Take a "Learning Vacation" in Sarasota County

Learn something on vacation through taking a class or a workshop.

If you're anything like this writer, you breathed a sigh of relief when you closed your algebra textbook for the last time—or perhaps it was "The Canterbury Tales" that did you in—and back then, you wouldn't dream of spending your summer vacation in a classroom if you could help it.

We don't hold it against you if you never want to revisit quadratic formulas or sentence diagrams, but how about a course on American Jazz, or how to grow vegetables that will thrive in your Florida garden? Or perhaps it's a hands-on pottery-making, acting, or cooking class that makes learning sound fun again.

Options abound for lifelong learners: from lectures series' and workshops to semester-based adult learning courses, we'll share the variety of avenues one might explore to learn something new on a "learning vacation" in Sarasota County.

Theatre and Comedy Classes

Get your jazz-hands at the ready: you're never too old to claim your place in the spotlight. From community theatre to improv, and even stand up, the stage is set for you to explore your passion for performing arts in Sarasota County.

Classes at the Humor Institute at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre are geared to help adult students practice the skills necessary to develop and perform a successful stand up comedy routine. McCurdy's "Comedy Bootcamp Immersion Program" offers ten hours of training over three days to develop a three-to-five minute performance set.

Whether you're shooting for the starring role or can-canning your way to a spot on the chorus line, a great place to start is in classes offered by Sarasota County's community theatres. The Players Theatre Performing Arts Studio offers acting, singing, and dance classes in tap and musical theatre, as well as classes on playwriting and stage makeup.

At the Venice Theatre, find unique offerings such as a course for actors on working with masks, and a hip hop dance workshop series. Also in south Sarasota County, the Lemon Bay Playhouse in Englewood offers an acting class for adults with little to no acting experience, led by Playhouse Artistic Production Director, Ric Goodwin.

Sarasota's contemporary American and improv theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, offers an Actors Lab—an opportunity for adult actors to learn the skills necessary to delve deeply into their roles on stage.

Lifelong Learning Programs

Sarasota County Schools Adult and Community Enrichment (ACE) program, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Ringling College (OLLI), and the Sarasota Institute of Lifelong Learning (SILL) offer hundreds of programs that range from basket-weaving to smartphone savvy.

ACE boasts over 10,000 enrollments annually in its variety of courses geared toward adult learners, as well as some offerings for families. The ACE catalog features dozens of classes at any given time in the arts, personal health, foreign languages, technology, and social sciences.

Continuing education at ACE can be as casual or as dedicated as its student, with several single-session courses available for the drop-in learner, as well as opportunities to enroll in lengthier courses with room for advancement.

Looking to become certified as a safe Florida boater, or to challenge yourself to develop an eye for street photography? Maybe you're seeking a course series that will guide you toward fluency in the French language, or perhaps a one-session lecture to brush up on your U.S. Constitutional rights is more suited to your interests and schedule. All of these courses, and more, are offered at ACE. Explore the ACE Course Catalog to discover where your next knowledge foray might lead.

While several schools in the Sarasota area offer sterling four-year degree programs for traditional students, Ringling College of Art + Design stands out in its dedication to offering opportunities for adults to pursue new interests though the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a merger with the Lifelong Learning Academy and the Pierian Spring Academy.

OLLI courses are taught by retired faculty, scholars, and professional practitioners, and range from music and art appreciation to global current affairs, philosophy, and history. In the OLLI course catalog, students will find opportunities to delve deep into subjects like the films of Martin Scorsese, the politics of southeast Asia, and literature written by imprisoned authors.

OLLI also offers a lecture series, "Academy Talks," as well as a forum series called the "Einstein Circle" which presents moderated discussions and expert debates on myriad topics ranging from the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to the civil rights debate centered around same-sex wedding cakes.

2018 marks the 47th season of the Sarasota Institute of Lifelong Learning (SILL) lecture series, and will focus on a selection of prescient issues ranging from the opioid crisis in the United States to the impact of Brexit on the future of the European Union, as well as a series of "Musical Conversations" with partners from NPR, the Sarasota Orchestra, and the Sarasota Opera.

Art Appreciation and Studio Classes

Known as Florida's Cultural Coast, Sarasota is a hub for the arts—theatre, visual and musical. For those looking for an arts education, look no further than Sarasota's institutions and studios.

The Ringling offers a variety of educational programs for adults designed to enhance art appreciation in the museum. ViewPoint lectures and "Gallery Walk and Talks" led by curators and scholars at The Ringling illuminate the museum's permanent collection pieces, while the "Collecting Recollections" series threads fascinating stories about the history of the circus and the museum in Sarasota..

