Academy Courses

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


Spring 2017 Courses

Board Game Design and Strategy (4th -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! Buy Me That! A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Commercials (2nd-8th)

Instructor: 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! Dinosaurs (2nd-8th Grade)

Instructor: Grayson Kent

Get ready for an in-depth investigation of everything dinosaur! From the ancient world of 220 million years ago, to the staggering variety of dinosaur species, to the theories behind their demise, prepare to discover the secrets of these prehistoric titans. This class will challenge students to better understand dinosaurs on an anatomical, behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary level, while interacting with real fossils. Mastery will be demonstrated through hands-on observation of fossils, in-depth group discussion on animal behavior/morphology and evolutionary trends, and tests of acquired paleontological knowledge.


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

Instructor: Chris Bradfield

This class is an introduction to electronic circuits and the programming of microcontrollers. Students will learn about the basic components of circuit design (resistors, capacitors, etc.) and how they are used to create a variety of devices. Using the popular Arduino platform, students will learn how to build devices with lights, sensors, motors and more. Emphasis will be placed on how to read and understand standard design schematics, and build circuits to match. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of original circuits and functional codes that reflect understanding of components and schematic, and understanding of Arduino programming.

Prerequisites: Basic computer use and typing ability. Math level: pre-Algebra.


NEW! Food Chemistry (5th-8th)

Instructor: 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.  Though there will be some cooking in the class, this is primarily a chemistry class, 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.


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

Instructor: Toby Jacobrown

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.


NEW! How to Write Scripts 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.


NEW! Intro to Earth Science: Water Systems (3rd–8th grade)

Instructor: Mamadou Diallo

Water is the driving force of all nature—Leonardo da Vinci

In this introductory course, students will learn about water and its importance in sustaining life on Planet Earth. From blue water (freshwater in lakes, rivers and groundwater aquifers), to green water (water stored in soils) to grey water (polluted water and wastewater generated by individuals, households and corporations), we will explore the physical properties and cycles that make water the lifeblood of our planet. Through discussion and hands-on activities, students will strategize how to manage our global and individual water footprints; i.e.  “everything we use, wear, buy, sell and eat takes water to make”, and address important issues such as drought and flooding which face our local and global community. Mastery will be demonstrated by the completion of a creative final project based on the concepts outlined in the course.


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

Instructor: 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 taste, touch and smell 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.


Logic Detectives: An Introduction to Formal and Informal Logic (3rd-6th Grade)

Instructor: Alessandra Santucci

The abilities to observe, recognize, and describe characteristics; distinguish similarities and differences; and identify and complete sequences, classifications, and analogies are the building blocks of critical thinking. This class is designed to introduce younger students to formal and informal logic, making logic studies accessible and relevant to younger learners. Topics throughout the course will allow students to connect language to logic as they improve analytical and problem solving skills. Students will analyze arguments, analogies, and syllogisms; solve language and mathematical puzzles; and identify logical fallacies – extending students will begin to examine symbolic logic. The skills developed and practiced throughout the class will continue to serve students across all academic disciplines. Mastery in this class will be demonstrated through active participation in group problem solving, ongoing assessments of independent practice, and completion of a final project.

Prerequisites: Students must be comfortable reading independently and aloud. Students should have had some previous exposure to fractions.


Mindfulness for Gifted Tweens and Teens (3rd-8th Grade)

Instructor: John Kneedler

In this class, students will learn about and practice mindfulness, or 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, to become more aware of their life experiences.


NEW! Planetary Boundaries (5th -8th Grade)

Instructor: 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.


 NEW! Relief Printing II: Color Printing Techniques (2nd-4th Grade)

Instructor: Alessandra Santucci

This class will allow students to further develop relief printing skills through exploration of color printing techniques. Students will embark on deeper study and analysis of relevant styles and artists, focusing on Japanese artistic movements and the mathematically inspired works of MC Escher. Beginning with basic color printing techniques, students will progress to the use of multiple printing blocks, and may begin to practice carving soft printing pads.  Students will more fully explore the stages of the creative process, as they continue to develop personal styles and themes. Mastery will be demonstrated by/through… presentation and critique of thoughtfully developed student Woodcut prints, including detailed artist’s statements and comparison and contrast with relevant artists.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of the Relief Printing course or permission from instructor. Students should be comfortable presenting their work to a group and participating in group discussion and critique.


NEW!  The Study of Star Wars III: Awakening the Force (2nd-8th Grade)

Instructor: Ellen Brown

Students will explore the meaning of the FORCE in this new and exciting class sequel! We will learn lessons like those taught by Yoda, for example: Lightsaber moves; meditation; balance and agility exercises; exploration of the Force itself and how different cultures view similar theories. Mastery will be demonstrated by practicums on the exercises in the form of a Jedi Olympics in the last session.


NEW! World of Biology (K-3rd)

Instructor: Alka Kumar

Explore the science of life in this introductory Biology course! Students will use the fundamental principles of the Scientific Method to investigate the inner and outer workings of plants and animals, from structure to function, to growth and beyond. Dynamic lab experiments will offer creative, hands-on opportunities for practicing real-world science, inspiring answers to questions such as: “How do leaves make starch?”, “Why do bees sting?”, and “What can the DNA of a banana reveal about us?” Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of proper lab techniques and beginner-level analysis of Biology concepts.

Prerequisites: Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to plant material.


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. Mastery will be demonstrated in a series of investigations where students must demonstrate proper lab techniques and beginner level analysis.


NEW! World of Science II (K-2nd Grade) 

Instructor: Summer Ebs

In this second installment of The World of Science, students will continue to explore science in the world around them. This course will reinforce the basic science skills students learned in World of Science 1. Students will utilize these skills and develop their own scientific questions to conduct investigations in chemistry, earth science, physics, and biology.  Mastery will be demonstrated through personal observations and data analysis, which students will record in their lab journal.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of World of Science I course or permission from instructor.


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 the literary background of each work, its impact, and how the story has traveled and changed over time. Mastery will be demonstrated through students’ critical engagement in group discussion of major cultural landmarks and sensitivity to cultural diversity through a study of global literature. Students will be required to give a presentation on a story not discussed in class, the topic previously cleared with the instructor.


NEW! Zoology (3rd-8th)

Instructor: Grayson Kent

Earth is inhabited by a menagerie of amazing animals, each species with its own unique evolutionary history. In this class, students will explore 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 and group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.

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