Where to Learn New Stuff

It’s never too late to expand your mental horizons.



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BioFuel Oasis offers classes on beekeeping, from the basics to honey harvest.

Photo by Pat Mazzera

Give yourself a new lease on life by pursuing new interests. Continuing education can be anything that stimulates the gray matter. Sure, you can go back to school for an MBA, MFA, or another advanced degree, but you don’t have to. Here are 32 ways to become a little smarter, fitter, or more balanced. It’s never to late for continued learning.

Do Ninja Moves

Learn to be a ninja at the American Ninja Warrior course at Apex Movement NorCal in Concord. Inspired by the NBC show American Ninja Warrior, the course has all kinds of fun stuff for anyone who likes to climb, jump, or swing. You can try out full-size replicas of many of the show’s obstacle courses, including the warped wall, the devil ladder, and numerous other dastardly difficult fitness and coordination challenges. A foam pit and lots of thick pads make it easier for ninja newbies to practicing throwing themselves off very high things with wild abandon. ApexMovementNorCal.com, Concord. —Jeff Schoenhard

Get an MBA

Been thinking about getting your MBA? Argosy University offers a completely online way to get your degree, a great option for a working professionals with tough schedules to work around. Throughout the program, which is open to those with any undergraduate degree, you’ll learn everything from persuasive communications to critical thinking and specific technical skills that you’ll be able to apply and enhance your career. Every program ends in a capstone project, where students must prove they have proficiency in core business competencies. The program can be done over a longer course of time, or you can choose to complete your 10 core classes (worth 30 credit hours) as part of the fast track program, which will let you get the program done in a short 12 months. Argosy.edu. —Clara Hogan

Connect With Simian Ways

De-evolve back to better evolutionary times at a class or workshop at the Athletic Playground, a gym that puts playfulness into the fitness regimen. There are many classes designed to reconnect you with your inner primate, from traditional movement classes like AcroYoga, Aerial, and handstands to workshops such as Zero to Flying, Decoding Motion, and of course the classic Co-Ed Sensual Movement Pelvis Party. The crowd here is experimental and welcoming, and the coaches are excited to get you moving in all the ways a simian-type can move. AthleticPlayground.com, Emeryville. —JS

Study Some Architecture

Berkeley has long marched and built to its own drummer. Through firestorms, earthquakes, social upheaval, and lots of fog, the houses of Berkeley have stood as a testament to its eccentricity. The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association publishes a guide of 41 walking tours around its more notable architectural vestiges. You’ll find stately Maybecks and Morgans as well as more quirky entries like the Temple of Wings house, originally built as an open-air Greco-Roman style residence of Corinthian columns and used as a dance studio to teach Isadora Duncan’s style of dance. Get the guide at BerkeleyHeritage.com; tours usually happen in the spring. —JS

Attract Some Bees

Following widespread reports of Colony Collapse Disorder in recent years, urban beekeeping has been on the rise in major cities across the country. Touted as a fun hobby and a vital measure in ensuring the survival of the species, beekeeping also increases yields from fruit trees and home vegetable gardens. BioFuel Oasis, Berkeley’s funky farm and fuel store, offers classes on the basics of beekeeping including equipment, placement, and hive maintenance. Subsequent classes cover honey harvesting, swarm prevention, and mite management. BioFuelOasis.com, Berkeley.  —Elizabeth Gonzalez James

Cook at Home

Want to create great Ethiopian food in the comfort of your own home? Yes, there’s a class for that. Offered every Saturday 11-2, Brundo Market’s classes alternate in focus between vegan and meat dishes. As a bonus, you’ll get to inhale the wonderful smell of Ethiopian coffee roasting and engage in Ethiopian ceremonial practices while you cook. Classes usually have around six to seven members with each person making his or her own dish that is then shared for a mini-feast at the end. For those who want to continue making Ethiopian food, they can buy spices at Brundo Market’s warehouse or its wonderful little spice market on Telegraph Avenue, where they make about 500 pieces of injera (Ethiopian bread) daily. Or if you’re feeling lazy, you can eat instead at Café Colucci, the excellent Ethiopian restaurant connected with Brundo Market. Brundo.com, CafeColucci.com, Oakland. —Julie Anderson

Photo by Pat Mazzera

Relic Movement teaches Historical European Martial Arts.

