Photo credit: Laurie Beck Peterson
Mt. Airy Learning Tree Celebrates 35 Years of Community Education in Philadelphia
From tai chi to tax preparation, MALT has brought new skills to thousands of people in over three decades.
When the Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT) was founded in 1981, the community education program offered just 17 courses and enrolled 125 students. Founded by Barbara Bloom, who lived in Mt. Airy, MALT was designed to create affordable community education that would bring diverse residents together around common interests.
Among the first class offerings were “Introduction to Personal Computing,” “Electronic Games,” “Railroads and Mt. Airy” and “Women as Super-Heroes in the Comics.”
Bloom, who now lives in Chestnut Hill, says the name of the organization came from the best-selling autobiographical novel, “The Learning Tree,” by famed photographer, composer and film-maker, Gordon Parks.
“We had the idea that we all could learn from each other, and in doing that, our community would benefit,” Bloom said.  “The Mt. Airy Learning Tree has long surpassed that goal.”
Now, 35 years later, the current spring catalog is 75 pages long and offers 240 classes in over 60 locations. In 2016, MALT will provide 725 classes to 5,000 participants in 158 zip codes in and around northwest Philadelphia.
MALT has always been a place where people can explore a wide range of topics. From frivolous to serious, the classes at MALT are varied. This spring, MALT is offering several new classes including Islam in the 21st Century, Balloon Sculpting, Party Sushi, Sexy Bachata, Bees and Beekeeping and Family Outdoor Adventure. To register for classes, go to
“MALT is an organization that brings together all that is positive in life,” says executive director Judy Weinstein. “Teachers that are eager to share their skills and students are excited about learning new things. As our world becomes more divided, MALT brings diverse people together around common interests.” In 35 years, the Mt. Airy Learning Tree has helped 100,000 people expand their understanding of hundreds of topics. We’re proud to have been the conduit for learning for so many people throughout the community.”
MALT classes have changed many lives over the years.
Marianne Roche, 67, of Oreland, Pa. was approaching retirement age after working with people with disabilities. She began a quest to expand her interests. Through MALT, she began to explore holistic practices. Thanks to her introduction through MALT, she has become certified in acupressure, reiki and reflexology and has been able to use her new skills with her current clients. “MALT has changed my life and I am forever grateful,” Roche said.
Allyson Bennett of Elkins Park took MALT’s rowing class on the Schuylkill River many years ago and conquered her fear of being in the open water. Since then, she has completed 17 triathlons in rivers, bays and oceans. “Taking the rowing class at MALT led me to places I never would have imagined,” Bennett said.
MALT is planning a 35th anniversary celebration in September.
About the Mt. Airy Learning Tree (MALT)
For 35 years, the Mt. Airy Learning Tree has provided a wide range of learning opportunities to community members in and around northwest Philadelphia. Taught by community members who have a wide range of experise, MALT offers 750 courses each year.  For more information, go to or visit MALT on Facebook.