When there’s a chill in the air and suddenly everyone younger than 25 seems to be toting around bookbags, it’s hard not to feel a little jealous. After all, they’re heading back to school to learn, to grow, to live the life of the mind. Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck in the same old job, letting our brains slowly turn to mush at yet another meeting where Sue from Accounting rambles on about how she has too much on her plate. You can assuage your jealousy by giving wedgies to every student you see, or you can try something more constructive: Take advantage of D.C.’s many opportunities to learn something for the pure joy of it. You already have plenty of useful skills, so now’s a great time to grapple with Hegel, write ekphrastic poetry, play the hammer dulcimer or try whatever else piques your curiosity.
I want to write, creatively
In a building that looks like a 1970s elementary school, The Writer’s Center offers a variety of classes for adults with literary aspirations. For example, award-winning short story author Leslie Pietrzyk will be teaching a 90-minute hands-on workshop (Sept. 20) on building believable characters using internet research. If you lean more toward synesthesia, check out Melanie Figg’s four-session class (Nov. 28-Dec. 7) on writing vivid, scene-setting poetry (also known as ekphrastic poetry) inspired by great paintings. — Sadie Dingfelder
Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda; go to writer.org for class times and prices.
I want to paint like a pro
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place to learn to paint than the five-story brick rowhouse that contains the Washington Studio School. A spinoff of the nearby Phillips Collection, the local nonprofit also offers drawing, sculpture and photography classes in the 1909 mansion’s sun-drenched rooms. Not sure what to take? Visit the fall open house to meet the faculty and participate in a free drawing lesson. — S.D.
Washington Studio School, 2129 S St. NW, open house: Sun., 1-3 p.m., free.
I want to prepare for the apocalypse
Safely using tools that could kill you is an important part of shop class; you can acquire these skills at TechShop, which offers ongoing classes in Basic Metal Shop, as well as ironworking, sheet metal and welding. And fabrication. And machining. If you want to be really comfortable when the apocalypse hits, they’ll pretty much get you prepared. — Kristen Page Kirby
TechShop, 2110-B Crystal Drive, Arlington; Basic Metal Shop: Sept. 19, 4 p.m., $99; go to techshop.ws for more classes.
I want to learn a bizarre instrument
For your more offbeat music classes, you can’t beat the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, Md. Here you can learn the basics of instruments you’ve never heard of before, like the bones — a handheld percussion instrument made up of a pair of animal rib bones or, more commonly, a wooden facsimile. The 90-minute bones workshop, which covers the use of bones in genres including old-time, French Acadian and traditional Irish music, will be led by Carolina Chocolate Drops multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett. — S.D.
House of Musical Traditions, 7010 Westmoreland Ave., Takoma Park, Md.; Sept. 25, 2 p.m., $25; hmtrad.com.
I want to print in three dimensions
Maybe math wasn’t your thing in school, which is fine, you can relax — someone else will figure out the cosine of that angle. But if a normal person’s anxiety dream is your, well, dream, make math concrete with Abstraction Takes Shape: 3D Printing and Math, presented by the Smithsonian Associates. Mathematician and 3-D designer Laura Taalman will demonstrate how to take mathematical ideas (like the disdyakis triacontahedron) and make them concrete. You can also get hints on how to make your own 3-D printing better — or you can sit back and marvel at how pretty a disdyakis triacontahedron is. — K.P.K.
S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW; Sept. 18, 1-3 p.m., $45.
I want to climb a mountain
If you’ve ever wanted to redeem yourself after failing to complete the dreaded rope climb in P.E. class, why not conquer an entire wall? D.C.’s YMCA Anthony Bowen offers Learn the Ropes, a two-hour introductory class where you’ll learn climbing basics and commands, knots, basic safety skills and wall etiquette. For more experienced climbers, there’s a supervised climb twice a week. Outside of D.C., Earth Treks has locations in Crystal City, Rockville, Columbia, Md., and Timonium, Md., that offer Introduction to Climbing for $39, as well as weekend-only open climb sessions ($25) for ages 5 and up, which do not require registration. — Zainab Mudallal
YMCA Anthony Bowen, 1325 W St. NW; go to climb-ymca.com for dates, times and prices.
Earth Treks, multiple locations; go to earthtreksclimbing.com for dates and times.
I want to ride a big-boy bike
If you long for the roar of an engine and the splat of bug guts on your helmet, a motorcycle class will give you the legally required skills and the often-helpful confidence to hit the highway. Patriot Harley-Davidson offers four-day sessions that include both classroom and on-the-bike learning; at the end, you’ll be able to head to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get your motorcycle license without taking the DMV’s test. Maryland drivers must take their course in Maryland — Old Glory Harley-Davidson in Laurel begins its next classes in November. D.C. bikers can take courses in either state, but they have to pass a written test before getting a license. — K.P.K.
