Free classes in the DC area

With kids settled in their school routine, it’s time for parents to think about their own higher learning. Here are some free classes you can take around the D.C. area.

The best place to start is probably your local library. Most libraries have a cornucopia of classes, from languages, crafting, and flower arranging to 3D printing and coding. Wherever you live, check out your local library’s website to see what kinds of programs or classes are being offered.

Here are a few area libraries’ calendars:

D.C. Public Library



Health and wellness

If you want to maintain your fitness this winter, take advantage of some free ways to take up a type of workout. Many gyms or fitness programs offer free trial classes, but these are often followed by a sales pitch that asks you to sign up for membership or buy some sessions.

However, there are some fitness groups that meet to work out for free, and they welcome beginners.

November Project DC uses the city — its monuments, architecture and infrastructure — as its gym. The description on its website says that your fitness level, age or background does not matter; every workout is for everyone.

Local running stores Pacers Running and Potomac River Running have free social runs every week. These runs are organized by different store locations and the course goes through the location’s neighborhood. Some running outings even have a social component, which include getting a bite to eat afterward or happy hour.

Outdoor store REI offers some classes that are free and teach you about backpacking at a nearby national or regional park, how to prepare for an emergency and kayaking basics.

The second Saturday of every month, The Kennedy Center offers free workshops for families with children under 5 to explore the power of the arts to promote wellness of the mind and body. This fall’s offerings include hip-hop dancing, yoga, ballet and music appreciation.

Careers and jobs

If you are a D.C. resident entering or re-entering the job market, D.C. has free job skills classes you can take. The fourth Tuesday of every month, you can learn how to write resumes that stand out, or learn and practice what to say during an interview.

At D.C. Public Library, you can even get certified for Microsoft Office. The library offers free 2016 Microsoft Office Specialist Certification exams. You can earn them at different levels for the different MS Office applications.

Desiré Grogan, the assistant manager for the Adult Literacy Center at the D.C. Public Library, said those who register to take the exam and pass it get an industry-standard certification for their job-related pursuits.

“District residents can become more empowered to be competitive in the workforce,” and it “puts a person in a better bargaining position when it comes to a job search,” Grogan said.

And if you’re not quite ready to be MS Office-certified, the library can help get you there with a stair-step approach.

“If you don’t know anything, you’re going to start out with the (personal computer) basics, and then you’re going to build skills from that point, so you’re able to navigate through the more complex software applications,” she said.

Grogan said the library’s free computer classes comprise one of the “best-kept secrets in D.C.”

The arts

Grab a sketchbook, notebook or journal and explore your artistic side with free writing and drawing classes at the National Gallery of Art. The drawing and writing salons are series of workshops that use the gallery’s collection and exhibits for inspiration. The classes are led by local artists and writers and are designed for all skill levels.

And if you’ve ever admired the grace and strength of a dancer, you can put on your dancing shoes and join a free class at the Washington Ballet. Through Oct. 19, the Washington Ballet is holding Dance for All, a community engagement that brings the joy of artistry and dance to D.C. Find out what kind of exercises dancers do or take an adult beginner ballet class. Dance for All will also have free performances and talks.

Community programs

Many area local governments and their branches offer a gamut of classes that range from CPR training and personal safety workshops to cooking classes.

Want to know how law enforcement keeps your community safe? Join your county’s citizens police program. Many police departments offer a chance to take a peek behind-the-scenes. Visit your county’s police department website to see when they are offering them.

And if you someday want to own your own home, it’s never too early to learn what steps you would need to get you closer to the American dream. Again, many counties have classes on how to navigate the homebuying process. Find out where classes are offered in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. (Note: Not all homebuying seminars listed on these sites are free.)

D.C. residents can take advantage of several free classes offered by the Department of Parks and Recreation. D.C.’s many recreation centers offer classes in art, boxing, martial arts, fitness, and nutrition. Some classes have a fee, but many are free.

Lockpicking or foraging anyone?

Ever been locked out? Wondering if that berry-looking fruit is safe to eat? At Knowledge Commons DC you can find out more about any topic you may have wondered about.

The classes can be very specific (e.g., fall tree identification), and not all classes are likely to be your cup of tea, but Knowledge Commons DC volunteer organizer April Thompson said, “Part of what makes them fun is, they’re often niche things that you’ve never even thought about learning necessarily, but all you have to lose is a couple of hours of an evening usually.”

The organization has about six classes every month, depending on interest on a particular topic. They are taught by volunteers who may be experts, professionals or people who are passionate about a topic and could impart good, basic knowledge.

Classes are held in different locations in the city depending on the nature of the topic. For example, a foraging class could be at a park or wooded area.

Thompson said that the unique, free-roaming school has several benefits, including finding people who have a similar interest in a niche topic, learning something that you can’t learn in a traditional classroom and an opportunity to explore new spaces in the city. And often, “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Classes are scheduled on a rolling basis, and you can get a heads up on what’s in the works by signing up for its newsletter.

And, if you’re passionate about a topic or have a cool skill others might want to learn, Knowledge Commons DC is always looking for volunteer teachers.

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