This Fall, Even Grown-Ups Can Go Back to School

In our search for the best of Portland’s adult education courses, we found the mother lode at Portland Community College, and some intriguing options elsewhere.

Get Some Class. (McKenzie Young-Roy @mckenzieyoungart)

Lunch boxes are pulled down from cupboards. School buses circle the block. This week, the kids head back to class.

Be honest: Don’t you envy them a little?

Nobody knows it at the time, but there’s a thrill to school that workaday life can never match. Education is the opening of possibilities—it’s seeing what path your life could take, and getting the tools to walk it. Maybe that’s why the change of weather each fall carries such a pang. It reminds you of all the things you could have learned.

Well, stop sulking! You, a tired, stressed adult, can set foot on campus this semester and crack those books. Portland is brimming with affordable, accessible classes on autumn weekends and mornings.

Yeah, it’s night school. But it’s a lot more. In our search for the best of Portland’s adult education courses, we found programs designed by accredited colleges and local businesses to help you advance professionally, start a new business, or explore imaginary worlds. A few cost more than a thousand dollars. Most are much less expensive. Some are free.

The mother lode can be found at Portland Community College, which offers hundreds of noncredit and continuing education classes online and in person in five metro-area counties. PCC’s classes cover a vast array: hip-hop dancing, managing financial investments, artisan bread baking, metalworking jewelry, and Japanese language.

Toss in the courses offered by other institutions public and private, and it wasn’t easy to whittle our picks down to a dozen. So we added a sidebar of other interesting possibilities on page 19.

It’s a reflection of Portland’s DIY tendencies that so many of the classes offer assistance with home projects: gardening, sewing, even beekeeping. And it’s no surprise that local colleges seek to help Portlanders take the next step in their careers (by, say, getting their recipe on a grocery shelf). But it’s also possible to study Ursula K. Le Guin, Humphrey Bogart and the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

This author can vouch for some of the classes personally, having taken a film class with Elliot Lavine and cocktail classes at Straightaway. In the process of researching this story, I ended up registering for Sally Dubats’ nine-week tarot card class. (It’s good professional development: When I’m not writing articles, my other job is reading tarot cards.) When Dubats said the cards were part of a dream language, something in my mind switched on. Isn’t that the whole point of continuing education?

Here’s some classes to open the mind to new ways of thinking and dreaming and being in this world.

(McKenzie Young-Roy @mckenzieyoungart)

Replace Your Lawn With Native Plants

Lawn Be Gone! What Now? Oregon State University Extension Service at PCC Rock Creek, 17705 NW Springville Road, Bldg. 4, Room 103, 9 am Saturday, Sept 9. Free.

So your grass is dead and you’re secretly glad. But your garden gnome looks lonely, and your neighbors are giving you the stink eye. Consider this an opportunity: You can junk the lawn and replace it with trees, shrubs, clover, or a mix of these drought-tolerant plants.

That’s the advice of OSU Master Gardener volunteers Lisa Barnhart and Susan Albright, who for two hours on a Saturday morning will explain the logistics of transforming your lawn from a lifeless monoculture into a thriving environment with plants that are beneficial for pollinators, birds and passing critters.

Barnhart and Albright have credentials as long as a creeping vine; Albright contributes to the Xerces Society’s Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas, so she has a pretty good idea of what pollinators want.

“This class will focus on sustainability in our changing environment,” Albright says. As the climate changes, “water use is going to be important. People need to start thinking differently about what their lawns and gardens are for.”

Receive a Little Enlightenment

Tibetan Buddhist Community Programming, Maitripa College, 1119 SE Market St., 11 am Sundays starting Sept. 3. By donation only.

In 2000, a group of students from all over the world gathered at the Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India. They would spend two months receiving daily lessons in Tibetan Buddhism and meditation practice led by Yangsi Rinpoche, a tulku from Tibet. Among the acolytes: a newly ordained 24-year-old Buddhist nun from Portland named Namdrol Miranda Adams.

Five years later, Adams and Yangsi Rinpoche founded Maitripa College in Southeast Portland, a short walk south from the Cartopia food cart pod. In 2007, the school received legal authority from the state of Oregon to offer graduate degrees in Buddhist studies. That means the courses are available for college credit—and it’s a step toward becoming an accredited university.

