Emerald Valley Almanac

Learning new tricks in the new year

Want to exercise your brain this year? Go back to school! You don’t have to enroll in a university to keep learning as an adult. Learning a new language or skill has been shown to aid in keeping the brain supple. Whether you do it on your own through books and videos or take an in-person or online class, it’s easy to find something new that interests you. 

Online classes have proliferated over the years. From simple videos produced by individuals or institutions (such as Extension Services) to multi-week courses from universities and businesses. 

Sites like classcentral.com or edex can simplify your search. They offer class lists from all the best online learning sites in one place. From architecture to zoology, writing computer code to how to be happy, these sites have the class you want.

Art classes are offered throughout Eugene and Springfield. Costs vary.


Maude Kerns Art Center

Oregon Art Supply

Campbell Community Center

Lane Community College


Willamalane Community Center

Emerald Art Center

Cottage Grove:

Lane Community College


Hundreds of free videos on YouTube ArtNetwork offers both free and paid videos. You can also save with a monthly or annual membership.

The VirtualInstructor also offers paid courses in all mediums.

In person:

A paint party is an inexpensive and fun way to see if you enjoy the craft, and learn something along the way. Vino and Vango on Main Street in Springfield or Paint with Alejandro in 5th St. Market offer both public and private parties. Blue Valley Bistro also has such parties from time to time. 

For self-starters, books are a good option. Your local library is a good place to start. Smith Family Books in Eugene or Powell Books in Portland and online are good sources, especially if you’re looking for used books.


Both Michael’s and JoAnn Fabric in Springfield offer craft classes, in-store and online.

The Great Courses offer lectures on any number of subjects, both serious and for fun. They are available on DVD or online. They run from $20 – $70, on sale (and there are always at least some classes on sale). Some of the courses are also available through your local library.

Learning a language as an adult can be difficult, but it’s a great brain workout. Many online programs and apps are available online. If you’re interested in conversational ability, Pimsleur is highly recommended by experts. Their philosophy is you learn a language best by listening and interaction.

For more in-depth learning, the familiar Rosetta Stone is very popular. It includes writing and grammar. The program will listen to and correct your pronunciation and offers practice sessions with native speakers. Both programs are subscription-based.

Language apps aren’t as good as the more in-depth programs, but they can give you enough knowledge to get by if you’re planning a visit abroad. Babbel is the most highly recommended, available for Apple or Android phones.

Other ways to learn a language, or to augment your program include reading children’s books in that language, watching movies or TV without the subtitles or finding native speakers to converse with.

Facts that may be new to you

There are 206 bones in the human skeleton, covered by 650 muscles. Your bones aren’t considered mature until age 25.


There are 1.5 billion English speakers in the world, closely followed by Mandarin Chinese with 1.1 billion. 


Approximately 7,151 different languages are spoken (the number is constantly in flux, as old languages die out). At least 40% of the world’s indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing. Estimates vary at between one language per month to one a week dying with its last speaker.


But take heart – there are over 200 made-up languages, created for movies and TV.


The number of attempts to ban books in 2022 is expected to be the highest recorded in the past 20 years.

A paper-cut and gouache painting by Henri Matisse was originally hung upside down at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The mistake was discovered a month-and-a-half later by a perceptive art lover, but wasn’t corrected until the NY Times contacted the museums director, one day before running the story.


There are over 1 million known and named species of insects on the planet. Estimates say insects could actually make up over 90% of total animal species. Beetles are the most plentiful of all the insect orders.


Sloths have extremely slow metabolism – in fact they do everything slowly. They have poor eyesight and hearing. They have just over half the normal mammal muscle mass. Sloths spend most of their time in the trees – and upside down. Their hair grows backward – with the growing ends toward their heads. They cannot walk on the ground, but they can swim. 



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