2019 LERN Courses of the Year


Below are the Courses of the Year LERN has selected from many excellent submissions. It was hard to choose with so many programs doing such great work out there.

We will be doing a free webinar on Thursday December 19th at 2pm ET/1pm CT/12 noon MT/11am PT where the winners will briefly talk about their courses. Click Here to view a recorded version of the webinar.

So without further ado…


Community College

Catio Design Studio – Portland Community College

This class was full the first time is was offered in Summer term. There was a limited number of spaces in the class because the class tied into Portland’ Catio Tour which tickets were included in the price of the class. The class was also promoted by cat rescue non-profits around Portland.

Description: With instructor guidance, explore ideas and use your imagination to design fun environments for your furry friend. You will get a chance to experience construction methods on the Portland Catio Tour that will bring your catio designs to life.

This course is relevant to a number of current trends; the environment, pets and gardening.

– Cats are the most popular pet in the US.

– Outdoor cats kill between one and four billion birds in the continental US every year. They are a recognized threat to biodiversity.

– Creating outdoor habitats protects both the cats and songbirds, and contributes to environmental preservation.


Parks and Recreation

From Field to Fork: Venison – Mt. Cuba Center

Description: High levels of White-tailed Deer populations have detrimental effects on native ecosystems. Sound management practices and harvesting of these animals have been shown to be the best ways to reduce large herd numbers. Join us for an evening to observe and experience how our Natural Lands Manager utilizes different cuts of meat and prepares venison dishes. Please bring your favorite beverage to drink while sampling various dishes and venison products. There will also be an opportunity to take samples home.

We liked this camp because it serves youth and teaches them about land management and how to prepare different venison dishes. It could be expanded to include cooking other wild foods. It increases interest in foraging and preparing/cooking wild foods. It relates to environmental trends because it allows both reduction in domestic meat consumption and helps to support control of wild populations of deer that have detrimental effects on local ecosystems. This is a great camp that speaks to multiple current trends.


Public School

Tonka Trot for Heroes – Minnetonka Public Schools

Description: We have so many amazing heroes in our community… military, police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, moms, dads and many more. Join us at Groveland Elementary for a fun run (1.5 miles) to celebrate and thank these heroes for their service. Entry fee includes a cape – guaranteed to the first 900 participants.

The morning opens at 7:45 am with same-day registration, the vehicle fair will open at 8:00 am and our 1.5 mile Family Fun Run will start at 9:00 am.  We’ll have a flag raising by a local color guard, singing of the National Anthem by Major Philip Litfin of the Minnesota Air National Guard, and a flyover by a B-25 Bomber to kick-off the run!

This is a great course because one of the most important functions of our community programs is to help bring people together and create cohesion in our communities. In divisive times such as we live in now, this is a very important aspect of lifelong learning programs. The Tonka Trot is a variation on family fun run, but with a purpose. It recognizes and honors community heroes: military, police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, moms, dads and many more. Participants get a blue cape (covered by their entry fee) to help celebrate their hero. This is a great way to recognize those heroes in our local communities!



Artisan Bread Series – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Description: 222 Artisan Bakery, a local bakery in Edwardsville, IL, partnered with SIUE Educational Outreach to offer a series of Artisan Breads courses. The series began with Artisan Breads I where individuals learned the basics of bread-making, including the terminology, ingredient functionality, dough handling, fermentation steps, mixing and dough development, as well as the fermentation in the baking process. The series continued with Artisan Breads II which built on the knowledge learned in Artisan Breads I. The focus was on sourdough breads and the functions of bread making. The series will conclude with Breads of the World where individuals will learn how to create and bake breads from around the world, including

Brioche, Challah, Mediterranean and many more! Each course gave participants the chance to make many different types of bread and take home 20-30 loaves.

This course covers the basics of bread making—the art and the science. We like it because it speaks to a number of current societal interests and trends:

– There is a growing trend toward buying in artisanal and organic breads in the supermarket.

– For value-conscious millennials, it is considerably cheaper to make your own bread than to buy it in the store.

– Making bread at home gives people much more control over nutritional value and ingredients, and therefore may be healthier, another plus for young bakers as well as health-conscious boomers.

– In the age of anxiety, a new study finds that baking actually is a very powerful stress reducer.


Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who submitted a course. We plan to highlight other great course ideas throughout the year!

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