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School's in for summer Expand your mind with a course schedule full of interactive fun

Imagine a school where there are no report cards. No attendance records, no teachers to call home and tattle. Instead, you can learn about whatever you want to, whenever you want to.

Never been great at math? Skip it. Can't sit still at a desk? There are none. If it sounds too good to be true, you're right. Well, partially. This blissful academic setting might not actually exist in any primary and secondary school, but it does exist. We've created a Western New York Buffalo Summer School of sorts, designed with courses that cater to every scholastic interest and offer plenty of interactive activities to keep you away from daydreaming. With low tuition bills, multiple ice cream breaks and a cruise making the course list, enrollment is sure to fill up fast, so start exploring the outdoor activities today.

e-mail: mhirschbeck@buffnews.com

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>Geography 202: Capturing the Canal

Classroom Location: Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises, 210 Market St., Lockport

Description: On a two-hour cruise narrated by a knowledgeable captain, you can enjoy local architecture while learning about the folklore and history of the scenic route. As you pass under raising bridges, you will take in 50-foot double locks and relax as you coast along the Erie Canal.

Schedule: Daily tours are held at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The cost: $14 adults; $10 children. Reservations are required and can be made by visiting lockportlocks.com.

Supplies needed: Binoculars, a camera and a few extra dollars to pick up an ice cream cone at the Canalside Cafe and Pub.

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>Music 129: Outdoor Orchestral and Lawnchair Ensemble

Classroom location: Elmwood Concert Series, Elmwood and Bidwell; Niagara Summer Concert Series, 7000 Lockport Road, Town of Niagara

Description: Pack up the kids and the lawn chairs and head over to Elmwood and Bidwell this Tuesday to catch the world beats of the Outer Circle Orchestra. If you're heading over straight from work, be sure to pack a picnic basket for dinner and pick up a bottle of wine for dessert. As you sip and snack, you'll be able to expand your musical horizons and catch up with friends during the relaxing, two-hour show. Although this will be the last concert of the Elmwood series, the Niagara Summer Concert Series has the BBC (Buffalo Beatles Connection) taking the stage Aug. 6.

Schedule: Elmwood Concert Series, 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday; Niagara Summer Concert Series, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6

The Cost: Free

Supplies needed: A couple of chairs or blankets, a couple of friends and something to munch on.

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>Math 102: Applied Clock-ulus

Classroom Location: Amherst Museum, 3755 Tonawanda Creek Road, Amherst

Description: "The Tick-Tock: A History of Clocks" exhibit at the Amherst Museum follows the evolution of time and the different devices that have been created throughout history to keep track of it. From Julian calendars to wrist watches, ancient sun dials to grandfather clocks, learn how civilization has invented ways to count minutes and measure years.

Schedule: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

The Cost: Museum admission is $5 for adults, $1.50 for kids.

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>Art 316: Environmental Ceramics

Classroom Location: Griffis Sculpture Park in Ashford Hollow (visit www.griffispark.org for directions)

Description: Combining nature with art, the Griffis Sculpture Park contains the molded creations of local, national and international artists. Next to ponds, forests and meadows lay more than 200 sculptures, which are meant to be touched, climbed and explored by visitors. This interactive element is not only enjoyable for art-lovers who can interpret their meaning, but also for kids looking to turn their turf into a gigantic playground. The park also has a hand drum workshop by local percussionist T.R. McKotch scheduled for Aug. 14. A limited amount of drums will be on hand for participants to use; those with their own are encouraged to bring them.

Schedule: The park is open daily from dawn until dusk until Oct. 31. The next drum workshop is 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14. Reservations are required for the workshop; e-mail dsitler@gmail.com.

The Cost: Free, though donations are encouraged for hand drum lessons.

Supplies needed: A camera to capture the beautiful outdoors and the abstract structures.

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>Science 320: Sedimentary Exploration Lab

Classroom location: Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Educational Center, 4050 North St., Blasdell

Description: Anyone interested in digging and discovering will want to take a trip to the center, which allows visitors to find their own fossils Mondays through Saturdays. On Aug. 11, the center will hold a Mid-Summer Night's Adventure, which will combine fossil hunting with astronomy. Participants will be able to dig for fossils by lantern light, as well as view solar flares, sunspots, meteors showers and planets. Telescopes and glowsticks will be provided, and hot dogs will be sold.

Schedule: The center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Mid-Summer Night's Adventure takes place at 5 p.m. Aug. 11

The Cost: Adults, $6; children, $5; Hamburg Natural History Society members, free.

Supplies needed: A bucket, shovel and lantern or flashlight.

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>History 104: A Niagara Revolution

Classroom Location: Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown (directions available at www.oldfortniagara.org)

Description: In addition to holding daily historical tours, Old Fort Niagara holds many educational events. One such event is next month's "Soldiers of the Revolution" program, which will give history buffs the opportunity to explore the American revolution and the forces that fought in it. Displays and demonstrations will be available to transport attendees back to the tense days of 1775.

Schedule: You can enter the fort from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. now through Labor Day. "Soldiers of the Revolution" happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 18 and 19. For a full schedule of events at the fort, visit oldfortniagara.org.

The cost: Admission to the fort is $10 for adults; $6 for children 6 to 12; children under 6 are free.

Supplies needed: Nothing.

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>Intramurals 203: Skill-building and Socializing through Sports

Classroom Location: Harlem Globetrotters Summer Youth Basketball Camp, Jewish Community Center, 2640 N. Forest Road, Getzville

Description: Boys and girls ages 6 to 16 can learn skills and tricks from the famous Globetrotter players themselves during a weeklong camp. Not only will players walk away with improved athletic abilities, but also a unique attitude on leadership and teamwork. The camp fee includes an official Globetrotters T-shirt, mini basketball, camp picture and team picture.

Schedule: 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 20 to 24

The Cost: $175 for members of the JCC, $200 for nonmembers. To register, call (800) 641-HOOP.

Supplies needed: Sneakers, comfortable clothes and an enthusiasm for crossovers and trick shots.

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