Blow Your Mind

Bullseye Glass Resource Center in Emeryville aims to create a home for a community of world-renowned glass artists. This means locals (18 and up) can enjoy a host of mind-blowing courses taught by top artists. Introductory classes give you a quick turn at making graphic coasters, pendants, pate de verre bowls, and more. Go deeper with a class in layered assemblage, where you’ll learn to lay different color pieces of glass together to form striking patterns. Or get really creative and design your own kiln-glass workshop for your group (up to 16 people). You can even celebrate Dia de los Muertos by making your own glass skull ofrendas. BullseyeGlass.com/resource-center-bay-area.html, Emeryville. —Linda Lenhoff

Sail Away

If you’ve ever dreamed of sailing through the calm waters of the bay into the setting sun, head down to Cal Adventures. Run by UC Berkeley but open to anyone, Cal Adventures offers classes in sailing, sea kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing, not to mention rock climbing and rappelling. An old and established program, Cal Adventures offers beginning through advanced courses that take place on weekends. It even has specialized classes like “Social Sailing” and “Racing.” Those who want to learn all manner of sea sports might try the Netflix-like “adventureship pass,” which allows you enroll in all the core boating classes (sailing, kayaking, etc.) along with unlimited equipment rentals. RecSports.berkeley.edu/cal-adventures, Berkeley. —JA

Practice Figure Drawing

Having trouble perfecting your figure drawing of nudes? UC Berkeley hosts drop-in life drawing classes with live nude models on Fridays (6:30-9 p.m.) and Saturdays (10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) on the top floor of Kroeber Hall (near Bancroft and College). The models hold poses starting at five-minute durations and gradually increase to 20-minute poses. Since time and practice are the best teachers for wannabe visual artists, there’s no formal instruction — just drawing time. To learn more, call 510-528-2269 or contact Nona Refi at contact_bama.ink09 yahoo.com. —JS

Go Back to School

Career-boosting opportunities are a click away from California State University, East Bay, which offers two different community programs: Continuing Education and Open University. Through Continuing Education, for example, becoming a paralegal requires 11 classes that can be completed mostly online for a course of study that exposes students to how to prepare for trial and launch into the legal field. The Open University is allows community members to explore a single course or work toward a degree without a formal admission process. Options include degrees such as the Master of Science in Nursing, a part-time course of studies designed so busy students rarely have to enter a classroom. Two tracks — education and administration — allow nursing professionals to take the next step in their medical profession or improving the knowledge and expertise they’ve already mastered. CSUEastBay.edu. —Elyce Berrigan-Dunlop

Play With Fire

Located in a warehouse that spans the length of a city block, The Crucible is a living museum, full of funky artwork, like the giant wrench sculpture outside the front entrance or the sheet metal cut-outs that adorn its rails. The inside looks like Willy Wonka’s Factory meets Burning Man, with winding staircases, massive cast iron bells, furnaces, armor, neon lights, and wild cyberpunk sculptures. The main attraction, though, is not its décor, but its classes: the Crucible offers a gargantuan variety of courses for both adults and kids, ranging from blacksmithing, welding, woodworking, glass blowing, and jewelry making, to fire eating. Classes range in length from daylong to monthlong. Prices vary accordingly. TheCrucible.org, Oakland. —JA

Improve Your Photo Skills

Perplexed by Photoshop’s layers? Befuddled by Lightroom’s modules? Check out a Future Light digital photography class in Oakland. Every workshop is led by patient, experienced photographers, and over the years, they’ve taught thousands of students how to confidently navigate the overwhelming software. Also don’t miss the photography classes where you’ll meet at picturesque spots like Jack London Square or Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Gardens for a crash course on that hulking DSLR you’ve been too intimidated to turn on. You’ll learn lessons specific to your camera as well as general tips on improving the quality of any photo you take, whether your camera is a Sony or your smartphone. FLDigital.com/index.html#home, Oakland. —Shelby Pope

Become a Leader

Leaders at companies, organizations, and start-ups have to deal with intense, rapid change, and guiding teams out of chaotic situations. If you’re looking to upgrade to a management position and take on those challenges, consider gaining a Master of Science in Leadership at Golden Gate University. This program, which you can take in person in San Francisco or online, teaches you skills like learning how to make data-based decisions in uncertain times, how to inspire and motivate others, and how to identify and respond to ethical dilemmas. You’ll also get the chance to think through and set three- to five-year personal goals. In the end, you’ll need to complete 30 units, including 18 units of core courses. GGU.edu. —CH

Photo by pat mazzera

Kinetic Arts Center teaches adults and children the aerial arts.

