Here at Scout, we want to guide you on your road to self-improvement, so we trekked around town finding the best classes to take in 2015. Whether your resolution is as simple as promising yourself you’ll try new things or as specific as wanting to learn to cook, code, dance or even just brew the perfect cup of coffee, one of the workshops on our list is guaranteed to be a great jumping-off point. Happy New Year!
1. START COOKIN’
374 WASHINGTON ST.
“Strict. Strict and clean.” This is how Shiso Kitchen owner Jessica Roy answers a pupil who asks about her reputation among students during her days as a teacher at Le Cordon Bleu. “But that’s why I opened my own place, where we can have some fun!”
A cooking class led by Roy certainly is entertaining. The skilled sushi chef is as animated as she is talented, and it’s impossible not to get psyched while listening to her discuss her passion for food. Her sessions are intimate – a full evening consists of just six people – which means you get to bond with your fellow amateur chefs. And for $89 a class (give or take), you learn everything from knife skills to prepping meats and veggies to properly seasoning food and more. Protip: The courses are BYO, so before you get cooking you’ll want to hit up the liquor store and grab some vino to enjoy with the meal you and your classmates prepare together.
2. JUST BREW IT
COUNTER CULTURE COFFEE
374 SOMERVILLE AVE.
If you’re at all like most coffee drinkers, your caffeine vocabulary mostly consists of words like “black,” “strong” and “Dunkin,’” and not, “alkaloid,” “enzymatic” and “agitation.” That’s where Counter Culture’s Brewing Basics class comes in. Their entry-level course takes a look at the simple science behind brewing the perfect cup of pourover coffee, touching upon the ideal ratio of water to grounds and the impact different grind sizes can have on the flavor of your brew. The two-hour, hands-on class costs $75, and participants walk away with a $15 voucher to Counter Culture’s web store, their own ceramic pourover brewer and filters.
Counter Culture is responsible for training some of the best baristas in the area, so if you ever feel like learning more you can also try your hand at one of their more advanced classes like cupping fundamentals, espresso fundamentals or their milk mechanics lab.
3. PLANT YOUR ROOTS
GREEN CITY GROWERS
600 WINDSOR PL.
At this time of year, when everything that isn’t covered by a blanket of snow and ice still looks dead and shriveled, it’s possible that you’ve entirely forgotten what plants even look like. And that’s okay! You have plenty of time to sign up for Green City Growers’ annual Urban Farming Course, which takes place April 10-12. The weekend-long class tackles all the basics of growing healthy plants in the city, from physically installing a garden to selecting the right seeds to using organic fertilizer. GCG’s team of horticultural specialists will even teach you how to winterize your garden, so you can prepare for winter’s return in 2016. The full weekend course costs $250.
If this sounds like a little too much gardening for your tastes, or if you just can’t wait until April to start farming, try one of GCG’s seasonal workshops like Chicken Keeping 101 (scheduled for February 12) or their Intro to Mushrooms (tentatively slated for February). All workshops are $40.
4. STRIKE A POSE
There are a bunch of great places to do yoga in Somerville – so many, in fact, that we struggled to choose just one. Luckily, each studio offers something slightly different. There’s be. in Union Yoga, (440 Somerville Ave.), where instructors specialize in empowerment-based vinyasa yoga. O2 Yoga (288 Highland Ave.) boasts ashtanga yoga and meditation, while soul.train (1180 Broadway) boasts urban flow vinyasa classes backed by a hip hop soundtrack. Samara Yoga (249 Elm St.) has classes in vinyasa, anusara and yin styles. And guys who prefer their yoga to have both x and y chromosomes (xyoga?) can try Broga at the Armory (191 Highland Ave.) and Brooklyn Boulders (12A Tyler St.).
5. BRING THE KIDS
PARTS AND CRAFTS
577 SOMERVILLE AVE.
According to Parts and Crafts’ Zach Hirschtritt, curious kiddos who enjoy building things and working with their hands will love the classes taught at Parts and Crafts. There are different after school programs every day of the week; for example, Mondays are for electronics, like circuit-making or building small robots, and Tuesdays are for learning programming languages like java.
Saturdays are reserved for specialty classes, including bamboo geometry, 3D printing and a course on how to make duct tape sculptures. These classes are $25 for nonmembers and $15 for members, but payment is based on a sliding scale, and the center has need-based scholarships for children who qualify.
