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Features - Posted June 23, 2017 9:30 a.m.
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Illustrations by Kayla Morris

Back-to-School for Grownups

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Learning doesn’t stop at high school or college graduation. Nor should it. In 2014, a Dallas neuroscientist named Dr. Denise C. Park reported on a study of senior citizens. After isolating control groups who listened to music or socialized, she engaged a third group of seniors in challenging educational activities. These men and women – some of whom were in their 80s – were tasked with learning a new skill. Members of this group learned to quilt, or use a digital camera, or operate complex computer applications like Photoshop.

The neuroscientists discovered that the individuals who learned a new skill saw measurable gains in memory and cognitive ability. The control groups saw no such gains. Park concluded that maintaining an active brain could deter some of the mental effects of aging.

Our readers aren’t all senior adults, of course. But gaining knowledge of any kind is a form of self-improvement. If an 80-year-old can find their way around Photoshop, then it’s never too late to learn something new. School may be out for the summer, but it’s not too early to make fall plans when daytime schedules open up again. Who’s ready to go back to school?



Learn Pottery
Instructor and owner of Blue Sage Pottery & Art Gallery Kent Harris offers a variety of evening classes over six-week sessions. Participants learn to throw on a pottery wheel, glaze pots, and otherwise turn a lump of clay into something beautiful. Classes for beginners take place in the Sixth Street studio, where Harris and his wife, Megan, also sell hand-made pottery and other artwork. Past participants have praised these classes as a creative outlet as well as an opportunity to relieve stress. Blue Sage Pottery & Art Gallery, 3302 SW Sixth Ave., 374.6568, bluesagepottery.com



Become a Beekeeper
Like backyard gardening, beekeeping is growing in popularity, but there’s a learning curve involved. How do you extract the honey? How do you prevent swarms? How do you replace a queen? Experienced beekeepers George and Paige Nester started Creek House Honey Farm in 2011, and now offer beginning and intermediate classes for would-be keepers. These three-hour, hands-on classes take place among the hives at the farm, which is located off of Fourth Avenue east of Canyon. Creek House Honey Farm, 5015 Fourth Ave., 670.1878, creekhousehoneyfarm.com



Kick Up Your Heels
Adult dance lessons are not just for B-list celebrities wearing sparkly costumes on TV. For grown-ups, learning to dance can be both a physical and mental endeavor. Bring the right partner along and it can also make for a fun, romantic date night. The Continuing Education curriculum at Amarillo College has long been a great place for adults to learn everything from country-western styles to clogging or ballroom dancing. Dee’s Dance Studio offers private lessons in two-step, swing, cha cha, waltz, and more. Amarillo College, 2201 S. Washington St., 371.5000, actx.edu
Dee’s Dance Studio, 2420 SW 45th Ave., 353.6578, deesdancestudioamarillo.com



Take Flight
There’s a reason even avid travelers want the window seats on a plane: There’s still something magical about seeing the world from several thousand feet above ground. Pilots enjoy this unparalleled perspective on a daily basis. Whether looking to start a new career or soar into an enjoyable hobby, flying lessons combine instruction with adventure. In and above Amarillo, Route 66 Aviation and Coyote Flight Centers offer flight schools for the friendly skies, designed around meeting Federal Aviation Administration requirements for pilot certification. Route 66 Aviation, 324.7220, route66aviation.com
Coyote Flight, 11001 Baker St., 335.9763, coyoteflight.com



Join the Circus
Have you ever seen a Cirque du Soleil performer who didn’t seem to be enjoying herself? That type of artistic beauty – and the lean, fit bodies of those performers – has led to the explosive growth of aerial fitness studios. Using ceiling-rigged silk fabrics, participants can stretch, balance and pose in multiple dimensions that just aren’t possible on the ground. Flying Fitness offers aerial fitness, yoga and acrobatic classes for adults of all ages, including a preparatory program for those who really do want to learn the circus arts. Flying Fitness & Aerial Arts Studio, 3794 Business Park Drive, 318.3938, flyingfitnesstx.com



