Class Conscious

Accidental learning through leisure activities

Word up

Those knowledgeable folks who lead visitors around museums didn't grow on trees, you know. Most cultural facilities have DOCENT TRAINING PROGRAMS to teach civilians the salient points about their collections. Usually you pay them a nominal fee for training classes, then make a small annual time commitment to guide tour groups. Some prior knowledge of the subject is usually required, but they don't expect experts. Inquire at your favorite marble hall, which is sure to be cleaner and cooler than some dodgy beach. —LDB

Upwardly mobile:Get fit for summer at Stacy's Boot Camp in Central Park.
photo: Greg Miller
Upwardly mobile:Get fit for summer at Stacy's Boot Camp in Central Park.


The words boot camp usually evoke the image of an evil drill sergeant barking orders at a line of cowering recruits; not so for weight-conscious civilians who willingly join Stacy Berman's three-week, outdoor BOOT CAMP IN CENTRAL PARK. At Stacy's Boot Camp [, 212-531-3531] you'll start with a brisk jog through Central Park, then get strenuous sessions of push-ups, squat thrusts, jumping jacks, and sprints. The differing outdoor terrain provides a challenge not found in gyms, so every muscle in your body will be worked to its capacity. Berman, a certified fitness trainer, also suggests dietary regimens with her thrice-weekly, one-hour sessions ($250 for nine classes). Thanks, Sergeant! —Keisha Franklin

By your leaf, sir
photo: Tamara Rosenblum

For those who long to get in touch with their inner forester, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department offers an excellent opportunity: the TREE CENSUS, which seeks to develop a complete inventory of our urban forest. In 1995, the Parks Department trained over 700 volunteers to catalog our city's 498,470 trees, and again this year they'll train all interested volunteers. Go to and sign up for the second census. You won't have to prune anything, just report some scientific data. Their ideal volunteer: someone who is really passionate about New York City trees and who is also detail oriented. —C.S.

Shutter buggin'
photo: Cary Conover

I'm 32 and moved to New York City last summer after working for years as a real estate developer in Charleston, South Carolina. My plan—after years of studying on my own—was to become a better photographer. So I signed up for SUMMER CLASSES. The International Center of Photography [] has a course for nearly everything, and really great facilities. Though its "Focus on Flowers" class wasn't for me, I soon found others that were. My advice: Do research. Canvass the students and staff smoking out front, and check out the teachers' websites. So much depends on the instructor and the mix of students. —Greg Worley

Net gain
photo: Greg Miller

Beyond the red awning at Wang Chen Table Tennis Club [250 West 100th Street,] are seven professional-grade Ping-Pong tables—four downstairs and three on street level, the latter widely spaced across an enormous parquet floor. Open since October (shortly after the closure of the popular Manhattan Table Tennis Club, which stood a half-block away), the new club offers a full slate of TABLE TENNIS LESSONS and tournaments for players of all levels, including a Wednesday-night league, after-school sessions for kids, and intensive summer training camps. The club is named for its manager-primary instructor, Wang Chen, a member of China's 1997 World Championship team and one of the top-rated women players in the U.S. —Jim Hanas

Help wanted

What does it cost these days for a little peace of mind? At New York's Red Cross, it still comes cheap: For eight hours and $75 you can LEARN LIFESAVING TECHNIQUES you probably haven't thought about since junior high school. Courses in CPR and pet first aid are available throughout the week in all five boroughs [see for more information]. It may not seem like the ideal way to spend your free time, but if you and a few friends make a day of it, think of it as budget group therapy. —Mike DeVoe

Water log
photo: Greg Miller

If you're itching to get out on the water without leaving town, go CANOEING IN THE GOWANUS CANAL. This former New York tidal creek outlived its commercial utility ages ago, but now—despite a long-held seedy reputation—it's becoming a viable recreation spot thanks to the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club [], a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to improving the canal's image and water quality. Ongoing environmental efforts have brought aquatic life and waterfowl back to its two-mile stretch, and their 2nd Street boat launch has brought the canoeists. Paddlers pass under five bridges and float by a variety of Brooklyn industries old (a cement manufacturer, a pump house) and new (Lowe's) before reaching the bay. —E.M.

Blossom, dearie
photo: Joseph De Sciose

Most of us love seeing the city full of flowers and greenery. For folks who really dig the dirt, the New York Botanical Garden [200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard, Bronx] offers weekend courses covering a wide range of GREEN-THUMBED PURSUITS for adults and kids: herb gardening, bonsai for beginners, and—my favorite—recreational tree climbing. There are also walking tours of the food stalls, herb markets, and apothecaries of Chinatown and Little India to broaden your horticultural horizons. Classes average $125. See the full catalog online at, or call 718-817-8747 for more information. —Mason Patrick Brown II

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