aug. 20 lifelong learning

August 17, 2000

Lifelong learning

Throughout the Tri-State area, people are expanding their minds

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

Adults are turning to the past and the future to enrich the present.

Throughout the Tri-State area, men and women are committing themselves to a lifetime of learning. They are expanding their minds by visiting historical sites, soaking up classroom lectures and exploring the world around them in person and online.


They're also turning from side to side and moving all around, enhancing their lives by participating in courses that focus on mind, body and spirit.

At Hagerstown Community College, there's a 60-40 split in popularity of classes, said Ann Shipway, director of continuing education and training.


Sixty percent of HCC students are signing up for vocational training programs to make them more marketable in the work force, and 40 percent are opting for classes in personal development and leisure, Shipway said.

History and culture

History and genealogy are extremely popular subjects at colleges and in adult education programs.

"History is something people return to," said Anne Myers, program coordinator for Elderhostel and Institute for Learning in Retirement at HCC. Popular topics are the Revolutionary, French and Indian and Civil wars, as well as colonial history and the C&O Canal, she said.

There also is a growing interest in the arts, Myers said.

This past spring, more than 70 students enrolled in an opera class, during which they listened to lectures about "La Boheme," then went to see a production of it in Baltimore.

Others are either learning to play an instrument for the first time or are picking one up years after putting it away.

The instrumental lessons are "not a chalk and talk course," Myers said, but are completely hands-on.


Those who run continuing education programs in Hagerstown, the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and Franklin County, Pa., say enrollment in computer classes for operators of all levels has increased significantly.

Jim Scarfo of Mercersburg, Pa., has been working with beginners at Tuscarora Senior Activity Center in Mercersburg, which opened Nov. 1.

"Most people are afraid," Scarfo said. "The hardest thing is to get the confidence to get on the computer."

A lot of seniors are only interested in games at first, but then their appetites are whetted for other learning opportunities, Scarfo said.

"The Internet is a big thing," Scarfo said, including using e-mail.

Some students are taking computer classes to build on the skills they already have. Others are using technology to educate themselves in other fields of interest.

The number of students in online courses is greatly increasing, Shipway said.

"It's a totally different breed of people," she said. Many students are juggling careers and families, she said, and don't have time to attend traditional classes on campus.

Professional development

Occupational classes such as typing and accounting have gained popularity in Jefferson County, W.Va., said Pat Hubbard, coordinator of vocational adult and community education for Jefferson County Schools. Some students want to upgrade their skills in hopes of getting promoted at work or finding other employment, she said.

"Certification and licensure is hot, hot, hot," Shipway said, particularly in real estate.

Classes in management, communications, the travel industry, insurance and income tax preparation are among those taken to boost skills in the work force or prepare for other careers, Shipway said.

The active set

There are plenty of people who want to learn in motion.

"Our aerobics and fitness classes continue to be real popular," said Ray Bennett, director of Berkeley County Schools Adult and Community Education in West Virginia.

"The dance classes have been real, real popular," including ballroom and swing styles, added Hubbard.

With options ranging from golf, aerobics, fishing, yoga and t'ai chi, students can pump, flex and stretch their way into good health.

A series of classes called "Just for the Fun of It" at HCC is geared toward active adults, including dinners, trips to theatrical productions and murder-mystery train rides.

These, along with arts and crafts, are "a means to get out and do something that relaxes them and relieves stress," Bennett said.

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