Climb Some “Rocks”

One of the coolest things about this climbing gym, Great Western Power Company, is its location: a stately old power plant, packed with windows and skylights, right in the heart of Oakland. It’s very close to the 19th Street BART station, so great for teenagers who don’t have a car or aren’t able to drive yet. Though the space is fairly small, it’s got quite a lot of climbing terrain and square feet of bouldering relative to its size. In addition to all types and levels of climbing classes, the gym also offers yoga, crossfit, and cardio boxing. Classes are offered on a regular basis and prices start around $35. TouchstoneClimbing.com/gwpower-co, Oakland. —JA

Experience Tranquility

Balance your qi by taking tai chi classes at Alameda’s International Chi Institute. This Chinese tradition involving meditative motions was originally created for self-defense, but millions love it for its slow, contemplative movements that incorporate breathing techniques, fight stress, and grant tranquility. With roots that go back thousands of years, tai chi helps you calm your mind and improve health through five areas of regulation: body, breathing, mind, qi, and spirit. Try a beginning class on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings, or work with the masters in higher-level classes. Check out the website to sign up for one free lesson in this spacious studio. InternationalChiInstitute.com, Alameda. —LL

Revisit Home Arts

Want to raise goats in the city? Learn how to butcher pigs or keep bees? Or maybe something a little less intense, like prune fruit trees, amend soil, make cheese, or can plums? All of these skills and more can be learned at the Institute for Urban Homesteading. Started by K. Ruby Blume in 2008, the institute will show you how to slow down your life, get back to basics, and live sustainably in the city. Offered in someone’s kitchen or backyard, the Institute’s half-day or daylong classes are informal and informative, not to mention a lot of fun. You usually leave with something you’ve made or planted and always get plenty of hands-on experience. Course fees on a sliding scale. More information at IUHOakland.com, Oakland and Berkeley. —JA

Consider Museum Studies

The Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences, the Walt Disney Family Museum — all amazing museums to visit. Now, picture being the one behind the scenes creating their exhibits. That could your future after gaining your Master of Arts in Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University, one of the most recognized programs of its kind in the United States. This one-year program prepares graduates to work in a changing industry that requires a wide range of skills spanning historical sites, natural parks, and cultural centers. Every student is required to gain real-world experience during the academic year by completing one or more internships at SF-based museums. JFKU.edu. —CH

Print Up a Storm

Walk up three flights to the top floor of the old Heinz factory and enter a vast, light-filled room once filled with tomatoes. The tomatoes are long gone, and in their place is every type of printmaking equipment known to humanity. This might be a slight exaggeration, but the Kala Art Institute studio has equipment to teach all manner of printmaking: lithography, screenprinting, letterpress, relief, monoprint, and etching. It’s simply spectacular. In addition to printmaking, Kala also offers classes in a wide range of other disciplines — from photography to wreath-making — and runs kids’ art camps during the summer. Even if you’re not interested in its classes, check out its excellent free art exhibits, open Tuesday through Saturday. Kala.org, Berkeley. —JA

Take to the Air

Aerial arts is a graceful acrobatic routine in which a performer hangs from a piece of fabric and then climbs, wraps, falls, and contorts his or her body in various ways to create a stunning, balletic effect in midair. Kinetic Arts Center is a fitness and circus arts community offering classes for adults and children in aerial arts including beginner training with all the various equipment: ropes, silk, and aerial hoops. Improve your strength and flexibility and take your workout to a different altitude. KineticArtsCenter.com, Oakland. —EGJ

Pick Up Kitchen Skills

Kick up your cooking a notch with Kitchen on Fire’s collection of cookery classes in both Oakland and Berkeley. You’ll finally learn which knife is for which job, what a caper really is, and why your homemade bread often comes out tilted. Bring your special someone, and snuggle your way through Couples in the Kitchen: A Culinary Tour of Italy, as you journey through spicy tastes of Rome, Florence, and Naples. Other courses help you bake up your favorite bread dough like the masters; or try Vegan Living with Kitchen on Fire’s own Chef Olive. From New England Brunch to the Best of Bavaria, Kitchen on Fire takes you on an international culinary tour — no airfare required. KitchenOnFire.com, Oakland, Berkeley.

