Academy Courses

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


Summer 2017 Courses

Algebra Applications (4th – 8th grade) Nicole Endacott

(Session 3: July 24-August 4)

Students will enrich their current algebra knowledge and look ahead into future curriculum by learning through hands-on methods that focus on real-life application. This course will encourage students to apply their strengthened understanding of linear relationships to graphically and mathematically predict results of scientific experimental-based questions. Since physical and life science material is deeply rooted in math concepts such as dimension analysis, linear formulas, and ratios, students will become more advanced in and prepared for both mathematics and science courses in the future. Mastery will be demonstrated through the formation of accurate predictions based on linear relationships between two variables in specific experimental situations.

Pre-requisites:  Background knowledge of and success in most algebra concepts, especially plotting coordinates and lines given a formula and determining the slope and y-intercept given either a formula or graph. Should also be able to carefully follow an experimental procedure and work well in groups.


Algorithms for Beginners (1st-3rd Grade) Nathalie Blume

(Session 1: June 12-23 and Session 2: July 10-21)

Algorithms are step-by-step descriptions of how to get from state A to state B using a certain set of resources. They are widely used in computer science and in bioinformatics, they frame research in psychology and in zoology, and they are what allows robots to move, search engines to search, and AIs to be autonomous. In this class, young learners will practice identifying algorithms in nature and in technology, and will be encouraged to think up their own algorithms to explain the world around them. Students will be taught early coding principles that do not require much reading, writing or typing, but that give them a solid base for future learning. Mastery will be demonstrated by the ability to observe an animal’s or a machine’s performance and to describe that performance step-by-step either in narrative form or in pseudo-code.


Ancient Egypt: Arts & Innovation (2nd-5th Grade) Alessandra Santucci

(Session 2: July 10-21)

Majestic pyramids, grandiose temples, golden treasures, hieroglyphs, pharaohs, gods, and mummies are features of Ancient Egyptian culture that have fascinated people for thousands of years. Through an experiential journey across 3,000 years of history, students will explore the world of ancient Egypt, see how it developed and why it came to an end. The rich and vibrant history of ancient Egypt will be examined through culture, customs, religion, politics, art and texts. Through their journey students will create papyrus; paint and decipher hieroglyphs; build a sarcophagus; and more. Mastery will be demonstrated though completion of mini-projects, active participation in group discussions, and ongoing assessments of historical understanding.

Pre-requisites: Students should be comfortable reading both independently and aloud. Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group and participating in group discussion. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Brain Function: Zooming In to Cells and Out to Systems (3rd-5th Grade) Nathalie Blume

(Session 2: July 10-21)

This walk through the science of the brain will take us from phenomena that play out in single cells all the way to behaviors that rely on the integration of information across major cognitive systems. We will zoom in and out from cell to system as we learn about several of the major functions of the brain: vision, attention, language, memory, and thinking. As we progress, we will learn about a broad variety of methods that help us understand the brain, and we will survey the work of medical doctors, psychologists, zoologists, and cell biologists. This is a course for kids who want to try their hand at scientific investigation and who would like to practice researching and presenting material to the class on their own, with the instructor’s guidance. Mastery will be demonstrated by the ability to use specialized terminology to describe major cognitive functions and their anatomic substrates, and by the presentation of the student’s own readings and hands-on experiments about cognitive function to the class. Please note that as we investigate brain functionality and anatomy, some sensitive topics may be introduced. While these concepts will be discussed with sensitivity and age-appropriateness, please contact an IEA staff member should you have any questions about course content.

Pre-requisites: Students must be able to read short paragraphs independently.  Required texts: My First Book About the Brain by Donald M. Silver and Patricia Wynne, available on Amazon for $3.50. ISBN-13: 978-048649084


Building with Electrical Circuits (4th-8th Grade) Tony Travouillon

(Session 2: July 10-21)

This introduction to electrical circuits will cover the basics of electricity and the main components that are used in everyday electronics. Not only will students learn the function of resistances, capacitors and transistors, they will also be introduced to how they work and the physics behind them. By building our own, we will learn how to make practical circuits, ranging from motion detectors, light arrays and whatever the imagination will allow us. Mastery will be demonstrated by the construction of a working radio to be taken home at the end of the session. Electrical safety will also be addressed on the first day.