Patriot Harley-Davidson, 9739 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax; most Wednesdays-Sundays, $429; patriothd.com. Old Glory Harley-Davidson, 11800 Laurel Bowie Road, Laurel, Md.; Nov. 2-6, $365; oldgloryhd.com.
I want to learn a new tongue
Let’s say someone dropped you in the middle of Madrid: Would your high school Spanish enable you to do anything more than ask where the library is? Fairfax County Public Schools offers adult classes not only en espanol, but also in Arabic, Russian and American Sign Language. All in all, you can ask where the library is in 11 different languages. — K.P.K.
Adult and Community Education of Fairfax County Public Schools; go to fcps.edu for locations, dates, times and prices.
I want to kick a ball around
D.C. Soccer Sessions offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for adults that combine soccer and fitness drills. (Before you get ahead of yourself, they define intermediate as someone who has played soccer in high school or college, or has been playing in a league for two or more years.) The fall session’s advanced class focuses on ways to improve your power and accuracy when shooting at the goal. — Z.M.
Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, 401 I St. SW; Wednesdays through Oct. 5, beginner: 6:15 p.m., intermediate: 7:15 p.m., advanced: 8:15 p.m., single session: $22, four sessions: $72; dcsoccersessions.com.
I want to read more — and join a club
Get into the habit of regular reading by joining one of D.C.’s many public book clubs. The unaccountably popular History of Philosophy Book Club, for instance, holds monthly meetings to discuss beach reading like Georg Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit.” If that’s too nerdy for you, check out September’s meeting of the East City Bookshop’s monthly fiction book club. The picks: Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” and Kamel Daoud’s “The Meursault Investigation,” a postcolonial retelling of Camus’ classic existentialist tale. — S.D.
History of Philosophy Book Club, West End Interim Library, 2522 Virginia Ave. NW, third Saturdays, 1 p.m., RSVP at meetup.com/history-of-philosophy.
East City Bookshop, 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 100, Mon., 6:30–8:30 p.m., RSVP at eastcitybookshop.com.
I want to be Ron Swanson
If you aim to live like the “Parks and Recreation” man’s man — and who doesn’t? — head to Fundamentals of Woodworking at The Woodworkers Club. You’ll learn about joints, power tools, and lumber and finishing techniques, plus you’ll get to take home your project. If you’re looking for something more specific, you can instead take Introduction to Pen Making, meaning you will have all of your Christmas presents taken care of for forever. The class also covers pencils. — K.P.K.
Woodworkers Club, 11910-L Parklawn Drive, Rockville, Md.; Introduction to Pen Making: Sept. 17, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., $115; Fundamentals of Woodworking: Sept. 19 & 20, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $315; woodworkersclub.com.
I want to learn about anything and everything
Washington’s only free, floating, volunteer-run school, Knowledge Commons DC offers courses in practically anything you can think of. This month, however, KCDC is only offering its Behind the Scenes series, which takes attendees on guided, insider tours of such places as Globe Electric Tattoo (Sept. 19), Union Kitchen (Sept. 23) and RFK Stadium (Sept. 25). Other classes resume in October, and based on past schedules, you can expect courses in subjects as varied as Japanese weaving, knowing your rights as a D.C. tenant, data encryption, yarn dolls and whatever else you can dream up. — Rudi Greenberg
Go to knowledgecommonsdc.org for class locations, dates and times.
I want to understand Van Gogh
With about 130,000 pieces of art in its collection, the National Gallery of Art can be overwhelming. Luckily, the museum is also free, which means you can dip in for some quick cultural enrichment without feeling like you’ve wasted your entrance fee. To get the most out of your trip, take one of the museum’s free, docent-led tours. A popular option is the daily Great Paintings: The Nation’s Collection tour, which often includes a stop at Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic 1889 self-portrait, one of the last he made before he died. — S.D.
National Gallery of Art, Sixth and Constitution Avenue NW, various times, free.
I want to understand computers
Even if you don’t embarrass yourself that often in front of the IT guys, it never hurts to be more computer-literate. At Graduate School USA, you can take classes in Java, SQL and HTML. Unfortunately, there is no class that explains whatever the hold is that Minecraft has on your child. — K.P.K.
Graduate School USA, 600 Maryland Ave. SW; go to graduateschool.edu for dates, times and prices.
