The average American uses more than twice the amount of land resources than the average European. Fortunately there is Vermont’s Institute for Social Ecology (802-454-8493;, an independent institution for activists. “Ecological Land Use” explores organic agriculture and permaculture with the goal of creating a self-sustaining community. Don’t let the “free society” fool you, though. The programs carry university-sized fees ($8900 for the fall semester), so look into their financial aid packages.

Strengthen your gardening skills while adding a little color to your neighborhood. Since 1978, GreenThumb (788-8070) has transformed vacant land into community spaces. It is the nation’s largest urban gardening program, with over 650 groups in all five boroughs. GreenThumb provides resources, materials, and seasonal workshops to jump-start groups and individuals. —Ariston Anderson

• • • photo

Somewhere between your old Instamatic and the age of digital was the Poloroid era. The International Center of Photography (857-0001) offers a weekend course in October on the creative use of Polaroid materials. Previous coursework at the center, or a portfolio review, is required.

Is there anything better to catch in a shutter than New York? The city loves to be photographed, and a nine-session course at the New School (229-5600) will use the city as its model, looking for patterns, colors, and shapes in field trips from the river to the parks.

And if New York is the place, the last year has certainly been the time. The School of Visual Arts (592-2000) offers instruction to budding documentarians in "Photography on Assignment: Witness to Our Times." The class covers researching subjects, building a portfolio, and aspects of working in the publishing world. —Kurt Gottschalk

• • • religion

The Tibetan Studies Program at Professor Robert Thurman’s Tibet House ( offers meditation instruction, courses based on the Dalai Lama’s teachings, and a variety of lectures on dharma East and West. Call the New York Open Center to register at 219-2527. Cost: $20 per session.

Evening classes at the New York Kollel (Hebrew for "community") at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (674-5300, ext. 272; cover fundamentals—liturgy, history, theology, major Jewish texts in a "transdenominational, pluralistic, egalitarian environment." Ask about their comprehensive Mechinah program. Cost: $160 for a five-week class.

The international Theosophical Society (753-3835;, founded in New York in 1875, sponsors study of various aspects of the universal “Wisdom Tradition” through their Quest Bookshop (758-5521) in midtown. Discover the fundamental unity of existence, as revealed through various religions and ancient wisdom. —Anya Kamenetz

• • • sports

David Lee Roth recently disclosed a yen for kendo, the sport of Japanese fencing. Intrigued? The New York City Kendo Club (874-6161) holds beginners sessions Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 to 8 p.m. If you adopt the Way of the Sword, regular practice is $80 per month—cheaper than Van Halen reunion tix.

Sailing lessons from friends or loved ones can entail plenty o' cussing. The nonprofit New York City Community Sailing Association (Port Imperial Marina, Weehawken, New Jersey; takes lubbers on gentle three-hour "Introduction to Sailing" jaunts for 30 clams; a $300 "Basic Keelboat" course advances you toward ASA certification. Remember: The icebergs are melting.

World Cup fever’s fine on TV, but your own fifth-grade soccer skills need upgrading. The Field House at Chelsea Piers (336-6500; hosts adult league play for skill levels (like “over 30”) this fall; registration starts August 26, and the season’s $200 per head. —E. McMurtrie

• • • writing

Looking to receive expertise in a less formal, yet productive environment? Louis Reyes Rivera (, author and co-editor of Bum Rush the Page, gives an all-inclusive workshop at Sistas’ Place in Brooklyn starting September 1. Contributions are accepted in lieu of an enrollment fee!

Do you feel you didn’t get that perfect promotion due to your hang-ups with assertiveness? If so, you don’t need counseling to pinpoint your issuesjust attend Ken Wydro’s “Write Yourself” at the Harlem Institute for Higher Learning (280-1045), starting October 9. Cost: $125

It’s time for a lot of us closet writers to put down the latest Anne Rice book and get to work on our own. Do it at Pace University’s “Introduction to Creative Writing” (346-1244;, starting October 14. This course will utilize exciting methods like visual imagery and aromatics. Students will develop their talent through memoirs, short stories, and journals. Cost: $265. —Celeste Doaks

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