WHAT THEY’LL DO: Students learn to turn simple shapes into famous characters like Garfield, illustrate an emotion such as “anger” or “shock,” invent a brand-new superhero, or concoct an entirely original storyline. “It inspires me to draw different stuff and use techniques that I’ve never used before,” says Elijah Mata, 10, an aspiring cartoonist from Wayne, Mich.
WHY KIDS LOVE IT: Besides the fact that being able to draw Batman carries serious cachet on the playground, creating a graphic novel can be a valuable form of self-expression. “Many times we see autobiographical themes in the work students do,” says Adele Falco, founder of Curious-on-Hudson, an enrichment program in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. “Kids in our classes are yearning for an outlet to help express themselves.”
FIND A CLASS: Visit Abrakadoodle.com or YoungRembrandts.com for classes across the country.
WHY IT’S HOT: It’s a sport where skill and strategy matter more than body type. Refreshing, right?
BEST FOR: Bright kids who love logic games or math, or kids who need a lot of structure. “When somebody runs at you with a sword, you will learn focus no matter what,” says Julia Richey, a fencing instructor at Royal Arts Sport Fencing Academy, in Columbus, Ohio.
WHAT THEY’LL DO: Choose their weapon: either a foil, a saber, or an épée. (Each appeals to different personalities, so it’s like Harry Potter in Ollivander’s Wand Shop.) Then they’ll learn lunges, thrusts, parries, and more before facing off against a partner.
WHY KIDS LOVE IT: It’s sword fighting! Like in the movies! And yet it’s surprisingly cerebral. “It’s like being in a real chess game, and I am one of the pieces,” says Andrew Silver, a 9-yearold fencer from New Albany, Ohio.
FIND A CLASS: Visit Fencing.net.
RUNNING A BUSINESS
WHY IT’S HOT: In today’s economy, parents see the value of teaching kids 21st-century skills, like leadership, teamwork, and communication. “Because entrepreneurship is about bringing ideas to life and solving problems, it equips kids to be leaders and creators,” explains Thais Rezende, CEO of BizWorld, a business-education program in San Francisco, Calif.
BEST FOR: Team players who don’t mind sharing opinions — entrepreneur classes can be highly collaborative.
WHAT THEY’LL DO: Launch a real product, such as pencil cases or friendship bracelets. But first, participants learn basic business skills: marketing, pricing, budgeting, and product design. In Bizainy classes, kids practice the art of the deal by simulating — in costume! — a rock band’s negotiation with a venue.
WHY KIDS LOVE IT: They leave class with real-world business skills that can make their lemonade stand the envy of the block. “I wanted to learn some business strategies that could help me with my dog-biscuit business which I started to raise money for a dog shelter,” says Jack Austen, 11, of Los Angeles, Calif., who took a Bizainy class. His prime takeaway: Don’t spend more making your product than you can sell it for.
FIND A CLASS: Visit BizWorld.org or Bizainy.com, which offer programs around the country, or check with your local Chamber of Commerce.
PLAYING IN A ROCK BAND
WHY IT’S HOT: Kids have dreamed of becoming rock stars since, well, rock was young. But seeing tween singers score record deals from YouTube has upped the impulse for divahood. Even when stardom isn’t the goal, kids seem more excited to learn Coldplay songs than concertos.
BEST FOR: Would-be performers who are bored by standard music lessons. (Reading music helps boost regular reading skills, and vice versa.)
WHAT THEY’LL DO: Learn standard music technique and theory for their chosen instrument, either guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, or vocals — they’ll just happen to do it with songs by bands they’ve heard of. “I pick the songs I play,” says Logan Edgar, 10, who is learning drums at the Don’t Stop Rockin’ studio in Austin, Texas. Favorite song so far: “You Really Got Me,” by the Kinks. At some studios, kids also rehearse weekly with a jam band of other young rockers.
WHY KIDS LOVE IT: When learning an instrument feels like the first step on the road to the Grammys, motivation stays high. And the recitals rock. Robert Havenner, an 8-year-old from Los Angeles, Calif., who is in the Rock Star Kids program at his elementary school, has played famed SoCal venues such as the Avalon and the Wiltern with his all-kid band, Black Acid. “I was a little nervous the first time,” he says. “But when you do it more and more, it’s not too scary.”
FIND A CLASS: Visit SchoolofRock.com or BachtoRock.com.