Academy Courses

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


Winter 2017 Courses

New! Board Game Design and Strategy (5th -8th grade) 

Instructor: Chris Bradfield

This is not your father’s Monopoly game! In this class we will use a variety of award-winning and intellectually stimulating games such as “Settlers of Catan”, “Coup”, “Power Grid”, “7 Wonders”, “Roll Through the Ages” to explore the concepts of strategy, problem solving, and negotiation. Students will be challenged not just to learn the rules and structures of a particular game, but to analyze how that game was designed and how to think about game systems. Mastery will be demonstrated through assessing play strategy and adapting systems to create new game concepts.


 New! Brain Anatomy and the Optic Nerve (5th -8th grade)

Instructor: Kunal Gogna

The optic tract is one of the most studied and understood neuronal circuits, most likely because it involves one of our main senses: vision. In this class, students will explore the wonder and science of sight through an introduction to the basic structures and functions of the brain. Through hands on modelling, students will see in 3 dimensions how complex and immersive our brain is; and, more importantly, how much there is that scientists still do not know today! Once students have learned the anatomical terms to describe parts of the brain and what functions they are responsible they will explore a ‘closed circuit’, specifically, the optic tract. Mastery will be demonstrated through student’s ability to identify and describe the basic structures and functions of the brain and its role in how we see the world.


Building with Electrical Circuits (4th-8th grade)

Instructor: Tony Travouillon

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.


Chemistry Lab (3nd-8th Grade)

Instructor: Doug Duquette

In this exciting class students will examine the interactions of matter at the molecular and atomic levels, often using common substances that may be found in their own kitchens. Emphases are on hands-on experience with both common and specialized materials and tools, organization of thought using the appropriate technical vocabulary, and practicing systematic observation habits. Major topics include: chemical versus physical changes, acid-base interactions, and biopolymers.  Mastery will be demonstrated through lab work and quizzes.


New! Choose your own Astronomy Adventure (4th-8th grade)

Instructor: Tony Travouillon

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?”


New! The Circles Behind Songs: An Exploration of the Trigonometry in Music (6th-8th graders and mature/motivated younger students)

Instructor: Neelesh Tiruviluamala

A musical tone is a steady and periodic sound that our brain parses through the vibrations of our eardrums.  The harmonies created by choirs and orchestras are the result of many waves of different frequencies and amplitudes combining to create intricate repeating patterns on our eardrums.  The study of the synthesis and decomposition of rich wave forms is aptly known as harmonic analysis in the mathematical community. The fact that musicians can easily identify the notes in chords is astounding: their brains are carrying out the equivalent of complicated calculus computations.  The goal of this class is to explain the basic connection between the curves introduced in a trigonometry class and the sounds that we hear.  To do this properly, we will need to learn some basic concepts from complex analysis and geometry (in order to understand the circles in the course title).  This course will use music as its primary motivator, but it will at its heart be a tour of beautiful mathematics (i.e. this is a math course). Mastery will be demonstrated through class participation, small take-­home assignments, and occasional quizzes.

Prerequisites: Students will ideally have completed, or should have some exposure to, Algebra I.


New! The Family Dynamic in Modern Dramatic Literature (5th -8th grade)

Instructor: Julie Daniels

As perhaps the quintessential dramatists of the modern theatre, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee celebrate the unique and powerful ways we all relate to one another in our families. In this course, we will explore the similarities and distinctive differences that characterize the familial frameworks found within the stories of these authors and other great playwrights including Tennessee Williams, Lorraine Hansberry, Lillian Hillman, and Lynne Nottage. Through reading, discussion, and writing, we will identify the dramatic craft conventions that make up this popular form of writing, while discovering the complexities that shape one’s identity within the context of the family circle. In-class writing prompts will help set the stage for group dialogue inspired by the queries posed by plot and characters such as Emily, who in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town states, “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Does anybody realize what life is while they’re living it… every, every minute?”  Mastery will be demonstrated through crafting our own short plays based on the concepts that we have studied.

Prerequisites: Ability to read and write at a 6th grade level.


Forensics Fun! (3rd-8th grade)

Instructor: Doug Duquette

Over the course of this class, students will become modern day forensic scientists and detectives. Utilizing forensic science techniques along with the powers of observation and deductive reasoning, they will work to find the criminals in this fun-filled, action-packed class. Students will learn how to extract and analyze DNA, fingerprints, fibers, footprints, and other evidence from our fictitious crime scenes! Concepts covered in this class include DNA restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) via electrophoresis, punnet squares and genealogy maps for determining lineage, paper chromatography, and microscopy!

Prerequisites: Students should have some basic understanding of probabilities. Basic or non-scientific calculators will be helpful.


