Academy Courses | Programs | Institute for Educational Advancement

Academy Courses

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


Spring 2019 Courses

NEW! Advanced Arduino Projects (Ages 12-14) Saturdays from 2:00-3:30pm

Students in this class will use the popular Arduino platform to build independent projects that advance their skills in circuit design and programming of microcontrollers. Students will apply their understanding of design schematics to configure circuits that bring lights, sensors, and motors to life, such as with a solar-powered racecar or touch-sensitive device! Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of independent projects that illustrate advanced use of Arduino. Prerequisites: Basic computer use and typing ability. Math level: pre-Algebra I. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Aristotle: Chasing the Philosopher (Ages 12-14) Tuesdays from 4:00-5:30pm

The whole is more than the sum of its parts—Aristotle.

Aristotle, otherwise known as “The Philosopher”, fundamentally shaped the way in which we think today. Even if you have never read his philosophies, the style of our education systems, government, and formation of a standard argument are derived in part from the assimilation of Aristotle’ logic into the west. In this class, students will study a series of Aristotelian texts and his later commentators in order to pin down the mechanisms that have driven the conceptions of Aristotelian thought so far from its primary structure. Come ready for discussions that will change the way you think about knowledge itself!


Astronomy Adventures (Ages 6-9) Tuesdays from 4:00-5:30pm

Young astronomers prepare to blast off into a deep exploration of all things outer space! This hands-on course will have students act as experimenters, scholars, and theorizers as each lesson takes them deeper into the field of astronomy. From the Ancient Greeks to modern day, students will investigate how astronomers have come to understand the scientific principles that govern our universe as they zoom in to stars and out to distant galaxies! Mastery will be demonstrated by creative projects that illustrate understanding of concepts covered.


NEW! Black Death (Ages 9-14) Fridays from 3:00-4:30pm

The Black Death, otherwise known as The Plague, has held its place as the greatest pandemic in human history—and in no small part to the common belief that “Ring around the Rosy” is a telling of the tragedy. But what are the facts? Students will delve into what has gone down in history as one of the most influential diseases that, apart from its enormous death toll, resulted in major social, political, and economic change. This class will follow award-winning curriculum by Dr. Shelagh Gallagher, which incorporates case study and problem-based learning specifically designed for gifted learners. Students will take on the roles of decision-makers in a European town attempting to plan for and against the coming plague. Students will uncover just how much is unknown about the effects of the Plague, and how those unknowns still affect us today.


Buy Me That! A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Commercials (Ages 6-9) Wednesdays from 10:00-11:30am

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. Students 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! Cells: Under the Microscope (Ages 6-9) Wednesdays from 4:00-5:30pm
Fire up your brain cells and get ready to explore a fascinating microscopic world! Though cells are tiny, they are complex machines with moving parts and unique jobs to do based on their structure. Students will become cell experts through hands-on activities, discussion, and using a microscope to see living cells in action. This class will investigate single-celled organisms such as amoebas and bacteria, animal and plant cells, cellular processes, and even how some of our own uniquely structured cells work together to keep our bodies healthy. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of a project diving deeper into a specific type of cell of the student’s choosing. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Cenozoic Life (Ages 9-12) Saturdays from 2:00-3:30pm

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! Create and Rule Your Own Country (Ages 9-12) Wednesdays from 10:00-11:30am

Tired of someone else making the rules? Think you could organize a better way of living? Want to be a king or queen? Here’s your chance! In this class you will choose where your country will be and what it will be called. Big cities? Small towns? You decide. Students will go step by step to create their own countries. They will draw a map of it, make a flag, choose their laws, and write a constitution. Mastery will be demonstrated by students displaying their countries for a gallery walk and writing about their favorite part of each student’s country.


NEW! Creative Writing: The Next Chapter (Ages 6-9) Saturdays from 10:00-11:30am

This sequel to Page One: Creative Writing invites new and continuing students to sharpen their writing skills through creative invention! Students will dive deep into developing sentence structure and descriptive language, syntax, character development, creating story outlines, and revising and editing their work. Interactive games and creative projects that build skill and confidence will guide exploration of other writing techniques such as determining audience and using symbolism. Students will further develop their genre of choice with a final project, which will continue to illustrate independent thinking and progress in reading, writing, and verbal expression. Prerequisites: Page One: Creative Writing is recommended, but not required.


