If you're planning to take a class offered by the Levan Institute of Lifelong Learning, don't delay. Some courses are already full, said director Robert Allison. On Jan. 7, the day after the spring 2013 schedule was published, his office received 170 registrations. Allison estimates the total enrollment will be about 500.
"Most people now -- about 80 percent -- are enrolling online," he said. "That's a change from the past; five years ago when we first started, it was maybe 40 percent -- the rest were mail-ins or walk-ins."
The current schedule includes about 50 courses in 16 different subjects. Fees range from $10 to $99 and as always, there are no tests to take or papers to write.
Even though the classes are designed for people age 50 and over, it doesn't mean they're sedentary. Indeed, quite a few offer hands-on training and others offer field trips to interesting places in Kern County.
For instance, Craig Holland, a retired Stockdale High School teacher, has put together a half-day course called Cycling for Seniors (and Others).
"This is for people we call flat-foot riders," he said. "People like me, who rode on balloon tires in the '50s and don't know what all the gears are for."
The class is slated for 1 to 4 p.m. on April 6 in front of the Bakersfield College gym, and all of the instruction will be on the campus -- or if it rains, inside the gym.
Holland has invited a number of professionals and business owners to talk to participants about issues like traffic safety, balance, proper clothing, health and fitness, bike tours and how to choose a bike that's the best "fit" for your particular body type.
"People don't realize how lucky we are to have a first-rate bike path," he said. "Diane Hoover and the parks department really do a good job maintaining it."
Locally, we are also blessed with ideal weather for this kind of activity.
"In Bakersfield," he said, "you can go out 300 days of the year."
Still others, such as landscape photography, taught by Ed Kreiser, combine the outdoors -- half-day trips to Lake Isabella and other sites in Kern County -- with indoor class time. The course is flanked by evening classes on March 2 and March 20, with four Saturday field trips in between.
"The first meeting will be an orientation," said Kreiser, who has operated his own photography studio for 37 years. "The last meeting will be three or four hours of critique of images with class participation."
Students can use whatever type of camera they prefer, but for the kinds of images they'll be taking, a good tripod is essential, "because you've got to hold it steady."
Kreiser will also talk about how to choose software for manipulating images.
A course that may inspire you to plan a spring or summer trip to one of America's national parks is geology of the national parks, which meets for six Friday mornings from Feb. 22 to April 5.
Jack Pierce, who teaches geology at BC, said he's not a tour guide but he will show some "really great PowerPoint images" of Yosemite, Lassen, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Lassen Volcanic Park.
"Some background in geology helps but there aren't any prerequisites," Pierce said. "All they need to bring is themselves and their excitement about nature."
One-day field trips devoted to learning about historic parts of Kern County continue to be popular. Although the trip to Tejon ranch is filled, a March 2 excursion to Twin Oaks to see cattle being branded at the Cattani ranch still has open seats. Former Californian editorial page editor Dianne Hardisty will be your guide and rancher Jack Thomson will explain the process of branding, the ranch's history and answer questions.
A memory training program is one of the newest courses. The instructor is Christina Domer, who received her training at UCLA from Gary Small, a medical doctor who has conducted research studies in age-related memory loss.
According to the course description, it targets the four most common memory complaints that people experience in daily life: forgetting names and faces; forgetting to do things in the future, like keeping an appointment, passing on a phone message, or forgetting why you walked into a room; forgetting where you put keys, glasses or wallet; and tip-of-the tongue challenges -- knowing something you cannot immediately recall.
Unlike most of the Levan classes, this one meets in downtown Bakersfield at the City CentreBuilding, 1300 17th St. The class meets from 9-11 a.m. on April 5, 12, 19 and 26.
For complete information on classes as well as online registration, visit the Levan Institute's website, bakersfieldcollege.edu/ levaninstitute.