For those seeking a better understanding and appreciation of the symphonic arts, the Sarasota Orchestra Friends offers an enchanting and informative Classical Conversations series previewing the Sarasota Orchestra's Masterworks concerts.

For folks who are interested in hands-on learning: Art Center Sarasota, Venice Art Center, North Port Art Center are Sarasota County's community art centers offering a variety of studio classes in painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, ceramics, collage, jewelry, sculpture, and more. Explore your creative side, and you may soon find your artwork hanging in the community centers' annual juried art exhibitions!

Finally, if you're the kind of painting student who enjoys taking field trips, you may be drawn to the Light Chasers, Sarasota's plein air painters. Perfect your palm tree-painting technique in the Light Chasers' outdoor classes taught by Master Artists who live and work in Florida.

Environmental Education

There's plenty to get excited about environmental education in Sarasota. Whether you're a resident hoping to learn what will grow in your Sarasota garden (and how to help it thrive) or a visiting to learn about Florida's fascinating wildlife and ecosystems, there are plenty of opportunities to get in tune with nature while learning something new.

Selby Gardens is world-renown for its epiphyte and orchids, and offers a series of Horticulture Classes for folks interested in learning how to care for these unique plants. Selby Gardens also offers classes in aromatherapy.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension in Sarasota County provides a variety of practical education classes and events for the public, ranging from sustainable living workshops on topics like solar energy, rain barrels, and home canning, to Sarasota-specific wildlife education classes, or fun and unusual lectures like NASA Space Plant Biology: Growing Veggies in Space.

For folks who are serious about local horticulture, the Master Gardener Program at UF/IAS provides training to become a volunteer educator with the UF/IAS Horticulture program. Additionally, UF/IAS partners with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to offer a Florida Master Naturalist program that focuses on coastal and freshwater ecosystems.

Mote Marine also offers a sea of aquatic adult learning opportunities through the Endless Oceans program. Dive into a full 10-class semester of Marine Science 101, or sign up early (seats fill fast) for single-session classes on topics such as "Coral Reefs and Ocean Acidification," "Florida Fish Ecology," or "Red Tide and Environmental Health."

((ecko)) Tours, from the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, truly defines the concept of taking a "learning vacation" with curated and highly educational, interactive ecotours that celebrate the natural diversity and fragility of Florida's Gulf Coast. Ecko offers six unique 2-4 day itineraries that connect ecotourists with local scientists, educators and environmental advocates on adventures across the Sarasota County area that take place by bike, boat, and kayak. Excursions include themed adventures on the Sarasota Bay, Myakka River, and the Manatee River; an urban wildlife biking trek, and a Gulf Coast birding tour. Ecko also offers single full and half-day excursions.

Bird enthusiasts flock to the Sarasota Audubon Society for classes on birding in Sarasota and neighboring Manatee County. Audubon Society classes tend to take place during the cooler months of the year, so keep an eagle eye on the Nature Center class schedule.

Cooking Classes

Good grades are satisfying to receive, but ending class with an A+ meal? Sign us up for every course on the menu! In addition to the culinary courses at ACE, here are some unique options for cooking classes in Sarasota County:

Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key has a 40 year tradition as one of the most celebrated fine dining establishments in Sarasota—and those who have tasted Chef Ray Arpke's masterfully creative cuisine understand why. Chef Ray's "Lesson Luncheons" have been selling out since he began teaching cooking classes in 1997. Reserve a class when you can!

When he isn't teaching in northern Italy, award-winning cookbook author and cooking teacher, Giuliano Hazan, teaches four-course Italian cooking classes that conclude in a delicious meal in his Sarasota home. Buon appetito!

Another long standing Sarasota culinary tradition is Taste of Asia, known for its Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese fare, and vegan offerings. Taste of Asia offers cooking classes by appointment—an opportunity not to be missed by connoisseurs of regional Asian cuisine. Call the restaurant at 941-923-2742 to arrange a private or group cooking class.

Sarasota's Curry Station is known for its authentic dishes, lovingly prepared by Chef Narendra in a variety of cooking styles from India. Learn some of Chef Narendra's secrets in traditional Indian cooking demonstrations, which are often held on Sundays at the restaurant. Tune in with announcements on the Curry Station Facebook page to catch the next class.

Of course, we've saved dessert for last: The Cookie Cottage is a charming bakery near downtown Sarasota that shares bakers' best secrets in its cookie-making classes. These casual classes are perfect for small groups who share a sweet tooth.

What's on Your Sarasota Syllabus?

What educational opportunities will you choose from our extensive course catalog—or is it a travel guide?—of options for a "learning vacation" in Sarasota County?

Perhaps you'll revisit your favorite subject from school, or that hobby you always meant to make time to explore—or maybe you'll embark on a learning experience that's entirely unique and new...

Happy schooling!