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Cool Summer Classes That Won't Melt Your Brain

 Fun ways to learn something new this summer.
Summer Learning in the City
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NEW YORK — Whether you enjoy making maps or dessert, playing in the garden or the air, here are five creative ways to keep your mind from melting this summer.


1. Enroll in a Gelato Academy

Mia Chef Gelateria is an artisanal gelato shop in Kips Bay that scoops out a host of crazy-delicious flavors: Cap'n Crunch (made with Cap’n Crunch cereal), Chocolate Whiskey and Green Tea & Wasabi, to name a few.

As such, it is the ideal venue to learn gelato-making through its twice daily “Mia Academy” classes ($120 per person or $199 for a pair).

During the two-hour summer sessions, a chef will help students craft their own gelato pints with flavors like mojito, watermelon and Stracciatella.

The classes also include a mini history lesson on the frozen Italian dessert and tips to tell if a shop serves delizioso gelato. (Hint: Avoid places where the gelato mounds have been flattened — a trick to hide melting — and sample the pistachio, since pure pistachio paste is hard to fake.)

At the end of each class, students walk away with four pints apiece of their own making.

“Which is enough gelato,” says owner Izhar “E.Z.” Cohen, “to last you about two hours.”

Classes are held on weekdays at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. and weekends at 3 and 6 p.m. in the shop at 379 Third Ave., Manhattan.


2. Study the Fine Art of Composting

With the mayor set on getting every New Yorker to separate out their food scraps for composting, what better time to master the stinky art of controlled decomposition?

Or, according to Jenny Blackwell, who runs the Sanitation Department’s NYC Compost Project at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (one of the program’s many host sites), maybe not so stinky.

“Our compost doesn’t smell bad,” she promises.

At an outdoor composting workshop at the Garden in July ($5 per person), discover how to store your kitchen and garden waste in outdoor bins (at home or a public compost site), examine the earthworms and pill bugs that help break it all down, and troubleshoot the cause of compost whose odor deteriorated from earthy to egg-y.

The next workshop is on July 9 at 6 p.m. in the Botanical Garden at 150 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.


3. Practice Citizen Cartography

Help assemble a virtual atlas of New York.

The New York Public Library is currently georectifying, or "warping," its thousands of historical New York City maps by merging them with digital ones packed with real geographic data.

Eventually, this could allow for a Yelp of long-gone restaurants or a ghostly Google Map with historical street views.

“There’s this growing body of digital information about the past,” such as scanned photos, documents and newspaper articles, said Matthew Knutzen, curator of the library’s map division. “The glue that can hold all this stuff together is spatial data.”

The library has crowdsourced the work of digitally pinning that spatial data onto historical maps by developing an online tool called the Map Warper.

Public users (there are about 3,000 to date) can add the data at home, but the library also hosts free in-person workshops for novice warpers.

Workshops will be held on June 25 and August 20 at 5:30 p.m. and July 16 at 2 p.m. at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Manhattan.


4. Train Your Green Thumb in a World-Famous Garden

What’s better than mastering the arts of gardening, landscape sketching, flower arranging or Tai Chi?

How about doing it at the New York Botanical Garden, the 250-acre botanical paradise tucked away in The Bronx?

The Garden offers more than 500 adult education courses each year in horticulture, landscape design, wellness and more, which last from a few hours to several weeks.

Professionals can take courses to earn certain accredited certificates, but others can sign up for individual courses for the sheer fun of it.

Popular one-day classes offered this summer include “Backyard Foraging,” “Nature’s Pharmacy,” “Herbal Spa Workshop” and “Fifteen-Minute Flower Arranging,” which cost from $76 to $96 for non-members.

Multi-day courses on Tai Chi, sketching and gardening range from $90 to $280.

“They’re hands-on,” says Garden marketing manager Elizabeth Fisher. “You’re touching plants, digging in soil, looking through microscopes or arranging bouquets.”

Summer classes are held through September at the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx), the Midtown Education Center (20 W. 44th St., Manhattan) and at various satellite locations.

5. Get the Hang of Flying on a Trapeze

If Carrie Bradshaw could do it, so can you.

The Trapeze School New York offers two-hour introductory lessons in high flying ($60 per person, plus a one-time $22 booking fee per person or group).

Students begin with the safety basics, master the knee hang, then work their way up to a swinging catch.

Besides the exhilaration and the workout, there are breathtaking views to be had on the 23-foot-high platforms at the school’s two waterfront sites.

The flying trapeze lessons, says spokesman Nolan McKew, are for people “who have taken dance class after dance class and gone, ‘Oh crap. What else is there?’”

As a bonus, students who enroll in classes this July get a free PIPPIN The Musical gift and a chance to win tickets to the show.

The PIPPIN-inspired flying trapeze classes will be held July 9, 16, 24, and 30 at 1 p.m. at Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park (353 West St, Manhattan) and Pier 16 at South Street Seaport.