could be the next Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. "We want to keep the community moving and dancing in a positive way," says administrative director Jennie Carlson.

Classes are ongoing and take place on a drop-in schedule. On any given day, you can walk in on a hip-hop class, an intermediate ballet class, a yoga class, or a class in shintaido. Carlson says the students are diverse in every way, from age and ethnicity to skill level. Having just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, the Dance Complex has no plans to stop grooving any time soon.

The Dance Complex is located at 536 Mass Ave, Cambridge. Single classes cost $10; students planning to attend more than one class can purchase discount cards. Call (617) 547-9363 for more information, or visit

Kim Weidman can be reached at

Issue Date: November 15 - 22, 2001

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