A group of teachers and parents founded Habitot Children's Museum in 1998 with one specific mission in mind: to foster children up to 6 years old by encouraging their creativity and natural curiosity. Today, the 4,000-square-foot museum backs up this mission with research—gleaned from studies by scientists, psychologists, and educators—positing that healthy play spurs social skills, creative thinking, and problem solving, laying the foundation for kids to succeed later in life and imprison boogeymen in their booby-trapped closet tomorrow.
At Habitot, kids find such opportunities at small-scale exhibits and themed play areas throughout the museum. Aspiring firefighters steer a small-scale truck, race through a pretend burning building, and maneuver the hose and nozzle from a fire hydrant, all while donning coats, boots, and helmets. Young explorers press buttons, turn dials, and issue commands for pretend space launches inside a 13-foot model rocket ship or navigate a vertical floor-to-ceiling maze designed to mimic worm tunnels. At the waterworks table and pumping station, young engineers manipulate water using buckets, funnels, waterwheels, and pitchers to help them understand H2O’s unique properties, such as how it keeps boats afloat on the arms of a thousand mermen. (At different times throughout the year, the staff transforms this area with a different theme; at times it’s been a car wash, a marine-science lab, or the racing grounds for a rubber-ducky regatta.) Visitors can tap into their inner Van Goghs at the art studio, where they play with soft clays and go nuts on a paintable wall. Habitot also hosts year-round children's camps with themes such as beaches, transportation, space, castles, and science.
SF Mixology founder Shawn Refoua blended his experience as program director and a student of behavioral psychology into an academy that brings bartending methodology and cocktail mixology into the 21st century. With an eye toward libation history, the school's interactive classes range from basic and advanced mixology courses to in-depth lessons on specific liquors and the evolution of the cocktail through the 14 years of Prohibition and the decade when swizzle sticks were outlawed. Each class complements the goals of cocktail party hosts, as well as aspiring or continually learning bartenders, who can learn and practice essential behind-the-bar techniques while brushing up on flavor theory and emerging recipe methodologies. Held in a high-profile bar, the laid-back classes include plenty of sample sips and enthusiastic toasts to newfound friends.
The artists at Wine and Canvas awaken their students’ inner Rembrandts and Van Goghs with classes that pair a featured painting with specialty cocktails and wines. The mobile studio’s monthly calendar includes themed classes in which instructors expound on the nuances of painting Parisian street lamps, Japanese flowers, or Venetian cityscapes. The master painters—many of them local artists—provide step-by-step instructions while students mimic each stroke and periodically dip their brushes into glasses filled with crimson cabernet. Each of the studio’s various drink-friendly venues boasts a specialty libation selected to incite creativity or conversations with fellow painters. When the artistic frenzy concludes, students return home with a finished masterpiece large enough to conceal any wall safe or mirror portal.
Kevin Allen earned his personal training certification in 1989, but he didn’t stop there. Instead, he layered more expertise and experience onto his resume with every passing year, finally founding Namaste Personal Training to share his wealth of fitness knowledge with as many clients as possible. Now the gym has been named Oakland magazine's best gym in the East Bay in 2012 and 2013, a title Allen and his team of four trainers uphold by addressing patrons’ individual fitness goals in one-on-one personal training sessions, or obliterating bucket loads of calories in group fitness classes. They also tailor introductory fitness courses exclusively to beginners, lowering class size, shortening duration, and eliminating exercises that involve flaming jump ropes.