Academy Courses

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


Spring 2018 Courses

Algebraic Chemistry (6th-8th Grade) Shangita Paul

Have you ever wondered how math can be used to describe the way the world works? This class uses algebra to quantitatively study the wonders of chemistry.  Students will study physical quantities, develop their math skills, and apply their newfound understanding of chemical phenomena to mathematical modeling. Conservation of mass will be a focus of this course, as well as the integration of quantitative, qualitative and statistical forms of analysis. Mastery will be demonstrated by solving math-based problems, completing a pre- and post- diagnostic, and developing a culminating project on the last day of class.

Prerequisites: Students must be comfortable multiplying and dividing and have some experience with fractions.


Brain Function: Zooming In to Cells and Out to Systems (5th-8th Grade) Nathalie Blume

This walk through brain science 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 look at select brain disorders, A.I. outcomes, and zoological contrasts in fields as diverse as vision, attention, language, memory, and thinking. 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. We will conduct a dissection experiment for comparison of an actual animal specimen to models and diagrams. In addition to our work together in the classroom, students will select a topic of interest and dive into its methods and applications to be presented at the end of the term. 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 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.


Buy Me That! A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Commercials (3rd-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.


Chemistry Lab (5-8 Grade) Shangita Paul

Students 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.


Dinosaurs (3rd-8th Grade) 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.


Electronics and Arduino I (4th-8th Grade) 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.

Pre-requisites: Basic computer use and typing ability. Math level: pre-Algebra I. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Forensic Science (3rd-5th Grade) Nicole Endacott  

This class will be held at Sierra Madre Elementary. All Academy students welcome!

If you’ve ever wanted to be a detective, forensic scientist, or criminal profiler, this class will allow you to act as all three on cases both fictional and notoriously real! In this hands-on and discussion-based course, students will learn about the scientific techniques used by forensic scientists and try some of these tests in the classroom! Through the power of observation, logical reasoning, scientific tests, and modern DNA technologies, students will learn how crimes are solved and test their own detective skills. Mastery will be shown through successful solving of a simulated case involving all skill types developed over the course of the session.

Pre-requisites: Though the material will be kept appropriate for the age range, students should be comfortable discussing crimes. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! How to Write a Great Movie (4th-8th Grade) Toby Jacobrown

Every great film starts with a great script.  To learn how to write a great movie, we are going to learn from the greats themselves: from Casablanca to Groundhog Day to Up.  We’ll look at classic screenplays, watch great scenes, and discuss the things that make them work. Every day we will write and develop our skills, learning the industry secrets for: standard format, structuring a compelling story, and writing natural dialogue. We’ll even learn the two-thousand-year-old formula that 95% of hit movies follow. We will see what classic plays can teach us about great drama, 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 readings of our completed short scripts.


NEW! Intro to Fiction Writing (4th-6th Grade) Mary Hong

In this introduction to creative writing, students will express their creativity and find their own voice through writing fiction.  We will learn the elements of the short story form, such as plot, character, point of view, and setting, by reading and analyzing stories of different genres.  Modeled after a college-level writing workshop, this course will give students opportunities to draft, revise, and critique each other’s works.  Students will also be expected to do some reading and work on their own story at home, therefore, students should be comfortable writing independently. Mastery will be demonstrated by the students writing and presenting a piece of short, original fiction to the class.


NEW! Intro to Robotics with Arduino (4th-8th Grade) Chris Bradfield

This class is an introduction to the exciting world of robotics. Using hands-on materials, students will learn how to use motors and sensors to create an autonomous wheeled robot. Emphasis will be placed on good engineering and construction practices. Once the robots are built, students will learn how to write robust programs that will bring their creations to life. Through a trial-and-error, “failure is fun” style of experimentation, they will explore the challenges faced by robots interacting with the real world. Mastery will be demonstrated through the understanding and use of the function of robotic components (motors, sensors, etc.), application of learning to construction and programming challenges, and proficiency with C-language programming as applied to robotics operation.

Pre-requisites: Electronics/Arduino 1 or equivalent experience.

This class requires a $70 materials fee for the purchase of the take-home robotics kit.


NEW! Intro to Web Design (4th-6th Grades) with Alessandra Santucci

This class will introduce students to basic web design and coding. Throughout the course, students will learn the basics of planning and designing effective web pages. From a foundation of basic web design principles, students will implement web pages by writing HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and CSS code (Cascading Style Sheets) to produce a functional, multi-page website. Students will recognize and understand HTML web page elements; enhance web pages using text formatting, color, graphics, and images; understand the role of CSS in formatting and layout; and understand and successfully apply design principles. Mastery will be demonstrated by successful production of a functional, multi-page website demonstrating good use of layout techniques, text formatting, color, graphics, and images.

