A different kind of back-to-school: University Open Air offers free classes from teachers around the world in Prospect Park

Prospect Park Boathouse on the water.
Open Air University classes will take place at the lawns near the Prospect Park Boathouse, starting Sept. 14.
File photo by Susan De Vries

The grassy lawns of Prospect Park will be transformed into breezy outdoor classrooms this month with the return of the University Open Air. 

A collaboration between the Prospect Park Alliance and the Brooklyn Public Library, the University Open Air invites globally-trained immigrants to share their knowledge with Brooklynites.

The classes will be led by professors and experts from around the world with courses covering a variety of topics from printmaking to the history of salsa dancing in New York City to French literature. Students can take popular classes instructed by returning professors from last semester or try something new and enroll in some of the newly-offered courses.

The University Open Air program is part of BPL’s mission to provide accessible and free instruction and information to anyone interested in broadening their educational horizons and this year’s collaboration with the PPA also incorporates the Alliance’s own mission to engage diverse communities in interacting with the park, which has earned the nickname “Brooklyn’s Backyard.” 

university open air
The free, outdoor classes are led by immigrant teachers, professors, and experts. File photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library

“Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s Backyard, where the diverse communities of Brooklyn come together, learn from each other and share experiences,” said Maria Carrasco, Vice President for Public Programs at the PPA, in a statement. “As a gathering place for many immigrant communities, Prospect Park is a beloved setting for University Open Air’s engaging programming, and we are proud to partner with the Brooklyn Public Library for another season of accessible classes.”

Since its launch in 2019, University Open Air has instructed over 1,000 students. Additionally, BPL provides a number of supportive services to the many immigrant communities throughout Brooklyn. These programs are available in 14 different languages and are comprised of conversation groups, citizen application assistance and more.

“We are delighted that school is back in session at University Open Air,” said BPL’s Vice President for Arts and Culture László Jakab Orsós. “This extraordinary group of professors — who have expertise in everything from the silk road to artificial intelligence — hail from every corner of the world, mirroring the diverse communities that make up Brooklyn. We are so fortunate to be outdoors in the historic and beautiful Prospect Park, enjoying the last days of summer, while learning from some of New York’s most talented and creative minds.”

University Open Air class instruction begins outside the Prospect Park Boathouse on Sept. 14, with a class titled “Halal and Haram in the U.S.,” which explores the concepts of haram and halal and their importance in Muslim culture, and continues until Sept. 24. Along the way, some instructors will return for a series of classes — Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam, a former Tibetan monk who has studied Buddhism, Tibetan healing, and yoga, will stop by the park to teach yoga, healing, and energy.

All classes are free to join but registration is encouraged.