If your kid has trouble focusing for the length of a class, that’s okay; Hirschtritt notes that they always have extra staffers on hand who can guide students who would rather break off from the group and do their own thing.
“We have this space available and we have these tools available, and that’s what it’s about.”
6. POUR ONE OUT
THE BOSTON SHAKER
69 HOLLAND ST.
The Boston Shaker’s Adam Lantheaume has been teaching his Cocktail Techniques class for five years now, and he’s not ready to hand off the reins to another instructor any time soon. “It’s so near and dear to my heart,” he explains, “I do each and every one.”
His course gives liquor lovers the fundamentals they need to craft gorgeous, delicious drinks from any spirit, be it gin, whiskey, rum or vodka. And The Shaker always works with local distilleries – currently, that’s GrandTen Distilling in South Boston – which means you’re using only the highest quality ingredients in your drink.
You’ll concoct two different beverages over the course of the $70 class, but be prepared to split them with a partner: “We used to give everyone full beverages, but by the end of the night it was just… too much,” Lantheaume recalls wryly.
7. GET SWEATY
42 MERRIAM ST.
Unlike the other classes on our list, Achieve Fitness doesn’t offer drop-in rates. But that’s a good thing for a fitness center; it means that everyone attending one of their metcon (metabolic conditioning) courses, kettlebell classes or strength training workshops is as dedicated to getting fit as you are. The gym’s founder and trainer, Lauren Perreault, says that the atmosphere is friendly and encouraging. The coaches know everyone’s name and face, which means they’ll also notice if you skip a week.
Memberships start at $147 a month, and because the classes at Achieve aren’t available on a one-off basis, Perreault says their retention rate is high. “People really become friends here,” she emphasizes.
8. SAY CHEESE
FIORE DI NONNO
(CLASSES AT DAVE’S FRESH PASTA)
561 WINDSOR ST.
If you’ve never had Fiore di Nonno’s fresh mozzarella, step away from your computer and go get some. We’ll wait.
Amazing, right? Much better than the stuff you’d get at Stop and Shop. “It’s not a little rubber ball, it’s got a nice texture to it,” owner and cheesemaker Lourdes Smith says, laughing. Now imagine taking one of Smith’s cheese making classes, which she’s been hosting at Dave’s Fresh Pasta for the last four years. Working in teams of six, attendees get to pull their very own mozzarella. Dave’s provides wine samples and antipasto while you learn the basics of cheese, and after you’re done working they’ll press you a panini with the mozzarella you’ve pulled. You also take home 1 pound of the stuff for your own pantry. “It’s kind of a feast,” Smith says.
9. TRY TECH
231 HOLLAND ST.
The staff at Boston TechCollective, the worker-owned cooperative in Teele Square, is awesome for a lot of reasons: they’re whizzes when it comes to fixing your electronics, they operate their business democratically and they offer technology classes every Thursday at 7 p.m. The best part? Their classes are always free.
Why take the time to offer free courses on a weekly basis? For TechCollective’s Matt Gabrenya, it comes down to community. “The classes are a great way to show people that we’re normal, down-to-earth people who won’t talk down to them or scare them,” he explains.
January’s workshops include a primer on Apple for those who are confused about iCloud, a discussion about the merits of paying for cable vs. opting for streaming television services, and a talk about the pros and cons of switching to Android devices. The staff also accepts suggestions for future classes, so feel free to pipe up with any tech questions you may have!
10. BECOME BILINGUAL
INTERCONTINENTAL FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROGRAM
7 HILLSIDE PARK
Taiwanese, Choctaw, Inuit, Hungarian, – you’d be hard-pressed to think of a language that isn’t offered at the Intercontinental Foreign Language Program. Unlike the semester of French you took in high school, all courses at the IFLP, which just relocated to Union Square, are specifically created for each student. What’s more, the tailor-made learning programs are designed to teach two, three or even ten languages at once, meaning you get more bang for your buck.
“The great thing about this method is that it’s really scalable,” says founder Lee Riethmiller, who started the school back in 1976. If you decide you’d like to jump up from taking two languages to taking three, the coursework can easily be adjusted to accommodate that. The weekly sessions are an hour and a half long and tuition is priced out in two-month increments; a one-language program is $450 for two months, the two language program costs $720, and so on.