Throw Some Pottery

Get ready to get your hands goopy at the full array of ceramics courses offered by Laney College’s Ceramics Studio in Oakland. The state-of-the-art facility completed in 2006 caters to artists from beginners, intermediates, to experts. Enjoy a range of courses available for credit — or just take them for fun during the days, nights, and weekends — whenever the creative spirit moves you. Fundamentals of Ceramics lets you practice wheel throwing and hand-building and helps you pick your favorite glaze. (Don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t turn out at all the color you thought it would.) Then, check out Raku, a traditional Japanese low-fired technique that stems from Buddhist influences. Laney.edu/ceramics, Oakland. —LL

Walk Among the Dead

The Mountain View Cemetery is a place of rest for the dearly departed and an underground museum of sorts where the interred are the docents. At 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, docents (living ones) lead free tours of the cemetery, guiding groups up through the steep, rolling hills. Tours visit the tombs of notable architects and luminaries who built the Oakland that expands out into the distance. Though governors, socialites, cultural pioneers, and revolutionaries are buried there, it’s the ordinary people with high-profile deaths that steal the show, from the sensational murder victim called the Black Dahlia to the Black Panther Bobby Hutton, gunned down at age 17 while surrendering after an ambush of the Oakland police. MountainViewCemetery.org, Oakland. —JS

Practice Meditation

Get in touch with yourself — and the universe — at the East Bay Meditation Center near peaceful Lake Merritt. Even if you’ve had trouble practicing how to breathe in as your stomach expands (out as it flattens) before, this 100-percent donation-based center welcomes you to workshops and meditation groups for teens and adults. Classes include Diving Deeper into the Dharma, Core Buddhist Teachings, and Social Justice. Groups focus on yoga, qi gong practice, mindful movement, and meditation, with some reserved for underrepresented communities. Check out Love: Supported by the Four Divine States to explore the states of equanimity, kindness, compassion, and inclusive joy. Who couldn’t use a little more of those these days. EastBayMeditation.org, Oakland. —LL

Inspire New Gamers

When you’re done playing the classic console games of your youth at the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, or The Made, which is a combination video game museum and community center, check out some of the more constructive activities The MADE has to offer. The nonprofit’s goal is preserving video game history while showing the public how video games are made so the practice continues for the next batch of game developers. The MADE has free intro to programming classes for kids, ages 9 to 14, on Saturdays whey they put together code blocks to make games, cartoons, or science simulations. The MADE also holds meet-ups for interactive fiction, a robotics club, and co-working hours for gamers and developers — and can always use enthusiastic volunteers. TheMADE.org, Oakland. —JS

Knit One, Pearle Two

Piedmont Yarn is an old-fashioned, much-loved neighborhood yarn store tucked into Piedmont Avenue that features a dedicated staff of yarn-lovers ready to answer your questions about loops, lusters, mattes, and filaments. Packed with luxurious, top-quality yarn in wool, alpaca, silk, cashmere, and more, Piedmont even stocks its own brand, which is dyed locally by shop founder Bente Peterson. Nervous about knitting one, pearling two? Check out an array of classes for kids and adults, focusing on knitting/crocheting, special designs, squares, and mosaics. Or get social, and join a knitting circle for today’s fashion-forward DIY-ers. PiedmontYarn.com, Oakland. —LL

Make Your Own

The Rare Bird is that rare shop in Oakland where you can not only buy great gifts, but also learn how to make them. The shop offers classes in crafting everything from candles, perfumes, and terrariums to rainbow wall hangings and high-waisted panties. Or try a clairvoyance or tarot-reading workshop if you’re feeling uncertain about the future. Regardless of what class you take, you’ll likely come away with some unexpected benefits. Owner and teacher Erica Skone-Rees is all about bringing people together to celebrate community, creativity, and play. So come for the candles, but stay for the art, meditation, and magic. As an bonus, you can pet Erica’s very friendly and exceptionally calm husky puppy. TheRareBird.com, Oakland. —JA

Fight Like a Knight

In recent years, medieval European martial arts — sometimes called Historical European Martial Arts — have experienced a renaissance of sorts. Studios and clubs dedicated to the fighting styles of sword-wielding knights, mercenaries, and put-upon civilians have begun popping up all over the world. Relic Movement in the Glenview neighborhood of Oakland teaches classes on longsword, rapier, hand-to-hand wrestling, and more in its Relic Fight Club program. From biomechanics and footwork, the martial arts of 14th- and 15th-century Europe is a must for self-defense prep before your next time-travel vacation. RelicMovement.com, Oakland. —JS

Photo by Lori Eanes

Ready to get sweaty? Take a spin class at RiDE Oakland. Choose easy to hard.