Pre-requisites: Students should have a basic knowledge of the Internet and general understanding of how to use a computer and manage files. Students should be able to navigate to and within a website using a web browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari.

Access to a personal laptop is required. Please let us know if you will be unable to supply your own.


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.

Pre-requisites: 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.


Mammalogy (3rd-8th Grade) 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 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 and group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.


Marine Biodiversity (3rd-8th Grade) 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 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 and group discussion, including detailed morphological comparisons between species, observations of animal behavior, and written assessments of acquired zoological knowledge.


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, including dragons, unicorns, Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, werewolves, Pokemon, and more. Mastery will be demonstrated through hands-on observation of fossils and animal artifacts, in-depth group discussion on cultural beliefs, and tests of acquired knowledge.


NEW! Once Upon a Time: Fairy Tales Through the Ages, Level 1 (1st-3rd Grade) Mary Hong

Why do we read fairy tales, and what do they mean?  We will read fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, explore their common elements, and discuss their different interpretations.  We will also look at recent adaptations of classic fairy tales.  Through the study of fairy tales, students will work on their reading, analysis, grammar, writing, and presentation skills. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation and oral presentation of a fairy tale to the class.

Prerequisites: Students must be able to read at a second-grade level.


NEW! Once Upon a Time:  Fairy Tales Through the Ages, Level 2 (4th-6th Grade) Mary Hong

Students in this class will step up their critical thinking skills through the reading and discussion of fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen.  We will examine the forms, meanings, origins, and uses of fairy tales through discussion and writing exercises.  We will explore the enduring appeal of these fairy tales and our need to update and adapt them for modern audiences.  Students will be expected to do some reading at home.  Students will demonstrate their mastery by creating their own modern versions of a fairy tale and presenting them to the class.


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, such as games and animations.  Mastery will be demonstrated through understanding of fundamental programming concepts and familiarity with Python language syntax.


NEW! Physics Lab II (4th-8th Grade) Nicole Endacott

After Physics Lab 1 mainly focused on energy as it pertains to objects’ motion, students will pick up by experimenting with energy in a much broader context. We will experiment with waves, sound, light, and optics before delving into electricity, magnetism, properties of matter, and the physics of chemical reactions. This course will enable students to learn physical science concepts through hands-on experiments, demonstrations, and challenges rather than being solely lecture-based. For example, students will draw conclusions about optics by finding trends in how prisms affect beams of light, and will identify chemical reactions as ectothermic or endothermic by recording the temperature as the reaction occurs.

Pre-requisites: Students are not required to have taken Physics Lab 1 in order to enroll for this course, but they should be able to follow directions in a lab setting, record their data, and interpret graphs. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Poetry & Drama Workshop (K-3rd) Ellen Brown

“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” ― W.H. Auden

But what exactly can language do? In this workshop-style class, students will use poetry and drama as a springboard for exploring myriad ways in which language is communicated. Through experimentation in haiku, cinquain, free verse, theater games and improvisational skits, students will gain confidence in their own creative process and learn strategies to communicate with greater fluency. 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.


NEW! Primary Geometry (K-2nd) Nicole Endacott

Students will apply their advanced math skills to geometry concepts such as perimeter, area, symmetry, types of shapes, surface area, angle types and relationships, parallel and perpendicular lines, and more! This hands-on course will include engaging learning activities and application projects while seeking to expand students’ knowledge of geometry. We will also apply these concepts to art, architecture, probability, and other areas of math to ensure student understanding of geometry’s important presence in the world around them.

Pre-requisites: Students should be confident in addition, subtraction, and some multiplication.


Primary Math (1st-3rd Grade) Nicole Endacott

This class is for advanced first through third 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.


NEW! Science in Action (K-3rd Grade) Alka Kumar

In this class, students will conduct hands-on experiments to investigate questions that span multiple divisions of science. Explore the world of chemistry, geology, biology and more through exciting scientific projects. From how to design and cook in a solar oven to investigating the origin of amber to what you’ll find hiding inside an owl pellet, this class will inspire the curious young mind to discover through questioning, gathering and evaluating evidence, and communicating to others their scientific findings. Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of the scientific method to lab and field experiments, and the construction of creative projects.

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


STEM Building I (2nd-4th Grade) 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! Thinking Toolbox: Pre-Logic and Reasoning (K-2nd Grade) Alessandra Santucci

This class is designed to introduce students to Pre-Logic and problem solving through accessible and fun activities. Skills developed and practiced will include observing, recognizing, and describing characteristics; distinguishing similarities and differences; and identifying and completing sequences and classifications. Topics will encourage students to make connections, think critically, and reason inferentially, skills that will continue to serve them across all academic disciplines. Mastery will be demonstrated through active participation in group problem solving, ongoing assessments of independent practice, and completion of a final project.


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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