Perfect Summer Schools

This time of year, the only good class is an outdoor class.

Perfect summer. Classes. Hmmm. Maybe. I've never had much luck combining the two. As a kid one June, I was roped into Bible school, held under a neighbor's tree an hour a day for a week, to hear the story of Ti-Fam, the daughter of a Haitian "witch doctor," and the kindly missionaries' efforts to persuade her out of her dangerous belief system, which we called "superstition," into our benign one, which we called "religion." You do want to save your errant father, don't you, Ti-Fam? I'm missing Match Game '74 for this? I thought as I listened. Even back then, I knew Charles Nelson Reilly's bon mots would be of more use later in life than Christian conversion tales. Then, in high school—well, not to go into detail, but a summer economics course resulted in my sole academic B. I still wake at night sobbing.

At least Bible school was outdoors. And as many interesting classes as you can find under a roof—a wealth of continuing-ed programs at the area's colleges, for example—it seems a shame not to combine learning with savoring Seattle's 10 glorious weeks of summer weather.

REI's flagship Seattle store (222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944, is one place to go not only for outdoor gear (you know that already) but for instruction, too. Among their upcoming clinics, all free: Navigating With National Geographic, all about GPS and map use (June 5); Kayaking 101 (June 14); and Basic Bike Maintenance for Women (June 21; or wait for the coed version, Bike Maintenance 101, June 28).

One activity not every city can offer is scuba diving. Beginners' classes include a little pool time and a little Puget Sound time, usually four or five sessions. Check out Seattle Underwater Sports (800-252-7177, and the Scuba Schools Group (206-374-2937,; they helped train the Finding Nemo production team to get the feel of the underwater world). See for all sorts of health, strength, and fitness courses, including the archetypal YMCA experience, swimming lessons (ongoing; adults at 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at the downtown YMCA, 909 Fourth Ave., 206-382-5003; kids at various regional YMCA locations).

Need something less physical? The Seattle chapter of the Audubon Society (206-523-4483, presents classes that combine lectures with optional field trips. There's an additional cost, but you'll surely want to put your new observational knowledge to use. Coming soon: hummingbirds (starting June 27; $55–$65 with field trip, $35–$40 without) and sea birds, or as they call it, Pelagic Birding (starting July 25; lectures $25–$65, field trip $110). The Woodland Park Zoo (5500 Phinney Ave. N., 206-684-4800, offers a wide range of "edZOOcation" for kids (18 months and up), families, and adults. While the tots are learning about giraffes (Aug. 12) and the tweens are studying Wild Ecosystems (Aug. 7–11), you might take in Tropical Rain Forests (July 9).

Finally, for classes that would intrigue Ti-Fam's father and shock the missionaries, try the region's center for alternative medicine, Bastyr University (14500 Juanita Dr. N.E., Kenmore, 425-823-1300, in Kenmore. Courses open to the public range from homeopathy to telepathic animal communication to Gregorian chant.

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