Spin to a Beat

Ready to pedal to the next cardio level? Ride Oakland on Piedmont Avenue is the place for serious spinners cycling their way to the peak of fitness. Kick it into gear as you spin to the beat, and try out some killer arm moves for strengthening in these boot camp-level classes. Beginners can work at their own pace on a state-of-the-art bike to ramp up for cycling, alongside star athletes in the various classes. Theme rides have included the Ultimate Ride and aptly named Intensity Ride, and the fab and fun Destiny’s Child Then and Now workout. Tip: Stretch out before class! Class packages available. RideOaklandCycling.com, Oakland. —LL

Editor's note: The original item on Ride Oakland contained some errors. The above information has been corrected.

Forage the Sea

You can find some amazing things in the mud. When the low tide comes and the water retreats, let author and raconteur Kirk Lombard guide you through the ecosystems of the San Francisco Bay Area and all its morsels via his fish-centric walking Seaforager Tours. It’s like a crash course in seafood, fishery, and fishy rules, regs, history, and lore delivered in an interactive educational and entertaining way by a guy with a definite gift for gab. Learn about sustainable fishing, how to throw a Hawaiian casting net, the difference between good mollusks and bad, and catch your own urban eels and crabs from the waters of the bay. Seaforager.com, San Francisco. —JS

Feel the Burn

There’s something primal and mesmerizing about glassblowing: watching red-hot, molten glass being pulled from a furnace, then turned, twisted, and blown into fantastical shapes, sizes, and colors. If you want to try your hand at this ancient process, there’s Slow Burn Glass, formerly in Oakland and now in Richmond. Founded in 2006 by Bryan Goldberg, Slow Burn offers beginning and advanced glassblowing courses and will design workshops for schools, business, or families looking for a fun activity to do together. For example, make your own Christmas tree ornaments, glass pumpkins, or psychedelic pint glasses. The teachers are extremely friendly — and guarantee you’ll have a good time. Plus, you’ll get to take home what you make. Even beginners produce lovely pieces. SlowBurnGlass.com, Richmond. —JA

Master the Web

The internet is a glorious platform that gives users access to everything from fashion trends and celebrity events to breaking news and medical innovations. The best websites are created by professionals who know how to design for functionality and ease. If you’ve thought about becoming one of these magicians, check out UC Berkeley Extension’s Web Development program. With no prerequisites, affordable tuition, and courses available online and at the SF campus, this is a spectacular way to learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and all of the front-end and back-end technology needed to get hired as a genius web designer. Extension.berkeley.edu. —EBD

Try Podcasting

If you’ve ever listened to The Joe Rogan Experience and thought — well, I can do that! — then a podcasting class at The Writing Pad is your first step toward one day hosting a world-famous show in your garage. There you’ll learn storytelling techniques, interviewing, and audio editing, and you’ll leave with an outline of your pilot episode. Teachers at The Writing Pad are always accomplished industry professionals (current teacher, Catherine Girardeau, is a senior producer at Slate.com) and classes run once a week and always in the evenings. So whether your interest is music, money, or murder, The Writing Pad can help turn your idea into reality. WritingPad.com, San Francisco. —EGJ

Craft Spellbinding Tales

The Moth is a live storytelling series that’s seen explosive growth and inspired hundreds of imitators. The stories shared have been at turns funny, heartbreaking, terrifying, and touching, and its popularity speaks to the human need to share our experiences and to be understood. If you have a story you’ve been dying to tell, The Writing Pad hosts a five-week storytelling workshop that covers how to structure your story, connect with your audience, and persuade them to root for you. You’ll come away with two polished pieces, and you’ll even have the chance to perform one at a real theater. WritingPad.com, San Francisco. —EGJ

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