Every student has been caught doodling instead of taking notes or doing homework. Most teachers punish this behavior, but instructors at San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum are turning it into an art form. The nation's only museum dedicated to the likes of Popeye and the Simpsons now offers drop-in cartooning classes every Saturday.
Amateur animators and would-be Walt Disneys can learn about breathing life into their drawings, including how to design characters and use the language of comics to tell a story. Kids are encouraged to return on a regular basis to complete entire cartoon strips, but arrive early: Class size is limited to 20 youngsters per week. The only thing the lessons don't teach is how to turn a sketch of a yellow kitchen sponge into a multimillion-dollar franchise on Nickelodeon. Budding scribblers between the ages of 6 and 14 are welcome; classes last from 1 to 3 p.m. at 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), and are free with museum admission (free-$6). Call 227-8666, ext. 314, or visit www.cartoonart.org. -- Jack Karp
Pests Are People, Too
Readers who grew up in the Bay Area may remember a TV spot from about 1978 that advertised a playful science museum: It showed two kids looking at a bunch of insects behind glass. The younger of the two was normal -- she made a face and said, "I hate bugs!" The other, obviously a strange little guy, replied, "I love bugs." Somehow, watching the commercial made you want to be weird and love creepy crawlers. Today's youth have their chance at insectophilia during Bug Day, a festival of bees, termites, worms, spiders, scorpions, and more. Buzz off from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way (at Roosevelt), S.F. Admission is free; call 554-9600 or visit www.randallmuseum.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Tarred and Feathered
A bird's-eye view of life on Sesame Street
The name Caroll Spinney may not ring a bell, because the master puppeteer has spent the past three decades inside a bird costume and a trash can. Spinney has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969, and he's picked up some useful life lessons along the way, which he shares in his memoir, The Wisdom of Big Bird. The chapter titled "Don't Let Your Feathers Get Ruffled," for example, chronicles how Big Bird -- and Spinney -- had to cope with sharing the limelight when the upstart Elmo began receiving top billing.