Letâ€™s say you wanted to install a brick patio yourself or research your family tree but you donâ€™t know where to start.
Fairfax County Public Schools Adult and Community Education (ACE) offers 3,000 different classes a year. Thereâ€™s everything from cooking Indian-Sri Lankan cuisine to Working with Digital Media. About 80,000 people a year take these weekend and evening classes that range between $35 and $1,000.
IN THE ARTS, Flora and Culinary category, the classes range from arranging flowers to cake decorating to cooking light and delicious. "Whatâ€™s nice about all of these is theyâ€™re specific," said Britt Weaver of ACE. "A lot of our cooking classes are one-, two-, or three sessions long."
Theyâ€™re good for people learning how to express themselves creatively â€” be it in the kitchen or with artistic materials.
For beginner chefs, thereâ€™s Knife Skills that teaches how to properly use a knife to do things with the least amount of effort.
Take cake decorating. ACE offers three different levels â€” one for the lady who wants to decorate her honeyâ€™s carrot cake to Martha Stewart-baker wannabees.
The classes are "a wonderfully fun evening because [students] interact with other adults and a knowledgeable instructor," said Sandra Booth, instructional program specialist. And afterwards, students get to eat what theyâ€™ve made.
"Whatâ€™s nice about all of these is theyâ€™re specific," said Weaver. "Someone doesnâ€™t have to take a 16-week art class at a community college."
Program Coordinator Elaine Hawes says the art classes are warm, nurturing, user-friendly classes that are taught by professional artists. "The group dynamic in a community-based program is really important," she adds. "You could take a beginning drawing class with five different teachers and come away with five different learning experiences," she says.
BUSINESS CLASSES like Principles of Real Estate or Developing a Marketing Plan tend to be very pragmatic. They range from legal to marketing to investment to human resource management.
"Theyâ€™re taught by people who are business people themselves," said Weaver. "Just about all of them, are professionals and successful in their own right."
SPECIAL INTEREST classes offer opportunities for personal growth and life enrichment. The geneaology classes are wildly popular and instruct students on how to use local resources like the National Archives and Virginia courthouses.
"Virginia has excellent records because of the way we kept court records and land records," said Weaver. "So people can experience a lot of success researching their roots."
Students can be beginners who know nothing about their family history to those searching for the Geneaology of Irish and German ancestors. Thereâ€™s one class called 10 Tips, which are the tips that the pros use. Booth said the instructors are professional researchers who know how to use research facilities, such as the Latter Day Saints library and the National Archives.
THE HANDS-ON and do-it-yourself classes include Home Maintenance or Plumbing Repair or Electrical Workshop or Rough Carpentry. They are designed to help students develop the confidence and skills to tackle home projects or to advance in their own careers, says Joe Teets, program specialist II in charge of the apprenticeship, trade and industry classes.
Students can learn to build a small retaining wall or build a deck or remodel a bathroom. The classes help answer the question, â€˜Is this task appropriate for me to do as a homeowner?â€™ Or should you call a professional, said Teets.
IN YEARS PAST, ACE used to focus on basic computer use, but thereâ€™s been a shift toward more specialized IT classes, says Weaver. The classes prepare students for a variety of certifications â€” to become an Access Specialist or Oracle Database Administrator. "We are offering a more sophisticated level of information technology classes due to rising demand," said Weaver. "We prepare [students] so they can take Microsoft tests for a variety of things."
Itâ€™s not too late to sign up for some summer classes. The fall schedule begins in September. The ACE fall catalog is located at www.fcps.edu/aceclasses.