Special classes in session at OTOW

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By Michel Northsea

Offering a variety of educational opportunities is one of the goals for those coordinating the classes in the Master the Possibilities classrooms.

In the latest catalog, April – June, 60 percent of the programs are offered for the first time, said Dan Dowd, the man in charge of finding interesting new classes as the director of education for the On Top of the World communities.

Dowd is up to the challenge.

For the last 25 years, he has developed adult educational classes in 15 different states and Washington, D.C. The last three years he has spent in Ocala.

“Good faculty is key,” he said in finding the right classes for the communities, noting that many of the instructors for MTP programs are former or current college professors.

One instructor in the winter term was Dr. Vincent Boudrau, director of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies and chair of the political science department of the City College of New York. He spoke on the U.S. foreign policy and the Obama administration in an hour-and-a-half session. The cost of the lecture was free for OTOW communities and Stone Creek residents, and $5 for non-residents.

It’s not all politics.

There are computer classes, film series on baseball, courtroom trials and horse racing movies and numerous cooking classes offered during the next several months.

Art classes are also popular among enrollees.

Marcy Askenase is quick to say she “loves” the pottery classes taught by Lee Ann Oliver. She has taken three or four. The class is $100 for residents and a $105 for non-residents and includes supplies for the four-week course. The next course starts June 1.

“I’ll keep taking them as long as they’re offered,” she promises, as she crafts a flower from a piece of clay. The flower will serve as an accent on a bowl she is making in the pottery class. She has also taken classes in soup making and one on the interactions of medicines with other medicines.

Ocala Palms resident Lois Hohlmaier took her first MTP class last week. She learned about the class offering through a friend of a friend and was glad that she had because she had always wanted to take a pottery class.

Robert Littlejohn was also in the pottery class for the first time. Even so, the cylindrical vase he was making was shaping up nicely - to his delight.

“I’m surprising myself with the way this is coming out,” he said as he worked.

Oliver also teaches a floor cloth painting class this quarter. Her summer classes will include furniture painting, she said.

Other classes for budding artists include paper crafting, colored pencils, pen and ink, stained glass, pastel and oil painting. The classes vary some each season.

Those wishing to know the names of the birds they see may want to take one of the bird identification classes. A similar class focuses on snakes.

Each quarter numerous courses on health issues are offered as learning opportunities. There are opportunities to learn from University of Florida pharmacology students about the latest medicines for managing pain, cholesterol and depression in hour-long classes

Although more classes are offered in the winter than in the spring, potential students have 130 classes to choose from this session. Classes include: Talking to lawyers, staying healthy, aging actively, history, Spanish, 23-health related classes, Florida friendly landscaping, and nine sessions on cooking and foods.

Brain storming sessions, with the public invited, helps develop the diverse list of classes.

A suggestion isn’t the final say on making the class reality though.

“The class isn’t scheduled until we find someone qualified to teach it,” Dowd said.

There are no age limitations for those taking the course. A high school student, needing a CPR course, was one of the youngest students enrolled in a class, Dowd said.

Registration is available online at MasterthePossibilities.com or by calling 861-9751. Fees must be paid within five days.

Due to the increasing popularity of the classes, 3,200 students in 2006 and 15,000 in 2008, on-line registration is encouraged.

Life-long learning centers in retirement communities are a wave of the future, Dowd says.

“Baby boomers, those retiring now, are extremely comfortable taking classes. Many earned advanced degrees later in life and have continued on with their education,” he said. “Their life-long learning continues right here.”