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School's Out, Learning's In 

click to enlarge An adult class at Hudson Valley Pottery & Moring Studio in Rhinebeck.
  • An adult class at Hudson Valley Pottery & Moring Studio in Rhinebeck.

There are many things we'd rather not recall from our time in school. The cafeteria, study hall, changing for gym—some of these memories are best left inside crowded hallways and fluorescent-lit classrooms. However, one thing we often forget too easily is our capacity to learn. Not memorize, recite, or regurgitate, but learn in its most organic sense. Unfortunately, there are cases in which this kind of education never happens in high school or even college. We often become entangled in academia and can no longer remember what it's like to have a true thirst for new ideas and skills. Though it may be buried under years of standardized tests and the stresses of adulthood, it's still there and it's never too late to quench it.

Maybe you've realized you want to try singing outside your shower. Maybe you miss your ceramics class from sophomore year. Maybe you'd like to start gardening but don't know where to begin. Across the Hudson Valley there are passionate people just waiting to be your new teacher. Learning to sing, make pottery, or grow an organic garden, they say, isn't just good for your mind, but also your body and soul. So go out to do that thing you've always wanted to do. Let the learning begin.

Glazed Over
Sometimes there's nothing more satisfying than getting your hands dirty—and then having a beautiful work of art to show for it. At Hudson Valley Pottery & Moring Studio in Rhinebeck, you'll reap the rewards of clay-covered hands after just a few visits. The studio offers one-week and six-week sessions where you'll learn throwing on the wheel, trimming, hand building, and decorating techniques. With 14 vibrant glazes to choose from and all of your tools included, all that's left is firing up the kiln. In addition to instructional classes, students can practice their newfound skills during open studio hours. Taking advantage of these extra opportunities is key to honing your skills at the wheel, says owner Ann Moring. "You're really working on your hand-eye coordination: Pottery is a physical thing, it's three-dimensional," she says. However, the very thing she says some students find challenging is what she finds calming about making pottery. "It's very relaxing and satisfying to make something out of a wet piece of clay and then turn it into something functional. It's rewarding to make a cup or bowl you can use to drink your coffee or eat ice cream out of," Moring adds. If you're just looking to get your feet wet, or rather your hands, new adult students are eligible to sign up for a trial class. (845) 876-3190; Hudsonvalleypottery.com.

Planting the Seed
To learn about organic gardening, seed starting, and more, you'll have to travel no farther than your own backyard. Jay Levine from Hudson Valley Backyard Co. can come to you, fully equipped to teach everything you need to know to start growing your own fruits and vegetables. The benefits of tending your own garden, Levine says, even surpasses the reward of fresh produce at your fingertips—though he admits the greens you grow will always taste better than the store-bought ones. "Organic gardening itself is a way to get you into the world and in your yard: It counteracts the fact we spend so much time in offices and not outside," he says. Levine also teaches introductory classes to Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Chinese cuisine, though one of the most useful cooking classes he offers might just be Vegetables Kids Will Eat. "I take two approaches to the issue of getting kids to eat their vegetables: recipes where the children know they're eating vegetables and recipes to hide the vegetables, such as squash pancakes. I surreptitiously fed it to my in-laws and then told them afterwards it had vegetables in it—they never knew," laughs Levine. He continues, "If you can get your kids to want to eat vegetables then you'll build a whole lifestyle around healthy eating." So round up friends and family and schedule a lesson at your convenience. All supplies and ingredients are included in the cost and, as an added bonus, Levine lowers the price per person as groups get larger. (845) 876-7903; Hudsonvalleybackyardfarm.com.

Rock the Boat
Maybe you weren't an angsty teenager dying to be in a garage band, but face it—there's still a part of you that wishes you knew how to play the electric guitar. Ben Senterfit understands. At Creative Music Space in Red Hook, Senterfit can give you the music edge you always craved. "A lot of times as people get older, they have stories they grew up with—like a teacher who told them they had a bad voice or parents who wouldn't give them lessons—and they carry that throughout their lives," he says. Part of Senterfit's mission is to help adults overcome these self-doubts. What once started out as a class called Singing for People Who Can't Sing evolved into Creative Music Space's current contemporary choir which now works on complex harmonies. You can join them in September, and Senterfit promises you too can sing. "It's a transformative process for them to go back to their childhood and get them to realize they can do all of these things people told them they couldn't do. It's empowering. Music is good for your body, good for your soul," he says. Year round Senterfit and his colleagues teach people guitar, saxophone, bass, drums, and more in private lessons. On the horizon is also a jamming ensemble and a comedy improv class. (845) 444-0607; Creativemusicspace.com.

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