All this is prologue to the point: You can study Tibetan Buddhism at a divinity school a stone’s throw from the Jolly Roger on Hawthorne. And you don’t have to pay full tuition: Maitripa offers community programming, which means curious locals are welcome to attend.

“The main thing is to not be intimidated. Come with a relaxed and open mind and feel free to ask questions,” Adams says. Community programming events are by donation only; there’s no set fee to join.

A good starting point is the “Loving Kindness and Compassion” classes taught by Yangsi Rinpoche every Sunday at 11 am. At these gatherings, Yangsi Rinpoche, whose tulku status means he is considered the reincarnated custodian of generations of wisdom, shares teachings from The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, a practical guide for those seeking the path to enlightenment. Not bad for 90 minutes a week.

Explore Other Worlds

Speculative Fiction, Pacific Northwest College of Art, 511 NW Broadway, 1 pm Saturdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 28. $400.

What do the handmaids of Margaret Atwood, the sorcerers of Ursula Le Guin and the apocalypse survivors of Octavia Butler have in common? They’re experiments with the parameters of reality—they imagine a world a little like our own, but with key changes.

In Kate McCallum’s course at PNCA, students read key works of speculative fiction—Atwood and Le Guin, but also Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—and use prompts to create their own. These prompts are simple but radical scenarios, like “change one event in world history, large or small, and tell a story in that world,” or “a scientist is sent to investigate the site of a disaster and finds that it is inhabited by a strange new entity.”

McCallum is currently writing her own novel of speculative fiction and finds the prompts helpful. “Every time I write something completely weird from a prompt, it turns out to be completely useful,” McCallum says.

Topics include monsters and menace, dystopias, utopias, alternate histories, leaving our planet, and time travel. McCallum wants students to know that this type of fiction doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. After all, the startling prompts in our own reality are bleak enough. “We can also use [speculative fiction] to imagine hopeful futures in a changed environment,” McCallum says. “These changes in the environment are very real—as we’ve seen this summer.”

Start a Bee Colony

Backyard Beekeeping, Portland Community College, 6 pm Friday and 2 pm Saturday, Sept. 29-30. $65.

Glen Andresen has been keeping bees in his Northeast Portland backyard since 1992—and in other people’s yards since 2002. He’s built a network of neighborhood beehives across the city. Last year, the city bees at his apiary, Bridgetown Bees, produced 3,600 pounds of honey, some of which he sold at Alberta Co-op. Pip’s Original Doughnuts uses Bridgetown Bees honey for its sea salt and honey doughnuts and to sweeten its chai.

Andresen got into bees when a friend in his 70s wanted to get out of beekeeping. He asked if Andresen wanted to take his hives. “It took me about five minutes to decide,” Andresen says, “and it changed the course of my life.”

He can change yours, too. This two-part beginners class starts in the classroom and then moves to the Bridgetown Bees apiary (that’s a collection of beehives). Andresen teaches the basics of beekeeping, including where to find the equipment and the bees, what to do inside the hive, and organic treatment options for mites. Students don’t need any prior knowledge; all equipment and materials are provided.

Andresen cautions that someone occasionally gets stung during class, but that’s rare. They might as well get used to it: People who set up and maintain beehives will likely get stung in the pursuit. “If you have a sensitivity to bee stings,” Andresen says, “you may want to take up something safer, like skydiving.”

(McKenzie Young-Roy @mckenzieyoungart)

Watch the Original Scarface

Great American Crime Films: From Scarface to Reservoir Dogs, Stanford Continuing Studies, 7-8:50 pm Wednesdays, Sept. 27-Dec. 6. Live online, $490.

What’s a Stanford University class doing on this list? Its instructor, Elliott Lavine, is the film programmer at Cinema 21 in Portland where he hosts a popular Saturday-morning film series. Think of this Stanford course as Crime Film 102 for moviegoers who enjoyed Badlands at the art house this spring.

“All my classes deal with genre films,” Lavine says. “They may not seem intellectual because they’re mostly B films, but to me they’re the most interesting. Crime films are among my favorites. They bring out the most interesting observations when shown in a class.”

