Academy Courses

A complete list of past Academy courses can be found here.


Fall 2017 Courses

NEW! Acting for Stage and Screen (5th-8th Grade) Toby Jacobrown

From language emerged storytelling, and from storytelling, acting. Throughout history, acting has been a favorite diversion, and, with the help of Shakespeare and others, the height of art.  From homegrown Vines to the silver screen, anyone can proclaim to be an actor–though not all can act so well! In this class, we will survey best methods for training actors throughout history, from the Renaissance’s Commedia to the tricks of the trade, to the best of modern actors. We will learn the difference between stage-acting and screen-acting, practice auditioning, and advance ourselves toward that limitless feeling, where you believe you could be anyone you imagine. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of a demo tape highlighting students’ skills.


NEW! American History: The American Songbook (5th-8th Grade) Yesenia Vargas

From the classic works of Rodgers and Hammerstein to present-day innovators like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway musicals have mirrored America’s national values, beliefs, and even our crises. Come trace American history of the 20th and 21st centuries through the lens of musicals such as South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wiz, and Hamilton!

This class is recommended for ages 9 or older as we will be dealing with sensitive historical subjects as well as advanced vocabulary.


NEW! Ancient Rome: Arts, Technology, and Culture (3rd-6th Grade) Alessandra Santucci

In this class, students will explore the rich and vibrant history of Ancient Rome, with an inventive twist. In support of our investigations, students will create and depict their investigations into ancient Roman life, through sculpture, painting, writing/debate, and engineering. This class will focus on the culture, customs, religion, politics, art and literature of the Roman Empire, particularly the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. Some of the themes for projects will include: constructing an aqueduct, depicting Roman myths, creating a new Roman myth, building the Colosseum, and preparing for public speaking in the “Roman Forum”. This is a class designed to stimulate creativity and expression within an investigative setting. Mastery will be demonstrated through a culminating project, accompanied by an artist’s statement (written or oral) describing their work and the themes and symbolism represented.

Prerequisites – Students should be comfortable reading both independently and aloud. Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! Botanical Exploration: From Plant to Product (K-2nd Grade) Alka Kumar

Cultivation of plants was a great evolutionary accomplishment that transitioned humankind from being hunter-gatherers to food producers. In this class, we will explore the science and origin, cultivation and industrial production, as well as health benefits and uses of botanicals. Touch, taste and smell your way to learning how chewing gum is made from tree sap, how toothpaste gets its mint, how oil is extracted from maize, and how orchids make vanilla.

Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to food and plant material. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Buy Me That! A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Commercials (2nd-8th Grade) Ellen Brown

This class is a mini-consumer education course, designed to inform kids of the tricks and psychological methods that are used in advertising to target children. We will trace the history of advertising, study different forms of advertising, and especially examine television and video game ads. Children will get to design their own print ads and make their own one-minute commercials to sell a product that they have invented. Mastery will be demonstrated by students designing and shooting their own one-minute commercial in which they illustrate advertisement techniques discussed in class.


NEW! Cenozoic Life (3rd-8th Grade) Grayson Kent

When it comes to prehistoric beasts, dinosaurs tend to hog the spotlight. For over 150 million years, they were the dominant animals on this planet. Then all of that changed and a new Age of Mammals began. Welcome to Cenozoic Life, where we will examine the animals that evolved after the dinosaurs went extinct. Prepare yourself for a paleontological journey featuring real fossils and animal artifacts where you will learn about everything from familiar Ice Age staples like mammoths and saber-toothed cats to megafauna species you may never have heard of, including a few that aren’t even mammals!


 NEW! Electronics and Arduino II (4th-8th Grade) Chris Bradfield

This class will build on the fundamental electronics skills learned in Electronics and Arduino 1.  Students will expand their knowledge of the components of circuit design (resistors, capacitors, etc.) and how they are used to create a variety of devices. Emphasis will be placed on the programming (C language) required to make devices exhibit complex behaviors and respond to outside effects. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of original circuits and functional code that reflects understanding of schematics and understanding of Arduino programming.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Electronics/Arduino I, or permission from instructor. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


 NEW! Food Chemistry (5th-8th) Alex Romero

From the foods we eat, to the water we drink, to the dishes we wash, we may not realize it, but we are constantly surrounded by interesting and profound chemical phenomena.  This class will explore chemistry by thinking about the foods we eat.  Basic concepts covered will include atomic structure, the periodic nature of the elements, acids/bases, solubility, chemical reactions, catalysis, taste, and nutrition.  In addition, through a series of hands on experiments, students will learn principles of experimental design and data analysis.  As we explore chemistry’s connection to food, some hands-on cooking activities will be introduced, however, please note that this is not a cooking class.

