Course Loaded

Education is a lifelong endeavor. But that doesn’t mean a slew of 20-page term papers or all-nighters are in your future. Take Knowledge Commons D.C. (Knowledgecommonsdc.org). The school offers instructions in diverse skills (office gardening, piñata-making) at sites around town. “Humans like to learn,” says Lucy Burnett, an organizer at KCDC. “People especially like classes that get them out into the city.” Here are 10 of the area’s most intriguing, off-the-beaten-path courses available this summer to show you that learning can indeed be fun.

Intro to DJing
Curriculum: If your idea of scratching records involves digging your fingernails into vinyl, it’s time you checked yourself before the Beat Refinery wrecks yourself. The DJ education center in Bethesda (plus two other locales in McLean and Herndon, Va.) teaches a four-week class that includes the history of DJing, an introduction to Serato Scratch Live (vinyl emulation software), music theory, baby scratching (that little “era, era” noise) and coordination skills.
Class schedule: Multiple options available; the next class begins Sat., June 9 at 1 p.m. The Beat Refinery, 4819 Saint Elmo Ave., Bethesda; 1-877-434-BEAT; Beatrefinery.com.
Cost: $175 plus a one-time $25 materials fee.

Songwriting 

Curriculum: Marching to the beat of your own drum is a lot more fun when you’re the one who wrote it. Wannabe country crooners or indie gods can get closer to fame via Cathy Fink’s six-hour seminar at the Writer’s Center. The two-time Grammy Award-winning lyricist helps you and 14 other would-be Dylans think of topics to sing about, methods of writing and daily writing exercises to sharpen your craft.
Class schedule: July 21; 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda.; 301-654-8664; Writer.org.
Cost: $100

Virginia Wine Class
Curriculum: Napa, watch your back! The Old Dominion, where Thomas Jefferson failed to make good vino, now buzzes with 200- plus wineries. This speedy swirl-and-sip through the state’s varietals includes two whites and two reds, including the area’s most acclaimed grapes, Viognier and Cabernet Franc.
Class schedule: June 27, 7-8 p.m. Classes focusing on Italy and France also offered regularly. Washington Wine Academy Education Center, 1201 S. Eads St., Arlington; Washingtonwineacademy.org.
Cost: $68

Etiquette
Curriculum: Sweet-as-pie Rebecca Czarniecki, founder and owner of Tea With Mrs. B manners school, is used to telling her clients to sit up straight and stop picking their noses: The majority of them are ages 5-12. But she also helps adults mind their p’s and q’s with one-on-one etiquette lessons at her studios in Bethesda and McLean, Va., or in a client’s home. Manners-seekers decide on the subject matter (conversation skills, how to handle in-laws at bridal showers) and Czarniecki will be a social-norm tour guide, teaching proper body language and tricks like how to (finally) remember which fork to use.
Class schedule: Determined by client and based on availability. Locations in McLean and Bethesda; 202-448-2930; Teawithmrsb.com.
Cost: $50 per 45-minute session.

Beginning-Level American Sign Language
Curriculum: Chances are you already know a bit of sign language. (How else would that Prius driver know you’re pissed he cut you off?) But for those looking to take things to the next level, instructor Maurice Smith offers a basics class where you’ll learn the alphabet, numbers and commonly used words and phrases. First order of business? Learning how to sign “Awesome.”
Class schedule: Drop in Mon.-Tue. at 5:30 p.m. for the ongoing class. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW.; 202-727-0321; Dclibrary.org/mlk.
Cost: Free

Introduction to Shakespeare
Curriculum: Shall we compare you to a summer’s day? Heck if we know. We never got past the character list of “Romeo and Juliet,” which makes us good candidates for the Shakespeare Theatre’s Introduction to Shakespeare class. The four-week session, taught by the Helen Hayes-nominated actor Craig Wallace, mixes light performance exercises with text analysis to help students of all levels better understand the Bard.
Class schedule: Sat., July 7-28; 10 a.m -1 p.m. The Shakespeare Theatre Company, address TBD; 202-547-1122; Shakespearetheatre.org.
Cost: $300

Confident City Cycling

Curriculum: Whoever said, “It’s as easy as riding a bike!” never pedaled one during D.C. rush-hour. Between the time-sensitive traffic rules and congested lanes, urban cyclists have to know what they’re doing. That’s why the Washington Area Bicyclist Association offers a class for adults on navigating the cap city’s mean streets on two-wheels. During the three-hour class, you’ll learn cycle-handling skills, tips on using bike trails and how to best ride with traffic. Bikes and helmets not included, so grab yours before meeting at the various locations across D.C. where the course is held.
Class schedule: Multiple options are available; the next class is Sat., June 9 at 10 a.m. starting at 15th street. and Constitution Avenue NW. Washington Area Bicylist Association; 202-518-0524; Waba.org.
Cost: $10

Puppetry And Mask Workshop
Curriculum: Technically this class doesn’t start until the fall, but the Muppet maniac in us wanted to mention it anyhow. Taught by the Puppet Co. founder Allan Stevens, this four-session class covers basic marionette principles plus simple hand- and shadow-puppet making using plastic foam, wooden balls, faux fur and silk scarves. Materials are included, and by the end of class you’ll have your own little animated friend to take home.
Class schedule: Oct. 15-18; 7-9:30 p.m. The Puppet Co., 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.; 301-634-5380; Thepuppetco.com.
Cost: $150

Terrarium-Making
Curriculum: Following this two-hour class hosted by D.C. flower company Urban Petals and Cork Market, you’ll have the know-how to make your own indoor plant ecosystem. When you’re not too busy positioning moss or learning what a tillandsia is (hint: it’s an air plant), you’ll be sampling small-producer wines from around the world. Proceeds benefit Roots of Development, which aids underdeveloped communities in Haiti. Leave with a bottle of vino, a new centerpiece and good karma. Cork Market, 1720 14th Street NW; 202-265-2675
Class schedule: Sat., June 23; 10 a.m.-noon
Cost: $75

Packing the Perfect Picnic
Curriculum: L’Academie de Cuisine offers over 1,000 classes, from croissant-crafting to basic knife skills. But we’ve got our eyes on this summer’s picnic-packing tutorial. L’Academie grad Brian Patterson shows you how to prepare portable, warm-weather classics like wine spritzers, herbed flatbreads with coordinating spreads, grilled tuna salad and curry quinoa salad. He’ll even show you the best way to transport your goodies so you can focus on that outdoor movie that’s just about to start. Shh!
Class schedule: July 28; 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. L’Academie de Cuisine, 16006 Industrial Drive, Gaithersburg, Md.; 301-670-8670; Lacademie.com.
Cost: $70

Chinese Calligraphy
Curriculum: Sure, you can text a million words a minute. But the sort of thousands-of-years-old strokes that decorate Ming vases and Shanghai tombs look a lot prettier. Learn to tell your dians (dots) from your shus (vertical lines) as you dip a skinny brush into ink at the Chinese Community Cultural Center in Chinatown. If you prove a natural, the CCCC also offers Chinese Brush Painting classes.
Class Schedule: Sun., 11 a.m.-noon; Wed.-Thur. 1-2 p.m. 616 H St. NW; 202- 628-1688; Ccccdc.org.
Cost: $8

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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