Prerequisites: Basic understanding of multiplication, division, and calculator use. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Choose Your Own Astronomy Adventure (2nd-8th Grade) Tony Travouillon

(Session 1: June 12-23)

In this class students will be empowered to learn about their favorite topics of astronomy and to study them in greater depth than ever before. During the first class, students will vote to explore one topic per week from a list of over 20 including: Exoplanets, The Sun, The Kuiper belt, Modern Observatories, Cosmology, Dark Matter and many more! This customized format will allow each student a chance to delve into their favorite subjects while learning how to access the latest research done in astronomy. Mastery will be demonstrated through responses to weekly questions that require research skills and logical deductions. The final class will culminate in a group debate on the eternal question: “Are we alone in the Universe?”


Dissolving Boundaries: The Intersection of Poetry & Art (6th-8th Grade) Meg Shevenock

(Session 2: July 10-21)

Many artists are poets and many poets are artists, despite a cultural tendency to view these identities as separate. For example, the envelope poems by Emily Dickinson reveal a deliberate artistic composition that goes beyond mere language, as evinced by Dickinson’s attention to composition through line, space, folds and more. Conversely, many artists such as Ann Hamilton place language at the center of their work with a resonance we call “poetic.” Still other times we find an unintentional art or poetry in surprising places, such as the beautifully weathered papyrus housing fragments by Sappho. In this class we will explore artists and writers who seamlessly merge their classified genres, sometimes through conceptual works, other times through concrete language or sculpture. We will explore how poetry and art can exist one inside the other, proving such distinctions, ultimately, limit rather than expand the work. Mastery will be demonstrated through students’ understanding of basic poetic terms, conceptual and language based art, and a completion of individual works (handwritten, collage, and more) inspired by the artists, writers and concepts discussed in the course.


Genes & Genetics (4th– 8th Grade) Nicole Endacott

(Session 3: July 24-August 4)

This class will provide students with knowledge of genetics through an overview of the history of the study of inheritance, a discussion of the origins of genetic variation and diversity, analysis of experimental results, and real-life applications and observations. Students will learn how to predict the results of a cross as well as determine the parental genotypes from observing the phenotypes of the offspring. Finally, we will discuss modern genetic technologies and their implications for the future. Mastery will be demonstrated by accurate predictions and conclusions based on genetic data, fluency in genetic terminology, and an understanding of both the positive implications and potential problems associated with genetic engineering techniques.

Pre-requisites: Students must be comfortable with higher levels of probability math problems and general knowledge of DNA as the mechanism for inheritance.


How’d It Do That? Algorithms in Nature and Technology (3rd-5th Grade) Nathalie Blume

(Session 3: July 24-August 4)

Algorithms rule across science and technology! Explore a variety of algorithms that describe animal behavior (e.g. insect navigation; human chess playing) and that govern computer science programs (e.g. shortest routes; sorting). Then have fun imagining what you could do with algorithms! The goals of the course includes learning what makes an algorithm good, what professions and endeavors use algorithms, and how to express, describe and implement algorithms (including introducing students to simple programming statements). This course introduces students to a range of subjects including programming, zoology, psychology, and robotics. Mastery will be demonstrated by the student’s classroom presentation of an algorithmic analysis of animal behavior. This work will be based on course concepts as well as on the student’s readings and observations.


How to Save the World (3rd-8th Grade) Toby Jacobrown

(Session 1: June 12-23)

Prepare to have a scientific comeback for any gloomy outlook on the world. In this course we will look at extreme and bizarre ecosystems to see how life survives against the greatest odds, and discuss how we can apply those concepts to the challenges ahead. We will look for clues in the history of life’s greatest disasters–and how life has recovered. We will take a survey of the most encouraging and cutting-edge developments in biology, ecology and medicine. Through researching the past and present, we will brainstorm plans for the future and identify ways we can encourage and advocate for changes that could really make a difference. Mastery will be demonstrated through creating a comprehensive solution model, whether with revolutionary medicine, sustainable ecosystems, or utopian technology.  This class requires a $25 materials fee.


How to Write Scripts Like the Greats (4th-8th Grade) Toby Jacobrown

(Session 1: June 12-23)

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.