Prerequisites: Students should have a strong sensibility for math and an ability to rationally design experiments when presented with a new chemistry-related problem. Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to food material. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


How to Write Scripts Like the Greats (5th-8th Grade) Toby Jacobrown

T. S. Eliot once said: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” To gather the skills to be the next great play and screenwriters, we are going to take his advice. Before the 20th century, emulation of the greats was how a writer learned their craft.  We will be looking at great dramatic writers, trying to find out why people have enjoyed their work throughout the generations, and putting ourselves in their shoes.  We might forge lost scenes to Shakespeare plays, make alternate endings to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, or make a mashup of Spielberg’s E.T. and Moliere’s Tartuffe. Students will be encouraged to follow their own passions in finding writers they feel are great, and delving into their work.  We will break down scenes of great plays and films, and also step into the roles of actors and directors to see how they perceive this work.  We will learn what makes a classic on the screen and the stage, and discuss how to write treatments and pitch your work to a producer. Mastery will be demonstrated through the live performance of students’ own dramatic creations by guest professional actors.


Intro to Brain Anatomy and Function (1st-3rd) Nathalie Blume

The brain is a window into an amazing array of behaviors and a broad set of scientific fields. We will examine the anatomy of the central nervous system, focusing on brain modularity and the correspondence between structure and function. We will also take a peek at the diversity of brain types across the animal kingdom and explore the idea that different brain structures may support similar cognitive function. This is a course for kids who are curious about medicine, psychology, zoology, and research methodology. Mastery will be demonstrated by the ability to describe some of the work that the brain performs and the pathways that support this work. Please note that as we investigate brain functionality and anatomy, some sensitive topics may be presented.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Intro to Environmental Science: Planetary Boundaries (6th-8th Grade) Mamadou Diallo

During the last two decades, a consensus among scientists has emerged that human activities are the primary drivers of environmental change. The belief that these changes have propelled us into a new geologic time period known as the Anthropocene epoch has urged scientists to develop Planetary Boundaries, a framework for defining the limits of sustainability and safe operating space for humanity. In this course, students will learn about the physical, chemical, biological and socioeconomic processes that control our planet’s environment, and the impact we as humans have on Planetary Boundaries. Through discussion and hands-on projects, students will work independently and in teams to explore how environmental conditions can improve if sustainable practices are adopted, and what affect they can have on our world today and for generations to come. Mastery will be demonstrated by the completion of a creative final project based on the concepts outlined in the course.


Kitchen Chemistry I (K-2nd Grade) Alka Kumar SIERRA MADRE ELEMENTARY LOCATION

You don’t need an expensive laboratory to challenge your chemistry skills—look no further than your kitchen cabinet! By combining everyday ingredients, you can create exciting colors, weird sounds, creepy textures, and sometimes—explosions! In this class, students will learn essential scientific equations and elements, conduct safe and fun experiments, and watch different materials react in surprising ways as they explore the exciting world of science! Mastery will be demonstrated by a project using the processes of the Scientific Method: Hypothesis, Observations, Experiment, Analysis, Results, Conclusions and discussions.

Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to food and plant material. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


 NEW! Kitchen Chemistry II (K-3rd Grade) Alka Kumar

Put on your lab coat and apron! This combination course in chemistry and culinary arts will give new meaning to the expression, “food for thought.” Students will learn the fundamentals of atomic structure and the periodic table of elements, as well as scientific techniques related to experiments in liquid chromatography, osmosis, and more. Through making concoctions such as fruity popsicles and homemade whey, students will learn to savor the chemistry behind cooking. Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of the Scientific Method and cooking techniques, with beginner-level analysis of Chemistry concepts.

Prerequisites: Completion of Kitchen Chemistry 1 is recommended, but not required. Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to food and plant material. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! Math Explorers (1st – 3rd Grade) Nicole Endacott

Students in this class will go beyond basic grade level math standards by delving into more challenging concepts through hands-on, inquiry-based applications. They will practice and apply their knowledge of multiplication and division to word problems, step up their understanding of fractions and decimals, use patterns to make predictions, and discover real-world uses of their geometry and measurement skills. Mastery will be demonstrated through weekly assessments and a culminating project combining newly sharpened skills in geometry and graphing.

Prerequisites: Students should be strong in 1st grade math standards (adding, subtracting, basic understanding of fractions).


Mindfulness (5th-8th Grade) John Kneedler

In this class, students will learn and practice mindfulness, or the practice of bringing attention to our present moment experiences with openness and curiosity. Through a blend of experiential exercises and open discussion, students will learn tools to help navigate potential stresses and emotional reactivity in their daily lives, while also cultivating greater calm, ease, and compassion. Mindfulness is never truly mastered by even the most dedicated life-practitioner; however, students in this course will gain a strong foundation in the fundamentals, and through formal and informal exercise, bring greater mindfulness to their everyday activities.


NEW! Myths & Monsters (3rd-8th Grade) Grayson Kent

Cultures all around the globe feature fantastical creatures, including fire-breathing dragons, bizarre chimerical hybrids, quasi-humans, and multi-headed monstrosities. Behind the myth, however, there lies a kernel of truth based in biological fact. In Myth & Monsters, we will separate fact from fantasy as we uncover the real-world origins and scientific explanations behind some of the world’s best-known mythical beasts. Mastery will be demonstrated through class participation and group discussion, including morphological comparisons between creatures.


