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Lesson plan

Why not learn something new?

Some of life's lessons just happen by accident. Others you have to seek out. You probably already know the many colleges and cultural institutions offering classes in our education-rich city. Our goal here is to point you towards some learning opportunities you may not have heard of yet.

We're also here to tell you that you can have it all --- you can be a 19th-century cook, a speaker of German, an improv comedian, an animator, an animal tracker, and a killer poker player. Some of these options are quick and dirty, cheap and effective, while others require more time or financial investments. It's your choice what you want to learn and how much you're willing to do to learn it. Welcome to life after standardized tests: On the college campus of life, you're holding a course catalogue of only electives.

What's it going to take for you to learn your lesson?

Know when to hold 'em?

Matthew Gabel, co-owner of the Rochester Hold'em poker school, says players of all abilities will feel welcome at the 4,500-square-foot state-of-the-art facility located at 1106 East Ridge Road in Irondequoit.

"The Texas Hold'em Basics class is like Texas Hold'em for dummies, for absolute beginners who don't know the ranking of hand," he says. This class is offered September 6 from 6:30 to 9:30 for $36.

A three-week series, Texas Hold'em Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced is offered, too. Gabel describes it as an "intense class" to help fairly new players get up to speed. Topics include etiquette, self-knowledge, betting, common traps, and smart play. Sounds like all we need to know in life can be learned at poker class. Cool. A new series begins September 13, 7-9 pm. Fee: $69.

More classes are offered, including special sessions for women, teens, and singles. www.rochesterholdem.com, 697-7171

--- Linda Kostin, www.junkstorecowgirl.com

Off the top of your head

The raucous show performed by Geva's Comedy Improv Troupe is a popular destination. And for all you audience members who have yearned to participate in the antics --- you can.

An improv workshop, taught by a troupe member, is held once a month on the Saturday afternoon of each performance weekend.

Participants are "on their feet playing games," says Shawnda Urie, troupe member and education administrator for Geva.

All experience levels and ages, from teenagers to senior citizens, are welcome. "If you're open and willing to learn," says Urie, "you'll get something out of it."

The workshops teach "thinking on your feet" through improv exercises called theater sports. The game Status Party, for example, asks actors to choose a character, keeping that choice a secret. Actors interact in a scene, performing their own character while attempting to ascertain the identities of their scene partners.

"Our troupe is storytelling-based," says Urie. "We're trying to tell good stories in all of our scenes."

Workshops are $15. The next workshop is in October. For information, call Geva at 232-1366 or check the website at www.gevatheatre.org.

--- Erin Morrison-Fortunato

Throw off the mantle of corporate oppression

Sick of working for the man? Want to be the man instead? The Rochester office of SCORE, counselors to America's small businesses, offers courses to help you get started.

Mary Anne Shew, president of Shew Technology Associates, teaches SCORE's popular Marketing on the Internet class, coming up on October 19, 8:45 am to 3:30 pm. When it comes to websites, Shew says, "'If you build it, they will come' is not true." Shew teaches participants how to select domain names, design sites around key words, and make sites search-engine friendly.

Topics of other fall classes include preparing business plans, small business start-up and survival, and accounting and tax issues. They're taught at Rochester's Federal Building, located at 100 State Street. A $45 fee includes breakfast and lunch. You don't have to be an entrepreneur to recognize this value.

For info, go to www.scorerochester.org or call 263-6473.

--- Linda Kostin, www.junkstorecowgirl.com

Be more learned

It can hard to get out of the house sometimes. Young children, transportation issues, a really comfortable couch: Whether you're stuck at home by choice or necessity, WXXI has the TV for you.

In the TV station's quest to keep up with the times, it went digital in 2003 and now has four digital channels (one of them a digital version of WXXI-TV 21) including WXXI-Q, a channel completely devoted to adult education, enrichment, and teacher training (also available on Time Warner Cable 433). That sounds cool.

