At Maryland Fencing Club, it's all fencing, all the time. The club's name graces a 2,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the centuries-old Olympic sport, complete with three electric strips and one for private lessons. A seven-member coaching staff—each a member of USA Fencing and certified by the US Fencing Coaches' Association—runs the show, grooming young novices and seasoned swordsmen alike to become the next vanguards of the sport.
Students enjoy focused attention as they learn the nuances of footwork and sword handling, particularly during their most formative years. Elementary-school classes are held at an 8:1 student-teacher ratio, while that number moves to 14:1 for high-school and adult classes. The coaches encourage vigorous competition, but they never do so at the expense of fun, reminding pupils to thoroughly enjoy their company and time on the piste.
Underwater Playground submerges aspirant deep-sea divers, pruned snorkelers, and strident swimmers in a waterlogged array of parties, lessons, and aquatic aerobics. Eschew dangerous, unsanctioned gill-insertion procedures with a Try Scuba session, a beginners' course laying out the basics of subaqueous submersion. After each Cousteau-in-training has suited up with professional diving equipment, a Scuba Schools International (SSI) dive professional leads a two- to three-hour lesson at Underwater Playground's heated, saltwater pool before participants make their first tile-scouring dive in search of priceless treasures and wayward swim trunks.
The staff members at Sylvan Learning's numerous centers understand that each child learns differently. Therefore, they don’t try to implement a uniform tutoring system; instead, they design custom lesson programs based on the results of a skills assessment using diagnostic tools and one-on-one interviews.
Tutors work with students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, illuminating topics ranging from basic reading and writing to remembering complex algebraic formulas without having them tattooed on your chest. Many of Sylvan’s instructors work in local schools, so they are intimately familiar with common curricula and understand how to gear lessons toward optimal results. Camps and after-school and summer classes can ready high-schoolers for the rigors of the ACT or the SAT, or they can help students to wow college-admissions officers with their superior essay-writing skills.
Since 1978, Brett Aviation's FAA-certified flight instructors have imparted wisdom to fledgling aviators through programs ranging from discovery flights to full pilot certifications. Their trusty aircraft run skyward laps from its nest at Martin State Airport, allowing students to get a feel for flight controls and build the confidence that comes from hours spent aloft. Planes also take off on sightseeing flights, giving passengers aerial glimpses of such destinations as downtown Baltimore, Annapolis, and Ocean City at 120 miles per hour, just fast enough to outrun the tall ships that frequently drag-race down Chesapeake Bay.
From his post at Harford County Airport, Kevin Hess heads up a team of FAA-certified flying instructors as the owner of Harford Air Services. Himself a 25-year veteran of the skies, Kevin invites aspiring aviators under his wing to earn private pilot's licenses, instrument ratings, and advanced endorsements. Before lifting off, beginners get a taste of flight through introductory lessons, which involve both ground school and hands-on flying experiences, though birds still actively resent that turn of phrase.