NEW! Physics Lab (3rd- 8th Grade) Nicole Endacott

Transform academic physics knowledge into deep understanding through participation in hands-on experiments and activities! Students will enrich their understanding of Newton’s Laws of motion, energy, thermodynamics, and more by designing their own experiments, gathering and interpreting data, and witnessing the laws of physics in action. In each class, they might observe the conservation of energy by collecting data about a pendulum’s motion or learn about simple machines by building their own and testing its mechanical advantage. Lab activities will be engaging, relevant, inquiry-based, and memorable for any budding physicist! Mastery will be demonstrated through the completion of an instructor-guided lab report of student findings from a thermodynamics experiment.

Prerequisites: Students should be able to follow a lab procedure and record their results in writing. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Primary Math (K-2nd) Nicole Endacott

This class is for advanced kindergarten through second grade students who are excited to dig deeper into the world of math. Students will have all their math questions answered and use a creative, inquiry-based approach to become experts in topics such as fractions, graphing, measurement, place values, multiplication and division, order of operations, and mathematical reasoning. Mastery will be demonstrated by an ability to explain one of the concepts covered in a creative, thorough way to the rest of the class.

Pre-requisites: Students should feel confident with addition, subtraction, and recording their answers.


Programming with Python (4th-8th Grade) Chris Bradfield

Learning to code is learning how to solve problems. In this course we will explore the basic concepts of computer programming – algorithms, loops, conditional statements, etc. – using the popular Python language. Emphasis will be placed not just on the code, but the *why* behind the code, setting a strong foundation for future growth.  Students will learn how to manipulate numbers and text, draw images on the screen, and create a variety of fun projects like games and animations.  Mastery will be demonstrated through understanding of fundamental programming concepts and

familiarity with Python language syntax.


NEW! STEM Building I (2nd-4th Grade) with Nicole Endacott

Practice creativity, collaboration, and innovation all through exciting building challenges! Students will construct and test, then improve upon, products such as ramps, parachutes, and marble runs. These challenges will be integrated with introductory physics concepts including momentum, Newton’s laws of motion, and the conservation of energy. Mastery will be demonstrated by students’ ability to independently and collaboratively follow the engineering design process to improve upon a product of their own creation.

Pre-requisites: All students should be able to use scissors and other building materials safely and responsibly. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! STEM Building II (5th-8th Grade) with Nicole Endacott

Students will hone their engineering skills by building, testing, and improving upon their original designs for marble runs, bridges, catapults, and more! We will use the engineering design process, integrated with more advanced physics topics and quantitative testing, to create products that meet specific guidelines and accomplish a task. By the end of the course, students will have developed their creativity and engineering intuition and be equipped with ideas to keep building at home! Mastery will be demonstrated by completion of a final independent STEM challenge where students will invent a structure to accomplish a specific task assigned to them, then show they can test and improve upon this product.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


The Study of Star Wars I: The Hero’s Journey (2nd-8th Grade) Ellen Brown

“Everyone is the hero in his or her own myth,” wrote Joseph Campbell. Come and join us in this unique class as we explore the concept of the hero’s journey by following in the steps of Luke Skywalker, through text and film. Students will learn about the narrative structure of the hero’s journey, discuss themes, explore underlying ethics and morals, analyze characters and their actions and, throughout the course, appreciate that we all go through the journey of life, learning from mentors, facing obstacles and celebrating triumphs. Mastery will be demonstrated through creative projects in writing, art, and performance.


NEW! Thinking Toolbox: Pre-Logic and Reasoning (K-2nd) Alessandra Santucci

The abilities to observe, recognize, and describe characteristics; distinguish similarities and differences; and identify and complete sequences and classifications are the building blocks of critical thinking. This class is designed to expose students to pre-logic and reasoning through accessible and fun activities. Topics throughout the course will allow students to make connections, think critically, and reason inferentially. The skills developed and practiced throughout the class will continue to serve students across all academic disciplines.


NEW! Yoga and Mindfulness Practices (3rd-6th Grade) Alessandra Santucci

Specifically designed for younger students, this course presents a fun and engaging approach to a practice in mindfulness and yoga. Students will engage through games, yoga asanas, movement and activities within five main themes – Connect, Breathe, Move, Focus, Relax.  This practice provides students with access to tools to cool down, focus, and navigate stressors without becoming overwhelmed, while supporting body awareness, well-being, and empowerment.


Zoology (3rd-8th Grade) Grayson Kent

Ever wondered what makes cheetahs run so fast? Ever pondered why deer sport antlers? Ever wanted to know how blue whales arrived to be the biggest animal that’s ever existed? In this class, students will explore animals, extinct and extant, on an anatomical, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary level, while interacting with real fossils, and animal artifacts. From the secrets of animal sensory systems to the evolutionary arms race between predator and prey to the science of flight, get ready to delve deeply into the wonders of the animal kingdom. Mastery will be demonstrated through active class participation and group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.

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