"It's a lot more complex than that," says Gary Walker, vice president of television at WXXI. "We are essentially an educational institution." It is a lot more complex. WXXI has for years offered GED and ESL TV programming --- like a virtual classroom for GED and ESL students. Students can hook up with a social service agency and a teacher will monitor their progress as they watch the programs and complete the assignments, but it's all on their own time. Six hundred students get their GED each year using the program.

And then there's City Cable 12, a partnership between WXXI and the City of Rochester, where you can find 14 hours a day of programming --- news analysis, information on city programs, information on public services, and shows that teach reading, math, child rearing, and cooking.

There are many other programs and services, some on TV, some face-to-face, and plans for a statewide education channel. WXXI-Q is just the latest addition in the station's education outreach. It offers programs like Fokus: Deutsch, Inside the Global Economy, Learning Math: Numbers and Operations, Engaging with Literature, and Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish. A new lineup is planned for the fall.

TV schedules are available at wxxi.org/guide/schedules, or call WXXI at 258-0200. For information on GED or ESL programs, call 258-0278.

--- Erica Curtis

Animated instruction

Could you be the next Walt Disney? The next billionaire animation emperor? Probably not. But you can make a damn good animated cartoon.

Fred Armstrong has been teaching animation classes for 14 years. As founder of Animatus, a working commercial and industrial art studio, Armstrong suggests classes for "anybody who wants to get their creative juices flowing." A basic understanding and enjoyment of drawing are helpful.

"It comes down to character design and story," says Armstrong. In a basic class, students learn the fundamentals of hand-drawn and clay animation. At the end, each student gets a videotape of the class's work.

At the intermediate level, the animation work becomes more intricate and the goal is to develop characters and bring them to life.

Hands-on, real production takes place at the advanced, or studio, level. Students are invited to create a one- to two-minute film. Very short, yes. However, one second of animation can require 10 separate drawings.

Animatus will run morning and afternoon classes on four consecutive Saturdays beginning October 8. The cost is $159 and includes supplies. 232-1740, www.animatusstudio.com.

--- Erin Morrison-Fortunato

Leave your toga at home

This fall, forget fantasy football. Play fantasy liberal arts college instead.

The University of Rochester lets you live your wildest collegiate dreams of a non-Animal House nature. The Rochester Continuing Studies program provides an intriguing lineup of classes and workshops open to the community. And get this --- there's no homework, no tests, and no grades.

Courses include wine appreciation, Arabic cultures, and women's studies. Ben Ebenhack, senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering, will teach The Coming Energy Transition. "We are already in the urgent time frame to start the transition," says Ebenhack. But "the good news is if energy prices rise sooner rather than later, alternatives will be ready to come on line sooner." Something to think about the next time you're refueling the SUV.

Classes begin September 26. Fees range from roughly $125 to $300. www.rochester.edu/college/osp, 275-2344

--- Linda Kostin, www.junkstorecowgirl.com

Truly old-fashioned cooking

"We regard our cooking classes as the crown jewel of our education program," says Maria Neale, education coordinator at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

It's cooking from the 19th-century perspective, over an open hearth and using unique ingredients of the period, namely, lots of lard. To keep the experience authentic, only seasonal produce is used. "Today you can go to the grocery store and get anything because it's imported," says Neale. Not so in the 19th century.

Dishes are cooked with reproduction equipment and classes held in the historic kitchens of the village's homes. Students are allowed the treat of entering and interacting with exhibits regular museum guests are not allowed to touch.

The classes vary from bread making to cheese making, during which students curdle and press their own hard cheese, and pie making, where students make traditional fruit, but also onion and meat pies.

You may even have the pleasure of stretching a pig bladder over your freshly made jar of preserves and watching as it shrinks into a custom leather lid. Yum!

Class prices are $45 to $55. To register visit www.gcv.org/learningPrograms or call 538-6822.

--- Erin Morrison-Fortunato

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