If you're looking to add lavish to a lot or to rejuvenate a garden, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (718-623-7220; can help. Joan and Jim teach you horticultural design you can use, including ways to analyze your site, choose plants, and avoid mistakes. Caring for, talking with, and befriending your botanical buddies is up to you, but horticultural classes are available in March and April, from $193 to $230. Space is limited.

"Ornithology" is a Charlie Parker tune from the 1940s, but it is also the scientific name for the study of birds. Central Park Conservancy (772-0210; offers "Discovery Kids" at Belvedere Castle (mid-park at 79th Street) every afternoon except Mondays; free bird-watching is included, along with hiking and other activities. Backpacks include binoculars, guidebooks, maps, and sketching materials. Two pieces of ID are required, and adults must accompany children under 12.

Remember reading about a man named Matt Power who climbed a tree—and lived in it—to save 100 gardens from the auction block? See, not all New Yorkers dismiss the city's natural habitat, and GreenThumb (788-8070;, like Power, works wonders to protect leafy properties. The community gardening program offers educational workshops on how, ethically and effectively, to shield shrub from corporate grub. —Daniel King


Ever wonder why they take Gursky so seriously? Have you ever stood next to one of his monumental prints?! Take your photographs, blow them up, and watch heads turn—and not just to crane to see the tops. "The Large Scale Print" at the International Center of Photography (857-0001; Bring portfolio for review.

Lomo. Holga. Diana. Fisher Price. They're all fun to say, and to use. Digital, schmigital—the light-leaks, multiple exposures, questionable framing, and quirky cropping of plastic cameras allows them their almost cult-fave status. For the price of one Leica lens you can buy 200 plastic cameras. Smile! Check out the New School's "Creative Image-Making With a Plastic Camera" (229-5690;

Picture this: a small, dark room, a slide projector, and a living genius speaking from a podium off to the side. "The Photographers Lecture Series" at ICP (857-0001; is one of the city's most stellar opportunities to learn from and interact with some of today's most preeminent photographers in what is, in fact, a fairly intimate setting. This season's highlights include Bruce Davidson and Lauren Greenfield. —Jennifer Snow

••religion and spirituality

Trivia: Mulamadhyamakakarika is (a) difficult to pronounce, (b) a Buddhist text, or (c) both. Evening classes at the New School (229-5690; teach basic Buddhist distinctions between yoga, mysticism, magic, and more. For savvy spiritualists and interested innocents alike. $425 for 13 classes.

Lectures on life, determinism, and existentialism are often free at New York's Theosophical Society (753-3835; ,a href="">, a center for spiritual inquiry. The organization's Quest Bookshop (758-5521) provides fascinating flip-throughs before and after lively discussions on divinity, femininity, masculinity, and more.

In the midst of crafting his most memorable, mindful poems, Robert Hayden adopted the Bahá'í faith. His poems then read like mirrors to humanity, reflecting experience rather than pressuring it for answers. Sunday courses at Manhattan Bahá'í (674-8998) offer children of all religious affiliations opportunities to discuss the nature of collective existence. —Daniel King


With Manhattan's only indoor sand-volleyball court, Chelsea Piers (336-6000; simulates sunshine while cushioning your feet with "Quicksand" and "Skills and Drills," biweekly courses set to spike your hair and bronze your body. Members can access these and other classes for a $425 initiation fee and $135 monthly fee.

Pan Aqua Diving (736-3483; offers scuba certification for winter-weary urbanites looking for underwater adventure. Courses divide time between classrooms and pools, and include intensive weekend classes and open-water training dives in New Rochelle and/or Far Rockaway. Costs range from $215-$295 for four or five sessions. Books and equipment cost extra.

Chip away at those winter blues by learning knot tying, belaying, rope management, and anchor setup from professional rock climbers. Central Park Conservancy (348-4867, ext. 10) offers four-session courses January through March for adults looking to tone triceps while scaling walls and, during the final sessions, actual rock. Harnesses and climbing shoes are included in the price. Space is limited. —Daniel King


While the Dean vs. Jess issue has been resolved (for now), Gilmore Girls could still use some tweaking. "One-Hour TV Drama Writing," a $395 offering from Gotham Writers' Workshop (974-8377; guides you through the standard industry practice of writing a spec script for a currently running show.

The "Silk Sheets: Writing Erotica" class from the New School's Writing Program (229-5690, aims to meld the literary with the provocative. Focus is on the short story, with writers such as Anaïs Nin, Nicholson Baker, and J.G. Ballard used for inspiration. Individual projects are encouraged; the course fee is $485.

The Writers Studio (255-7075; offers fiction writers and poets a supportive workshop environment in which students develop their own style through a series of craft exercises. The school has five progressively demanding levels, and each instructor is specially trained in the studio's unique teaching philosophy. Cost: $380-$455. —Mary Jacobi

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