The course focuses on memorable performances by icons like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum and Christopher Walken, as well as work by influential directors like Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh and Quentin Tarantino. Lavine is most excited to show the Howard Hawks original 1932 version of Scarface starring Paul Muni. “It’s largely unseen by most people,” he says, and there’s plenty to see: It’s one of the most sexually explicit and violent movies before Hollywood’s self-censorship under the Production Code. (“And that’s saying a lot,” Lavine adds.)

He’s also looking forward to screening Abel Ferrara’s 1990 film The King of New York because it upended viewers’ perception of what makes a “good guy” and a “bad guy,” and it’s one of the most strikingly filmed crime pictures of the 20th century, with eye-popping visual design.

Master Some Rope Tricks

Tied Up, Now What: Intro to Rope Bondage and Beyond, presented by She Bop, 1 pm Sunday, Oct. 15. Live online, $30-$50.

So you’ve decided to add a little kink to the bedroom. Good. But do you know how to tie a knot?

There’s no need to wait until sailors return for the next Fleet Week, not when intimacy educator and sex coach Stella Harris is teaching a three-hour rope bondage class on Zoom.

Rope, unlike other types of restraints, offers a variety of options. It can be used to create various sexual positions or to set an entire scene around binding and unbinding in many ways from slow and sensual to an aggressive display of dominance.

This introductory class is for people who have never touched a rope. Students can attend with a partner or practice on themselves, a chair, or a teddy bear. (Harris’s 30-page e-book with full color photos is included with the class fee.)

“You don’t have to consider yourself to be kinky or into BDSM,” Harris says. “The way I do it is silly and playful. It’s just a fun activity like a wine and painting night or a knitting club.”

This is the first time Harris has combined her beginning and intermediate classes. Part one provides basic safety information along with tying single-column and double-column knots. Part two is a series of exercises that allow tying partners to focus on each other while learning more advanced ties like a chest harness.

Students should bring an open mind and bondage-appropriate rope. “It’s not hardware store rope or the stuff you use to tie something to your truck,” Harris says. Bondage-specific rope is sold at She Bop in a variety of lengths and materials.

Bottle and Sell Your Grandma’s Secret Recipe

Getting Your Recipe to Market, Portland Community College, 5-8 pm Tuesdays, Sept. 19-Dec. 5. Live online, $1,995.

Since 2006, New Seasons Market has worked with two academic institutions—PCC’s Small Business Center and OSU’s Food Innovation Center—to help home cooks get their concoctions on grocery shelves.

“Friends and family send us a lot of business,” says instructor Jill A. Beaman. “Yes, your friends and family love it, but now what?”

Beaman has taught the class for 17 years. Among her graduates: Better Bean Company (which sells chilled refried beans in the refrigerated aisle), Brazi Bites (Brazilian cheese bread and empanadas), and Kember’s Gluten Free (doughs and baking mixes). The class gave them a road map to transform their recipe to a commercially ready prototype.

A buyer from New Seasons Market reviews each student’s project and provides feedback. And Beaman troubleshoots the hurdles new food business owners commonly face, including tallying the cost of scaling up production, finding commercial kitchens, and labeling products to the satisfaction of state and federal regulators. The program is also geared toward helping cooks find their customers: PCC’s Small Business Development Center has a Global Trade Center that can spot markets all over the world.

The 12-week course is just the start. “Our most successful entrepreneurs are those that stay in touch and continue to work with us,” Beaman says.

Learn Ethiopian Cooking

Ethiopian Cuisine, Portland Community College, Various dates and times. Live online, $49.

Eleni Woldeyes grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the aromas of simmering spices and freshly made injera filled her home. In 2012, she founded a company, Eleni’s Kitchen, catering stews and salads while selling jars of turmeric sauce and spices like berbere and mitmita at farmers markets in Milwaukie and Beaverton.

In the fall semester, Woldeyes offers three remote classes on Ethiopian cooking through PCC: One spotlights lentils, another veggies, and the third combines doro wat and veggies. (Doro wat is a slow-cooked Ethiopian stew made for special occasions and family gatherings.)

“Ethiopian cooking uses spice blends,” Woldeyes says, “[so] getting the right kind of blends is key to making a good Ethiopian dish.” That’s not a problem at PCC: Before the class, Woldeyes sends recipes and mails Ethiopian spices to each student.

