Fixing toilets. Dead animal couture. Serial killers.
There are classes for all of that, I discovered while perusing local adult education catalogs recently. Is there any class idea they’ll pass on?
"The boring ones," says Nicki Toizer of Mt. Airy Learning Tree.
Here are a few courses you can take locally in the next few months that are anything but.
High water bills got your budget in the toilet? A malfunctioning WC is the most common cause, says contractor Paul Plevakas, who offers a solution in this four-hour class, held in a garage.
Unusual setting aside, the class begins like college ones: with a PowerPoint lecture — on toilet history, toilets around the world, toilet water conservancy, and toilet sizes. A photo of a toilet that has been sawed in half helps students understand how clogs happen. Then Plevakas wheels in what could be the world’s only real (clean, his website emphasizes) portable demo toilet and the down-and-dirty dealing with flappers, valves, and levers begins. The class highlight? When Plevakas wheels the toilet onto the driveway and connects a garden hose to make it flush.
Plevakas articulates a higher purpose than picking up plumbing jobs from toilet-class dunces. "I believe I am providing an educational service that helps empower students into being self-sufficient," says the toilet teacher/philosopher.
Saturday, April 6, Mt. Airy Learning Tree, 6601 Greene St. (class held elsewhere), $54, 215-843-6333, mtairylearningtree.org
Want to plan your own funeral? Me neither. And yet adult ed’s boomer demographic and the promise of fun has got Kyle Tevlin packing them in to her Fun Funeral classes. Kyle is full of ideas, like getting together with fellow fatalists to decorate your own coffin à la New Zealand’s Coffin Clubs or compiling lists of things people can do in your memory (which should ensure that dirty dishes get cleaned for once, for instance). She also offers practical information, like how in Pennsylvania, “you don’t need a funeral director to move a body, you can do it yourself.” Talk about fun!
Has anyone had a fun funeral after taking Tevlin’s class? Only their pallbearers know for sure.
It’s possible to spend most of your spring studying human monsters, thanks to two serially scheduled classes about serial killers taught by retired high school teacher and AP psychology instructor Jill McCracken.
It’s not about gore, McCracken insists. Instead students examine FBI reports and court documents on killers such as Ted Bundy and Wayne Williams, and get tips on avoiding the non-serial-killing psychopaths they are much more likely to meet. (“Don’t park next to an unmarked van at the mall,” she advises — you could be stuffed in one unseen.)
McCracken says serial killers are "really, really popular ... because we don’t get it. We’re used to the kind of homicide that’s an accident or that people feel remorseful for. My courses give people a chance to examine this other kind of killing at a safe distance” — at least, if past classes are predictive.
"I have thought, ‘What happens if I get a lunatic?,' ” she said, with a laugh. “So far, it hasn’t been a problem.”
Forensic Psych and the Serial Killer, Tuesdays, March 5 to 19; also Profiling the Serial Killer, Tuesdays, March 26 to April 16, Main Line School Night (classes held at Lower Merion High School, 315 E. Montgomery Ave., Ardmore), $71 each, 610-687-0460, mainlineschoolnight.org
Harriton House executive director Bruce Gill started teaching blacksmithing as a way for school kids to viscerally understand famous house occupant Charles Thomson’s youthful indenture to a blacksmith. Adult students have included a Penn Museum metals conservator, two Villanova physics majors interested in alloys, and weekend handymen looking to expand their skills toolbox with something that hasn’t been very useful since cars took over the road. The daylong class gives information about blacksmithing materials, tools, and fires, and enough technique for students to be able to make a hook. But if a towel hanger is really what you need, even Gill thinks a trip to Home Depot is a better idea.
Saturday, May 25, Chester County Night School (class held at Harriton House, 500 Harriton Rd., Bryn Mawr), $119, 610-692-1964, chestercountynightschool.org; also Saturday, June 1, Main Line Night School (class held at Harriton House), $107, 610-687-0460, mainlineschoolnight.org
Taxidermy is not just for hunting lodges anymore. Fashion taxidermy is also now a thing, and Beth Beverly is Philadelphia’s premier practitioner. In this class, she shares what she knows about skinning and fleshing animals to create creature-adorned purses, hairpieces, and jewelry boxes, to name just three student creations.
No animals are killed for class use (Beverly is on speed dial for farmers around the Delaware Valley), and the meat from palatable ones like rabbits and chicken form the basis of a class meal. Most of the students are women and many are repeats. As a result, “It feels like a sewing circle in there. A morbid sewing circle,” notes UArts Continuing Ed director Caitlin Perkins.
Wednesdays, March 13 to April 10, University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., $340, 215-717-6006, uarts.edu/ce
Learn about one of the fattiest, saltiest, most calorie-filled, and delicious substances known to man in this class by pun-loving cooking teacher Yoon Lee.
“A lot of people only think about bacon as something to have with eggs for breakfast,” Yoon says. But she teaches how to use it as an appetizer, a topping for chowder, and wrapped around hot dogs in a casserole that could be called, in Yoon punning fashion, Pig to the Second Degree. Yoon denies that people who sign up for this class are any heavier than ones that have taken her Asian veggie and tofu ones, but we'd like to see the before-and-after shots.