If you’re thinking that you’ve never heard of a foreign language program like this one, you’re probably right. “I don’t know if there is another program like this,” Riethmiller says. “At least, I’ve never heard of one.”
11. POINT AND SHOOT
CAMERA EYE WORKSHOPS
6 VERNON STREET STUDIOS
3RD FLOOR, STUDIO 39
Ready to have your photographic genius recognized? Dana Mueller, who founded Camera Eye Workshops in 2009, says that she is consistently amazed by the hidden talent that non-photographers display in her classes. Beginners should start out with the one-day digital camera workshop ($75). Once you’ve mastered this introductory course, Camera Eye offers more specialized classes in fields like food photography, landscape photography, editing in Lightroom and more.
Oh, but be prepared to forget all about the automatic settings on your DSLR when you step through the door – the first thing Mueller and her fellow instructors will have you do during class is switch over to your manual settings.
“We don’t protect our students,” she says with a laugh.
12. SHAKE IT OFF
TANGO SOCIETY OF BOSTON
16 BOW ST.
Born with two left feet? You won’t be able to use that as an excuse to get out of these energetic dance lessons. “If you can walk, you can tango,” says Joan Paterson of the Tango Society of Boston. “All dancing is is walking to the music.”
At 6 p.m. every Sunday and 7 p.m. each Wednesday, the society, which is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading and preserving Argentine Tango, hosts classes full of beginners who have never tried to do the dance before. It’s $10 to take one class, but the studio offers many multi-class passes that save you money. And leave your reservations at the door, because Paterson promises that you’re going to have a good time.
“I call Argentine Tango my drug of choice,” she jokes. “You can really get a high from it.”
13. DON’T WORRY, BEAD HAPPY
369 SOMERVILLE AVE.
Beadkreative is fairly new to Union Square, but the shop’s fun and easy jewelry making classes are already a hit. The small sessions generally top out at six students, so you’ll get one-on-one help from your instructor, and you can get a 10 percent discount on all classes (which start at around $30) if you bring a group of four or more.
But perhaps the coolest thing Beadkreative classes is that thanks to their talented staff, truly anyone can walk away with a beautiful piece that they’ll want to wear. “I can tell you, I’m an industrial engineer, and I had never done jewelry until working here,” says Beadkreative’s Jeremy Castillo with a smile. “It’s not that complicated.”
If you get good enough, you can even sell jewelry on consignment – the shop is currently working with several artisans who display their work at the front of the store.
14. BE A HAPPY POTTER
If you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, Mudflat’s beginner workshops are a great opportunity to learn a new skill while creating a usable piece of art. The studio offers both handbuilding classes, where attendees make a tray from a slab of clay, and wheelthrowing courses, where aspiring potters make their very own cup or bowl. The classes are a steal at $40 each.
Not super confident in your pottery-making skills? That’s okay! “The teachers do try to clean [pieces] up a little bit,” Mudflat’s Executive Director Lynn Gervens chuckles. That means they’ll remove any sharp edges or blemishes in your final product before glazing and firing it. As a bonus, the studio uses a high-fire glaze that renders all finished works microwave and dishwasher safe.
“At the end of three hours, everybody gets a piece that they like,” Gervens says.
And for those who like their date nights à la Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost, the studio also offers couples clay classes for $60 per pair.
15. JOIN THE CIRCUS
ESH CIRCUS ARTS
44 PARK ST.
Cirque du Soleil enthusiasts and fitness fanatics alike will love the workshops offered by Esh Circus Arts. Their classes – which run in eight-week-long sessions – can teach you how to spin around in a giant cyr wheel, fly through the air on the trapeze or walk a tight wire. If you’d rather keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, the circus also teaches fitness-based workshops like hooping, yoga and pilates fusion and dance for non-dancers.
Because a two-month class is quite a commitment, Esh has taster sessions once or twice a month where you try a few different disciplines and see if anything strikes your fancy.
Do the classes tend to fill up? “Absolutely,” says Esh co-owner Ellen Waylonis May. She says that the circus arts workshops are “not hard, necessarily, but they do take a lot of time and attention.” So that everyone can move at their own pace, Esh instructors keep the workshops to between four and ten people, which means that you’ll want to sign up as early as possible.