I want to practice my Japanese (with a drink)
Language lessons don’t have to be dull. There are about a zillion area Meetup groups for different languages, where people just hang out, chat and maybe have some dinner and drinks (the Japanese Nomikai Group seems really into the drinking). If you prefer to take your chances on which language will be spoken, head to Dos Gringos every Saturday for an “Intercambio,” where people just order food, hang out and talk. It’s mostly Spanish-speakers wanting to learn English and English-speakers wanting to learn Spanish, but if someone shows up able to speak Vietnamese and someone else wants to pick up a few words, that’s also encouraged. — K.P.K.
Dos Gringos, 3116 Mount Pleasant St. NW; Saturdays, 6-9 p.m., free.
I want to make something I saw on Instagram
Classes at the Lemon Bowl, a former deli tucked away in Park View, are like summer camp with all your best (and most impeccably dressed) girlfriends. Three local female artisans founded this studio, and offer classes in life skills including terrarium making (various dates, $50), block printing (Wednesday, $50) and fiber weaving (Sunday, $75). For something a little more recreational, bring your paints and pencils to the gals’ drawing night (Sept. 20, 6 p.m.) for still lifes and snacks. — Lori McCue
Lemon Bowl, 3015 Georgia Ave. NW; go to thelemonbowldc.com for times and more classes.
I want to read music
Levine Music, the premier destination for insanely talented children in the D.C. area, also offers lots of classes for (normal) adults. Aspiring pianists and guitarists can take small group classes or sign up for one-on-one instruction; string players can learn to improvise; and wind players can join small, coached jazz ensembles. Former music majors or music-major dropouts might enjoy the semester-long Theory Review for Adult Musicians (starting Oct. 16), where instructor Carl Yaffe helps you finally understand how to sight-read music in 7/8th time. — S.D.
Go to levinemusic.org for class times, prices and locations.
I want to develop a green thumb
If all you remember from the botany classes of your youth is nothing because you didn’t take botany, spend some time at a lecture at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Start off with Pome Fruit: Apples, Pears and Quince — Botany, History and Production, a lecture on pome fruits, which is essentially the “A is for apple” of botany, in that an apple is an example of a pome fruit (so are pears and quinces). — K.P.K.
U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW; Sat., 10:30 a.m.-noon, free (registration required at usbg.gov).
I want to play with knives
Even if you don’t know which end of a chef’s knife is up, L’Academie Kitchen has faith in your culinary skills. The sister school to the professional cooking academy in Gaithersburg, Md., offers a variety of one-off lessons, including semi-regular courses like Basic Knife Skills. In three hours, you’ll learn to fabricate (aka butcher) a chicken and chop, slice and dice vegetables, herbs and garlic. The best part: At the end of class, you’ll feast on all your hard work. — L.M.
L’Academie Kitchen, 5021 Wilson Lane, Bethesda; Basic Knife Skills: Sept. 17, 9 a.m., $90; lacademie.com.
I want to learn what ‘Ulysses’ is actually about
At Politics and Prose, you can attend classes that will remind you of your favorite liberal arts colloquium. Guided by moonlighting professors, these classes meet in small groups to discuss great books. One upcoming class, for instance, will take on James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Over the course of five, two-hour Friday meetings (starting Oct. 7), Irish literature professor Christopher Griffin will explore the more accessible and humorous side of the famously difficult tome. — S.D.
Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; go to politics-prose.com for class times and prices.
I want to leap tall buildings in a single bound
If you’re really trying to impress the world with some parking lot skills, head to Primal Fitness, where the American Parkour Academy hosts a variety of parkour and free-running classes. It offers a four-week, 12-class Parkour Foundations course for absolute first-timers that teaches the basic movements like landing, rolling, vaulting and climbing. For the free spirits, the academy offers a Saturday drop-in parkour class for adults that is open to all levels, which gives you the flexibility to work alongside trainers on whatever cool moves you want. — Z.M.
Firehouse, 219 M St. NW; Parkour Foundations: Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, various times, $90; Open Parkour Class for Adults: Saturdays, 2 p.m., $20; primal-fitness.com.
I want to be on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’
With studios in D.C., Bethesda and Friendship Heights, Joy of Motion dominates the area’s adult dance class market. Students who are new to dance might want to try a multiple-session introductory class, while more experienced dancers can take a la carte drop-in classes in a variety of styles, including ballet, African dance, hip-hop, tap and flamenco. Crave the spotlight? Join a studio-to-stage class, a multiple-week workshop that culminates in a performance that you can guilt all your friends into attending. — S.D.
Go to joyofmotion.org for class times, prices and locations.
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