New! How to Save the World: Extreme Ecosystems & Survival (3rd-8th grade)

Instructor: Toby Jacobrown

Students 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.They will take a survey of the most encouraging and cutting-edge developments in biology, ecology and medicine. They will look for clues in the history of life’s greatest disasters–and how life has recovered. They will take a survey of the most encouraging and cutting-edge developments in biology, ecology and medicine. Through researching the past and present, they will brainstorm plans for the future and identify ways we can encourage and advocate for changes that could really make a difference. Prepare to have a scientific comeback for any gloomy outlook on the world! Mastery will be demonstrated through creating a comprehensive solution model, whether with revolutionary medicine, sustainable ecosystems, or utopian technology.


New! Introduction to Fiction Writing (3rd-5th grade)

Instructor: Julie Daniels

I took the road less traveled by, and it has made all the difference— Robert Frost

You take the same route to class each day, right?  But today you will take a different path. Suddenly the street you’re walking down is gone, and in its place is a forest inhabited by elves in orange tuxedos who have taken the place of your teacher! What do you think and feel about this? And more importantly what do you DO? When the ordinary becomes EXTRAORDINARY, that is the stuff of good fiction. In this introduction to creative writing, students will explore the fundamentals of the short story form. Each class will start with writing prompts and proceed with in-class reading assignments and discussion. As we discover the creative potential hidden within everyday situations (school, family life, hobbies, etc.) students will stretch their imagination and exercise their freedom to play on paper, both crucial elements of good fiction writing. Mastery will be demonstrated with a final short story and a visual collage of images and writings based on the concepts that we have studied throughout the course.


Kitchen Chemistry (K-2nd grade)

Instructor: Alka Kumar

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.


Mammalogy (2nd-8th grade)

Instructor: Grayson Kent

After the extinction of the dinosaurs over 65 million years ago, it was the mammals that inherited the Earth. From humble beginnings, they have diversified into a myriad of species. This class will take allow students to gain a better understanding of mammals, extinct and extant, on an anatomical, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary level, while interacting with real fossils and animal artifacts. Mastery will be demonstrated through active class participation/group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.


Marine Biodiversity (2nd-4th grade)

Instructor: Grayson Kent

The oceans cover the majority of our planet and are inhabited by a menagerie of amazing animals, each species with its own unique evolutionary history. This class will take allow students to gain a better understanding of marine animals, extinct and extant, on an anatomical, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary level, while interacting with real fossils and animal artifacts. Mastery will be demonstrated through active class participation/group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.


 New! Math Mysteries (3rd-5th grade)

Instructor: Christina Seto

What do math and mysteries have in common? Both use algorithms and context clues to solve problems based on logic and reasoning. In this class students will be introduced to key math concepts that deepen our understanding of the world through deciphering patterns and reasoning. Through word problems and hands-on activities, students will explore geometric patterns, probability, statistics, and formal logic. Students will strengthen their abilities to recognize patterns in order to create and solve their own mysteries in the forms of coded messages and language puzzles. Mastery of specific math skills will be demonstrated through successful completion of in-class assessments and a final project created by using encryption, decryption, and language reasoning.

Prerequisites: Strong understanding of multiplication and division. (Not required but any previous experience with probability will be useful, as well as an enthusiasm for puzzle-solving)


Microbiology (K-2nd grade) 

Instructor: Alka Kumar

This course is designed for curious students who would like to learn, explore and gain in depth knowledge on microbiology of various pathogens. It will take students on a journey of commonly found infectious diseases, their transmission and spread, types of microbes, how they grow and multiply! There are microbes everywhere--it is microbes that turn milk into cheese, make bread rise, and live in the stomach where they help digest food. Students will learn about the structure and function of useful and harmful microbes, how microbes spread and divide, and the importance of prevention! Mastery will be demonstrated by direct feedback, question and answer sessions, reflections, quizzes, and a visual poster presentation.


Mindfulness for Gifted Tweens (5th -8th grade)

Instructor: Linnea Pyne

Mindfulness is the practice of learning how to experience life from moment to moment with curiosity and acceptance. The practice serves as a tool, a kind of “microscope,” to observe oneself and one’s world with open-ended interest, much like a scientist would! In this class, specifically designed for gifted and high potential children, we will learn how to pay greater attention to both our internal and external experiences in order to find more ease and self-regulation. Mindfulness practice will include games, music, guided visualization, discussion, reflection, and group interaction; all aimed at helping gifted students to improve relationships, enhance focus, reduce stress, and manage reactions and emotions. It is a wonderful antidote for young people who may feel challenged by a complicated and stimulating world.


