At the new Academia Institute of Language and Culture at 308 Madison Street in Oak Park, adults can take courses such as The Neuroscience of Social Justice, Creative Writing, Japanese for Adults, and Introduction to Classical Music. The teenage set might dip their toes into Mandarin, Italian, or French, among other offerings. And younger children—preschoolers and elementary age—might attend summer camp, bilingual story times, or classes including Indian Mythology, Arabic, Greek, Polish and many more. Academia opened its doors only six weeks ago and, already, many are taking advantage of its rich curriculum for all ages.
Recently I spoke with Kaycee Militante (pictured), Director of Children’s Programming and Curriculum, to learn more about Academia. Militante has worked as a classroom teacher and a trainer of teachers. I asked her why she chose Oak Park as the location for Academia. She says, “People are curious here. We thought there was a need for it, that people were hungry for a place like this.” In the planning period, she notes, the team discovered there were many local programming options for younger children but not as many for elementary-aged, teens and adults. Academia aims to fill that gap in Oak Park.
Knowing that today’s families are busy, Academia has created a flexible model. Adults may take classes, and drop their children in another classroom for a story time and childcare while they do so. Preschool and children’s classes have flexible start times. Elementary students will be bused from local public schools to Academia for after-school offerings and a half-time kindergarten for River Forest families—including transportation—is available. Many classes work on a drop-in basis. There is even adult summer camp, and monthly family membership helps make things affordable. Militante says, “Academia’s goal is to develop a reputation for being a place that makes learning truly fun for children and adults.”
She says, “We live in a culturally and academically rich area, but sometimes it’s tough to reach Chicago to attend classes and programs that interest you.” A trip to Academia on Madison Street could be a more convenient option for learners of any age to pursue interests, discover new hobbies, build community and have fun.