Illustration for Stories and Books (1st-3rd Grade) Alessandra Santucci

(Session 1: June 12-23)

When artists illustrate stories and books, they are creating something called Narrative Illustration. This is any image that tells or augments a story. It can add to a reader’s interpretation and overall experience of a story. This class focuses on examining methods to build an effective narrative image. Students will start with a study of foundational drawing tools and techniques. Observational drawing practice will provide an opportunity to practice drawing realistic representations of people, animals, and objects. However, successful narrative illustrators don’t just draw, they need to read too! In order to create engaging illustrations, students will be reading short stories, and identifying imagery and any feelings evoked by the story. The stories will guide student artwork and the techniques employed to create successful visual representations.  Classwork will challenge students to create their own narrative drawings by using the skills learned, as they find their own artistic style.  Mastery will be demonstrated through presentation of no less than three full-color illustrations for a selected piece of literature. Students may also choose to illustrate an original story.

Pre-requisites: Students should be comfortable reading both independently and aloud. Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group and participating in group discussion. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


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

(Session 1: June 12-23 and Session 3: July 24-August 4)

The brain is a window into an amazing array of behaviors and a broad set of scientific fields. Explore the many functions of the brain through models, hands-on experiments, and low-impact reading and writing work. We will examine the anatomy of the central nervous system from cells to pathways by using augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), 3D models and a variety of graphics. We will test our own human reflexes, visual perception, and working memory. We will take a peek at the diversity of brain types across the animal kingdom and we will contrast how people and other animals communicate, solve problems and find their way around. 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, the pathways that support this work, and the methods that are used to study these pathways. Please note that as we investigate brain functionality and anatomy, some sensitive topics may be introduced. While these concepts will be discussed with sensitivity and age-appropriateness, please contact an IEA staff member should you have any questions about course content.

Required texts: My First Book About the Brain by Donald M. Silver and Patricia Wynne, available on Amazon for $3.50. ISBN-13: 978-048649084


Intro to Physics(1st-3rd Grade) Instructor: Summer Ebs

In this class, students will be introduced to some basic laws of physics through hands-on projects and experiments. Students will discuss and debate the different sources of energy that can be converted into electricity and they will conduct experiments to determine the effects of momentum on collisions. Students will engage in demonstrations of Newton’s three laws of motion, and they will discover how to do sciencephysics style!


Math and Chemistry for Cooking Part 1 and 2 (5th-8th Grade) Alex Romero

(Session 1: June 12-23)

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, and approaching these subjects in a quantitative manner. Basic concepts covered will include atomic structure, the periodic nature of the elements, acids/bases, solubility, chemical reactions, catalysis, taste, nutrition, and recipe design. Students will regularly use basic math skills to perform relevant calculations and make experimental predictions. In addition, through a series of hands on experiments, students will learn principles of experimental design and data analysis. Last but not least, students will apply their knowledge of math and chemistry to design and experimentally optimize a wide variety of recipes.

Prerequisites: Students must take both Part 1 and 2 of Math and Chemistry for Cooking. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Mindfulness (4th-8th Grade) John Kneedler

(Session 1: June 12-23)

this class, students will learn about and practice mindfulness, or and the practice of paying attention to our present moment experiences with openness and curiosity. Through a blend of experiential exercises and open discussion, students will begin to learn a set of tools to use to help navigate potential stresses and emotional reactivity in their lives while also beginning to cultivate greater calm, ease, and compassion.  Ideally, students will leave the course having been exposed to many practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday lives. Mastery statement: Mindfulness is a skill that has no mastery, even for people that have been practicing for a long time! We are constantly discovering new things about our present moment experiences. This class is aimed at understanding the fundamentals of mindfulness practice, through both formal practices and by informally bringing more mindfulness into everyday activities.


Mosaic Elements: An Artistic Application of Euclidian Geometry (3rd-8th Grade) Alessandra Santucci

(Session 2: July 10-21)

This interdisciplinary class presents fundamental techniques in creating mosaic art, combined with practical application of geometrical theorems and concepts. Utilizing ceramic, glass and stone tiles, and found objects students will plan and create mosaic designs. Throughout the process, students will evaluate designs and materials geometrically, apply theorems, and calculate the materials required for each project. Students will be evaluating and solving for the area of linear, composite, and curved 2-dimensional shapes–extending students will begin to design and evaluate for 3-dimensional objects. Mastery will be demonstrated through presentation of thoughtfully developed mosaic designs, ongoing assessment of independent practice, and evaluation of consistency between calculated need for materials and materials used.