Dungeons and Dragons (Ages 12-14) Saturdays from 12:00-1:30pm

Are you a fan of fantasy, monsters, and magic? Have you ever dreamed of going on an adventure in which you starred as the hero who achieved the impossible? Would you like to discover your inner strengths while journeying alongside a cast of larger-than-life characters? If so, then Dungeons and Dragons awaits! But do not expect D&D to be a mere game, for it is so much more!  Discover what it means to be a true hero, to face one’s fears and to work as a team to achieve a common goal. Mastery will be demonstrated through advancements in game strategy and collaboration with peers.


Ferret it Out! (Ages 9-12) Wednesdays from 2:00-3:30pm

The black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in the United States. Students in this class will work together as a recovery team whose job it is to assess whether Fort Collins, Colorado, is an appropriate site to reintroduce ferrets that were bred in captivity.  Students must consider the interdependence of the ferrets with the population of prairie dogs and the antagonism of ranchers toward them, then come to a decision about the problem and try to persuade others to their point of view. Through the course of the unit, students will learn about biomes, habitats, and human-animal interaction, as well as the complex issues that are involved and the conflicts of interests posed by trying to save the black-footed ferret from extinction. Ferret it Out! is an NAGC award-winning curriculum designed by nationally recognized expert in gifted education and problem-based learning,  Dr. Shelagh A. Gallagher.  This class requires a $10 materials fee.


NEW! Fracture and Flow: Structuring the Earth (Ages 9-12) Mondays from 4:00-5:30pm

The physical structure of our earth is ever-changing. Yet, there is enough consistency in its evolution that scientists can piece together the machinations of how our planet looks, moves, and takes shape. In this class we will analyze the specific landforms and processes of iconic places around the globe, including Hawaii, Iceland, the Alps, Chinese sink-holes, California, and the Earth as a whole! We will look at real rocks and formations, learn to analyze hand samples, make field maps, and test geologic hypotheses. By the end of the class students will be story-tellers of the Earth! Mastery will be demonstrated by creating projects that illustrate the structural and historic forces that are fundamental tenets of geology.


NEW! Genetics: A Splice of Life (Ages 9-12) Saturdays from 10:00-11:30am

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, DNA replication mechanisms, and real-life applications. Students will also learn about the mutations in the human genome that cause genetic disorders, and discuss the development of genetic techniques, such as sequencing and genetic engineering, and its role scientific research and modern medicine. Mastery will be demonstrated by accurate predictions and conclusions based on genetic data, fluency in genetic terminology and pathologies, 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 and general knowledge of DNA as the mechanism for inheritance.  


NEW! Geometry: Proofs and Postulates (Ages 12-14) Fridays from 11:00-12:30pm

Modern day geometry still relies upon axioms, theorems, definitions, and postulates that were created over 2000 years ago! But where did these rules originate? Students will work to hone their critical thinking skills by examining how ancient mathematicians like Euclid and Pythagoras formulated these rules, practicing the use of logic and reasoning in designing elegant proofs, and taking a look at more recent mathematical discoveries. This class will delve beyond typical two-column proofs to look at innovative, hands-on ways to demonstrate mathematical truths, however complex, in clear and observable ways. Mastery will be demonstrated by a fluency in geometry terminology and an ability to design both written and more creative types of proofs.


It’s Electrifying! (Ages 12-14) Wednesdays from 10:00-11:30am

It’s Electrifying! presents the problem of whether Virginia Beach, Virginia, will accept alternative energy supplies and which source of energy would be most beneficial with the least environmental impact: wave energy, tidal energy, or offshore wind farms. The students in this class will work together as engineers to select new, innovative options for energy production. Ultimately, they must make a recommendation as to which form of energy would be best for the area, and they must make a convincing proposal for it. This class offers students an opportunity to explore clean energy technologies and to understand that the issues involved in implementing them are complex and multifaceted. It’s Electrifying! Fueling the Future is an NAGC award-winning curriculum designed by nationally recognized expert in gifted education and problem-based learning, Dr. Shelagh A. Gallagher. This class requires a $10 materials fee.


Kitchen Chemistry (Ages 6-9) Thursdays from 4:00-5:30pm

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. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! Math for Future Architects (Ages 6-9) Mondays from 4:00-5:30pm

Did you know that the link between math and architecture goes back to ancient times, when the two disciplines were virtually indistinguishable? Pyramids and temples were some of the earliest examples of mathematical principles at work. Today, math continues to feature prominently in building design, from the Kunsthaus Graz in Austria, to Seattle’s Central Library, to LA’s Disney Concert Hall. Through math games and hands-on projects, students will advance their application of geometry concepts such as dimensions and conversions, area and volume, shapes and angles, 2- and 3- dimensional pictures, rays, lines, segments, and more! Mastery will be demonstrated by students’ ability to independently construct and create structures, building on their intuition that Math + Design = Awesome!