Paint, Weave, and Draw
Former middle school art teacher Auburn Adams opened her studio to expand her classroom to students of all ages. Burn Studio’s schedule offers family-oriented fusion classes (which combine kids and parents) to BYOB classes for adults. Amarillo Art Institute (AAI), a non-profit dedicated to art education and appreciation, offers an immense variety of classes from elegant Chinese brush painting to standard drawing and watercolor painting. At AAI, Pam Allison’s 10-week weaving class offers hands-on work using looms. Burn Studio, 4111 Business Park Drive, 535.4419, burn-studio.com
Amarillo Art Institute, 3701 Plains Blvd., Suite 117, 354.8802, amarilloartinstitute.org



Quench Your Thirst
Texas has come a long way since the days of illegal backyard stills and moonshine. Current state law allows Texans to manufacture up to 200 gallons of wine, malt liquor or beer without a license or permit. Since 2013, husband-and-wife brewing team Stephen and Shiloh Branigan have operated Amarillo Brewing Supply in the shopping center at 2300 Bell St., south of I-40. The shop provides home-brewing equipment and ingredients, along with occasional classes – like a six-week summer winemaking class that began in early June. Amarillo Brewing Supply, 2300 Bell St., Suite 16, 681.6687, amarillobrewingsupply.com



Climb the Walls
Rock climbing is a full-body activity that combines physical movement with mental problem-solving – and it’s far more adventurous than slogging away on an elliptical at the gym. Amarillo Rock Climbing House may have a reputation as a popular place for kids’ parties and climbing camps, but it’s also a legitimate gym and teaching facility – complete with 2,300 square feet of climbing space and a 24-foot high sport wall. In addition to memberships, ARCH regularly offers belay classes or private lessons. Amarillo Rock Climbing House, 500 S. Fannin St., 418.2431, amarilloclimbing.com



Decorate Furniture
Pinterest can be helpful and HGTV is entertaining, but there’s only so much you can learn from watching someone else paint or restore furniture. Sometimes the best education is getting your own hands dirty. Locals can polish this skill at Rustic Gypsy, a home furnishings and decor shop with locations on the Square in Canyon and on historic Sixth Street in Amarillo. Owned by Meg Brown, the shops offer frequent bring-your-own furniture workshops that teach painting and other makeover techniques. Rustic Gypsy, 420 15th St., Canyon, 557.4140; 3317 SW Sixth Ave., 418.6785, rusticgypsy.com



Discover the City
Instituted in 1981, Leadership Amarillo & Canyon was designed to combine professional networking opportunities with community awareness and social consciousness. Program participants tour some of the area’s largest employers – including Pantex and Bell Helicopter – along with local institutions like Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Other activities include presentations from civic leaders and even a ride-along with the Amarillo Police Department. The monthly classes for the 2017-2018 session begin in late August and conclude next May. Leadership Amarillo & Canyon, 2300 N. Western St., Suite 116, 322.2044, leadershipamarillo.org



Cultivate Beauty
A wholesale market offering a variety of local, novelty and exotic flowers, Amarillo Flower Market provides in-house arranging tables for those who want to create their own arrangements. Vases are available, as are flowers and greens by the stem. Amarillo College’s diverse continuing education department also offers regular classes on floral design and flower shop operations. This month it begins registering students for fall classes. Amarillo Flower Market, 3705-B Olsen Blvd., 803.9113, amarilloflowermarket.com
Amarillo College, 2201 S. Washington St., 371.5000, actx.edu



Knit and Spin
A local artist and the former co-owner of Cerulean Gallery, Dawn Barker has lately turned her attention from polymer clay mosaics to a new artistic medium: yarn. Barker just opened Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co., an Etsy shop selling her hand-dyed yarn for knitting, crocheting or weaving projects. In addition to the products, Barker offers private knitting and crochet lessons at a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced. She also teaches how to spin yarn from natural fibers and hosts a weekly knitting circle. Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co., facebook.com/chasingrabbitsfiberco

by Jason Boyett

Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.
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