Prerequisites: Students must be able to multiply and divide multi-digit numbers accurately and independently, and have had exposure to pre-algebra. Students must be comfortable reading independently and aloud. Students must be comfortable presenting their work to a group and participating in group discussion and critique.  This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Ocean Exploration (1st-3rd Grade – Session 3; 4th-8th Grade – Session 2) Nicole Endacott

(Session 2: July 10-21 and Session 3: July 24-August 4)

This class is for any future marine biologists, oceanographers, or any student who wants to learn more about the oceans that cover most of our planet. This course will go beyond what is typically taught in schools to allow students to do case studies of unique marine animals, explore the causes and patterns of waves and tides, stay updated with the most recent ocean discoveries, and learn to identify some of the most common organisms seen along the California coast. Additionally, students will enforce any previous knowledge of food webs, animal adaptations, climate, and interpreting graphs and data. Mastery will be demonstrated by the student’s choice of a final project that informs the rest of the class about a specific and relevant ocean topic.

Pre-requisites: Good reading skills and an interest in ocean science.


Poetry & Drama Workshop (2nd-6th Grade) Ellen Brown and Anita Russell

(Session 1: June 12-23)

Veteran IEA teacher Ellen Brown and collaborator Anita Russell will lead a workshop of poetry (appreciation, composing, performing) and drama (theater games, improv). Types of poetry include Haiku, cinquain, free verse, limerick and others. Drama exercises will include theater games and improvisational skits.  At times the whole class will be together, and at other times they will be divided between the two teachers. Mastery will be shown by the making of a book of personal poetry written during the workshop and a final skit to be performed in class.


STEM Building (3rd – 8th Grade) Nicole Endacott

(Session 2: July 10-21)

This class will allow students to draw conclusions about complex physics concepts by designing, building, and testing structures according to many different challenges. For example, students will learn about aerodynamics by comparing paper airplane designs, acceleration and air resistance by measuring the drop time for various parachute designs, and momentum by building a structure to protect an egg from a two-story fall. This course will allow students to not only enforce math skills and new NGSS engineering standards, but also to channel their creativity and practice collaboration and teamwork. 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.

Pre-requisites: Strong multiplication skills, ability to collaborate in teams, creativity, and interest in the course material. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Woodcut & Woodblock Printing: Origins, History, & Techniques (4th-8th Grade) Alessandra Santucci

(Session 2: July 10-21)

This class will focus on the history of Woodcut from its pre-origins in Mesopotamia and Egypt, to its origins and development in Asia, through to its use and popularity in Europe. Students will study and discuss the works of Woodcut artists and engravers, such as Hokusai, Campagnola, Dürer, Doré, Beardsley and Escher. Woodcut and printmaking techniques will be presented, and students will be carving linoleum and EZ-Cut blocks, using linoleum cutters, for printing on textiles and paper.  Through replication of various artistic movements through history, students will have the opportunity to hone their printmaking skills. Students will express their knowledge and creativity through exploration and development of their own personal styles and themes. Successful presentation and critique of student Woodcut prints, including thoughtful discussion of the styles employed, and comparison and contrast with other artists.

Prerequisites: Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group and participating in group discussion and critique. Students must be able to responsibly use sharp carving instruments. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


World of Code (1st-3rd Grade) Nathalie Blume

(Session 1: June 12-23 and Session 3: July 24-August 4)

Learn the early building blocks of programming. We will use the curriculum to learn about the concepts of a program, a loop, a conditional, a class attribute and a method. Kodable provides a visual learning environment that is fun as well as accessible to beginner students. The visual coding environment is supplemented with exercises that introduce students to lines of code and to the use of the keyboard. The concepts we will explore are compatible with most programming languages and the vocabulary we will use is most closely aligned with JavaScript. This class will give students a foundation to learn to program but it will not teach students fluency in any specific language. Mastery will be demonstrated by progressing through the levels of the Kodable application.

Prerequisites: Students should be proficient in typing and comfortable operating a computer. Access to a personal laptop or tablet is required. Please let us know if you will be unable to supply your own.

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