Each one-hour, 20-minute class is designed for students to cook along with Woldeyes: She teaches about Ethiopian culinary culture and history while students cook with her in their home kitchens. “Students get to have hands-on experience cooking Ethiopian food using their own cooking materials that they are used to. That gives them the confidence that they will be able to re-create the dish again,” Woldeyes says.

The doro wat and veggies class comes with a bonus lesson: how to make injera, the spongelike flatbread that scoops and soaks up those flavorful stews.

Stir the Ultimate Negroni

Craft Mixology: Negroni Cocktails, Straightaway Cocktails, 901 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 5:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 20. $85.

The Negroni dates back 100 years. Jody Weinstein has been mixing them for 20.

The Italian cocktail, made with a core spirit, vermouth, and a bittersweet-style liqueur, is the world’s most popular—it reached No. 1 on the 2022 list of bestsellers compiled by Drinks International. What better way to celebrate National Negroni Week (it’s Sept. 18-24, in case you forgot) than to learn how to stir your own?

After years mixing cocktails for their friends and family, Casey Richwine and Cy Cain founded the company Straightaway Cocktails to supply the ingredients for home mixology. Straightaway has tasting rooms in Southeast Portland and Bridgeport Village where customers can order flights of cocktails featuring their liqueurs and vermouths.

Both locations also offer classes with drinks created by Weinstein. “I want the classes to be approachable so that everyone can enjoy drinking, making, and learning about cocktails,” she says. There are accessible ways for anyone to make something creative and beautiful.”

During the two hour mixology classes at Straightaway’s Southeast Hawthorne tasting room, students learn professional techniques and methods by preparing four cocktails. (Recipe cards are placed at each workstation so students can replicate the cocktails at home.)

As for which four Negronis you’ll master: That’s a surprise, since Weinstein is still experimenting with the menu.

Sew a Custom Garment

Private sewing classes at Modern Domestic, 422 NE Alberta St.; 17660 63rd Ave., Lake Oswego; $150 for two hours one-on-one, $200 for two hours with two students and one teacher; group rates available subject to length of lesson and number of students.

Amy Karol has seen just about every sewing challenge imaginable. She’s worked with drag queens creating dresses for their shows, teenagers altering thrifted streetwear, men interested in creating more gender-fluid garments, and a woman who recently had a single mastectomy and wanted to alter garments and create lingerie to fit her new body. “She got teared up when we finished making clothes to fit her,” Karol says. “It was a very special moment.”

Karol is one of the instructors who teaches group and private classes at Modern Domestic, which opened in 2010 as a sewing studio and classroom space on Northeast Alberta Street. Over the past decade, the business expanded into dealing Bernina sewing machines, fabric, and thread, and opened a second location in Lake Oswego.

The Alberta Street and Lake Oswego locations offer private lessons for students to work on projects from garment making and alterations to quilting and accessories. A list of teachers can be found on the website with their bios and areas of expertise. Classes are scheduled by contacting the teacher to set up a date and time. Students can use Modern Domestic’s sewing machines, cutting tools, and go-to tools during their sewing lesson—and get a 10% discount on products at the shop on the day of their private lesson.

Interpret Tarot Cards Like Dreams

In-Depth Tarot: A Spiritual Journey to Personal Growth, Cascadia House, 6-8 pm Tuesdays, Sept. 19-Nov. 14. Live online, $195-$325.

Sally Dubats discovered tarot during her teen years when she became curious about astrology, occult phenomenon, and yoga. “I have a vague memory of looking through the deck, and the images brought such fascination,” Dubats says. In the 1990s, she had a breakthrough when she discovered a Jungian connection to the cards. “I began interpreting them the same way that Jung would interpret dreams, along with a bit of numerology,” she says.

In this nine-week class, Dubats teaches this Jungian, numerological approach to tarot cards. She believes the cards help us to look deeper into ourselves. “This is a dream language,” Dubats says. “When you learn it, it’s very different from trying to memorize cards. You feel things and then memory sets in.”

Each class begins with a grounded meditation to help focus followed by journaling, visualization, storyboarding and oracle work focused on a better understanding of the cards. Students need a tarot deck (Rider-Waite is best), a three-ring binder and paper, and birth dates of a few friends or family members. By the end of the class, students can interpret the cards by looking at them and no longer have to rely on a guidebook.