New! Plant Anatomy (K-2nd grade)

Instructor: Alka Kumar

You probably know that plants undergo Photosynthesis and make food. But did you know that an army of cells carryout special functions and take nutrition from dirt to make flowers? Flowering plants are grouped into 2 categories – monocots and dicots, which have special structure and functions. They breathe like us, they have veins like us, and there are veins in stems too! Come explore, learn and discover the vascular systems of plants, and you will be amazed by how much they can do and how important they are for our survival. Students will do a variety of botany lab experiments on the separation of plant pigments and will learn the structures on cross-sections of roots, stems and leaves. They will investigate photosynthesis and leaf stomata, factors that affect seed germination and effects of light on plant growth. Students will not only study slides, but make their own, and will even get to make their own indoor Hydroponic garden. Student assessment will be based on direct feedback, question and answer sessions, reflections, quizzes. Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of scientific methods, lab work, and the construction of poster presentations and craft projects.

Prerequisites: Any medical allergies or sensitivity to plant and plant materials should be notified to IEA staff and teacher.


Programming with Python (4th-8th grade)

Instructor: Chris Bradfield

Learning to code is learning how to solve problems. 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.

Prerequisite: Basic typing ability.


New! Stealing from the Masters: Playwriting and Screenwriting like the Greats (5th -8th grade)

Instructor: 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.


The Study of Star Wars I: A Hero’s Journey! (2nd-8th grade)

Instructor: 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 as well as through the opportunity to write about being a Jedi Knight.


The Study of Star Wars II: Perspectives in Narrative (3rd-8th grade)

Instructor: Ellen Brown

While the characters within the Star Wars universe are beloved, household names, they can also teach us excellent lessons in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and tolerance of others. As Jean Rousseau said, “Everyone has their reasons.” Using the recent addition to the franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and clips from the other Star Wars films, students will examine perspective and point of view within the Star Wars universe, analyzing conflicts within the plot through the varied perspectives of multiple characters, and engaging in class discussion and debate. Mastery will be demonstrated through participation and argumentation in a final class debate, and a multi-perspective creative writing exercise. Class can be taken in conjunction to Star Wars I: The Hero’s Journey, or separately.


New! The Ultimate Guide to Predators (5th -8th grade)

Instructor: Grayson Kent

No animals evoke a sense of wonder and fear as the world’s greatest carnivores. From the domesticated hunting beasts we keep as pets to the toothy killers of the prehistoric past, get ready to learn the ins and outs of being a meat-eater. This class will allow students to gain a better understanding of predatory animals, extinct and extant, on an anatomical, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary level, while interacting with real fossils, animal artifacts, and live reptiles. Mastery will be demonstrated through active class participation/group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.

Prerequisites: This class includes up-close interactions with live animals. If have you any animal-related allergies or phobias, or are otherwise uncomfortable handling/being around reptiles, please let the instructor know.


New! The Universe of Lewis Carrol: Mathematics, Literature, and the Imagination (2nd-6th grade)

Instructor: Alessandra Santucci

Lewis Carroll is probably best known for his immortal Alice books, yet as a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, his diverse interests ranged from inventing games like ‘arithmetical croquet’, to symbolic logic and propositional calculus. In this class, students will explore Lewis Carroll’s mathematical recreations, games, puzzles, paradoxes, riddles, and word plays. Through examination of his fiction, verse, diary entries, and letters, students will work to discover, evaluate, and solve puzzles and problems; analyze paradoxes; and test rules. This is an interdisciplinary class in literary analysis, creative writing, and mathematics. Students will consolidate their understanding by developing their own puzzles, problems, poems, and games. Mastery will be demonstrated through thoughtful development of a short work of fiction, incorporating similar mathematical games, riddles, and word play.

Prerequisites: Students must be comfortable reading both independently and aloud. Students should have had exposure to fractions and variables and understand Order of Operations. Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group.


New! World Literature (5th-8th grade) 

Instructor: Yesenia Vargas

This course will introduce students to a selection of classical and modern literary works from various parts of the world. Students will analyze and discuss each work in their respective socio-historical contexts and to understand the impact of various factors, ranging from generation to religion. Equally important will be for students to explore literary background, the work’s impact, and how the story has traveled and changed over time. Mastery will be demonstrated through students’ critical engagement in group discussion on major cultural landmarks and sensitivity to cultural diversity through a study of global literature. Students will also be required to give a presentation on a story not discussed in class, the topic previously cleared with the instructor.


A World of Science (K-2nd Grade)

Instructor: Summer Ebs

In this exciting class, students will be introduced to what it means to be a scientist and to see, understand, and explore science in the world around us. Students will engage in scientific labs and field studies to develop their observational and their laboratory skills. One of the main goals of the course is to develop each student’s sense of curiosity while presenting them with the tools used by scientists to explore. Each week of the course will be spent surveying a major branch of the sciences: chemistry, physics, and biology. Mastery will be demonstrated in a student lab journal where students will record their observations and analyze data.

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