We spend anywhere from 8-24 years of our lives attending school and doing homework, but when the bell has run and school’s out, is there any reason learning can’t still be fun?
My wife is very good at this. She will always have a taped college lecture queued up on some sanguine topic like the Black Death that we’ll listen to while cooking or doing chores. And why not? So whether you’re a parent of a child who loves learning, or if you’re still a child at heart who loves learning, here are some of the places you can start in Juneau.
First off, let me say that museums, universities and libraries are the largest, and most essential arm of extra-curricular education. But I won’t be mentioning them simply because they are already well-known and used. That being said, I’ll be listing some resources in town that you can use for more topical education, so I’ll be listing them by topic.
Astronomy at the Marie Drake Planetarium. For little to nothing.
Let’s face it, you live in Juneau. This is like, your only chance to go stargazing. If you feel nebulous about nebulae, or queasy about quasars, don’t fear, the presentations are usually accessible enough for kids, but engaging enough and educational for adults as well. Don’t let this be your final frontier!
Art — take a class at the Canvas, downtown! A little more money, but very well spent.
Only once so far have I had the chance to attend one of the classes offered here, but it was an absolute blast. I took beginning pottery wheel, and not only was it fun to make about half a dozen earthy vessels of dubious usability, but it felt really cool to learn a little about something that I kind of thought I’d never get started in. Now I keep hoping I’ll get a chance to go back!
Ecology in three different environments. For cheap to reasonable prices.
Growing up in a tourist destination, I’ve discovered that being local often means avoiding tourists as much as possible, unless you’re selling something. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from some of the more touristy destinations in town. Are you curious about marine biology, or fishery science? Check out DIPAC! And no, I’m not talking about your favorite snagging spot. I mean the building next to it. Other cool spots to learn about our environment include the Mount Roberts Tramway and the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
Horticulture at the Arboretum. Say that 10 times fast! Horticulture at the Arboretum. Hortiretum at the Arbiculture. Aw, dang. This one is free.
While not an educational facility per se, the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum (just past the Shrine) is a fantastic place to observe and learn about plants from across the world, including species you may never have seen before! Come see an herbaceous exhibition of horticulture at the Jensen-Olsen Arboretum. Herbaceous exhibition of Jensen Arbatorialagnablk. Ack — so close!
Mining in the Mountains! For little to nothing.
The Last Chance Mining Museum is quaintly perched over the creek, as far back into Perseverance Valley as you can drive, and just a bit further. It’s definitely a once-at-least destination if you live here. If you want to get a little more into this whole mining history thing, hit up the Juneau’s Hidden History facebook page. You might get closer to a gold mine than you thought possible!
Alaska Native Culture and History. Only like five dollars.
This one is part library, part museum, part institute, part … well, it’s a lot of things. I highly recommend you check out the Sealaska Heritage Building downtown during touring hours, if you haven’t already been. It costs hardly anything and you can see some totally rad traditional and contemporary art, too.
Learn Life Skills all over town
Last but not least, Juneau has a great network of Life Skills education opportunities, like the free-of-charge Learning Connection which has classes on literacy and computer skills and more. You can also learn about mental health and mental illnesses for free through NAMI. Finally, check out Juneau Cooperative Extension for anything not on this list. There’s no end to what you can learn.
• Guy About Town appears the first and third Sunday of every month and includes seasonal musings on what changes and what doesn’t in a small town. Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.