Forage Autumn Apples

Wild Fruits of Northwest Forests, Wild Food Adventures at Hoyt Arboretum, 4000 SW Fairview Blvd., 9 am-noon Saturday, Sept. 23. $30-$60.

In the mid-1970s, John Kallas spent six months wandering through Europe and visiting with people he met along his journey. When he ate dinner at their homes, he noticed they ate food foraged from their neighborhoods. “All over the world, there’s a well-established cultural tradition of eating wild plants,” Kallas says.

He returned to his home state of Michigan and began teaching a wild foods class at Michigan State University. Kallas moved to Oregon in 1989 where he continued teaching wild foods classes at Portland State University and Clackamas Community College, and founded his own school: Wild Food Adventures.

In this three-hour, in-person class, students will follow Kallas through Hoyt Arboretum, going from plant to plant to learn history, uses and identification. If there’s an edible part in its prime, the class will sample it. “Every plant has its moment,” Kallas says. “Four years ago, I could predict when plants would be maturing, but now it’s crazy due to climate change.”

This class focuses on wild fruits and edible plants from Northwest forests and fields, including blackberry, wild grape, and crab apples. But Kallas offers roughly 24 wild food workshops and two multiday events from March through October.

(McKenzie Young-Roy @mckenzieyoungart)

Keep Learning

A dozen more classes, quickly surveyed.

Make Cheese

Urban Cheese Craft, Dates and tuition vary.

Claudia Lucero offers in-person courses at local wineries, teaching private groups how to make mozzarella, burrata and string cheese.

Sell a Puffer Vest

Athletic and Outdoor Product Management Certificate Program, Portland State University Center for Executive and Professional Education, $2,495.

Learn how to take a sportswear line from design to market (think: Nike for beginners).

Reduce Your Neighborhood’s Light Pollution

Sustainable Light at Night, Oregon State University Extension Service, 7 pm Tuesday, Sept. 5. Free.

Mary Coolidge of Portland Audubon outlines why artificial light is bad for both you and birds, and the efforts underway to preserve our night skies statewide.

Landscape a Terrarium

In-person classes at Roosevelt’s Terrariums, 1510 SE 44th Ave., #101, Various times. $65 a person for parties of seven or less.

Plant your own jungle in a quart-sized Mason jar.

Draw a Zine

Making Comic Zines, Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University, 10 am Saturdays, Sept. 30-Nov. 18. $400.

Students emerge after eight weeks with their own zine—drawn, printed and bound.

Start a Microbrewery

Business of Craft Brewing, Portland State University Center for Executive and Professional Education, $1,897.

Established brewers offer a road map to launching the next Wayfinder or Ruse.

Melt a Glass Platter

Fused glass platter project workshop at Melt Glass Art Supply, 502 Washington St., Vancouver, Wash., 6 pm Wednesday, Sept. 13; 11 am Saturday, Sept. 16; or 2 pm Thursday, Oct. 26. $68.

Using strips, squares, and various shapes of pre-cut glass in an array of colors, students indeed create a glass platter.

Go to Budtender School

Budtending workshop at Portlandsterdam, 9123 SE St. Helens St., Clackamas, Various times. $420.

The school guarantees its graduates will pass the state’s Marijuana Workers Permit test.

Make Math-Based Art

Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University, 9 am Saturdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 28. $400.

Kate McCallum (the same instructor teaching speculative fiction on page 16) looks for the places where math and art overlap, then helps students create their own works.

Learn Hip-Hop Dancing

Street-Style Hip Hop, Portland Community College Rock Creek, 7:30 pm Tuesdays, Oct. 3-Nov. 14. $55.

Build and practice your own hip-hop dance routine.

Get Way Too Into Dams

Energy Resources Policy and Administration, Portland State University, 6:40 pm Tuesdays, Sept. 26-Dec. 5. $1,389.

An examination of Northwest energy policy, with a particular focus on hydropower on the Columbia River and the problems posed by power lines.

Gear Up for Retirement

How to Know Your Retirement Readiness, Portland Community College, 1:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 10, or 6 pm Wednesday, Oct. 11. Remote class, $39.

PCC has a bevy of retirement-planning classes, but this one is for people within five years of the gold watch—with an eye on making sure you have the money.

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