Mock Trial: Order in the Court! (Ages 9-12) on Thursdays from 4:00-5:30pm

What’s the verdict: are you ready to fill the roles of prosecution, defense, judge, and jury all in one course? Students will have the opportunity to simulate trials in order to experience the United States’ justice system, organize facts to draw conclusions, learn about trial strategies, and develop the persuasive argumentation skills of a good lawyer. Mastery will be shown through strong questioning and deliberation skills as well as a comprehensive understanding of the court system structure. 


Myths and Monsters (Ages 9-12) Tuesdays from 4:00-5:30pm

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 analysis of fossils and animal artifacts, in-depth group discussion on cultural beliefs, and tests of acquired knowledge.


Newton: Forces in Motion! (Ages 6-9) Wednesdays from 2:00-3:30pm

Over 300 years after Isaac Newton first presented his laws of motion, these three laws are still fundamental to how we understand the world around us. Students will dive into each of Newton’s laws then observe and apply them through hands-on, experiment-based activities. Whether they’re designing a roller coaster, building a car, or launching a bottle rocket, students will learn to quantitatively test their creations and use physics terminology to analyze their results. Mastery is shown through the design of an experiment and an accurate use of the scientific method to draw conclusions and connect them to Newton’s laws. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Ocean Exploration (Grades 3-5) Tuesdays from 2:30-3:30pm

Calling all future marine biologists and oceanographers! If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the oceans that cover most of our planet, this course will 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.


Primary Math (Ages 6-9) Fridays from 1:00-2:00pm

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! Programming with Python II (Ages 9-12) Saturdays from 12:00-1:30pm

Students in this class will advance their skills in Python by creating games and animations using algorithms, loops, and conditional statements with increased sophistication. Students will manipulate numbers and text, draw images on the screen, and deepen their understanding of the *why* behind the code. Mastery will be demonstrated through the understanding and application of programming concepts and fluency with Python language syntax. Pre-requisites: Basic computer use and typing ability. Math level: pre-Algebra I.


Robotics with Arduino (Ages 12-14) Saturdays from 10:00-11:30am

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.


Rube Goldberg: Machines and Mazes (Ages 6-9) Saturdays from 12:00-1:30pm

Over the course of this class, students will become modern day Rube Goldbergs as they design and build a machine named after the American cartoonist and inventor. Students will first learn the history and mechanics behind popular Rube Goldberg machines and then set off to build their own contraption that relies on a chain reaction to do simple tasks. As part of an interdisciplinary class which combines engineering, math, and science concepts, students will propel themselves through new information as they work to create a final project that optimizes potential and kinetic energies. Mastery will be demonstrated by designing and constructing an original Rube Goldberg machine that successfully illustrates an understanding of  concepts covered in class. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Science in Action II (Ages 6-9) Fridays from 11:00-12:30am

In this class, students will conduct hands-on experiments that span across divisions of science including chemistry, physics, geology, environmental science, life science, and more. From static electricity to the origin of tornados and tsunamis to what is hiding inside a dead log, this class will continue the quest 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. Prerequisites: Completion of Science in Action 1 is recommended, but not required. Please report any allergies/medical conditions or sensitivity to food and plant material.


NEW! Scientific Literacy: Modern Science Topics (Ages 9-12) Fridays from 11:00-12:30pm

You’ve heard that science is everywhere, but did you notice that it’s even in the news? In this era of abundant new discoveries and technologies, students will become scientifically literate by learning to explain scientific phenomena, evaluate and design investigations, and accurately interpret evidence and data. We will look at the most pertinent modern science issues such as antibiotic resistance, climate change, GMOs, and at-home DNA testing kits through both discussion and hands-on experimentation. Does the public have a full, accurate picture of these issues, and if not, where do their conceptions go wrong? After investigating the facts of each issue and how they are often presented to the public, students will be able to form their own ideas and spot when the media isn’t telling the whole story. Mastery will be demonstrated by sharing with the class about a modern science topic of the student’s choice, including common misconceptions.


NEW! Shark Tank: Products and Pitches (Ages 12-14) Wednesdays from 2:00-3:30pm

Are you a budding entrepreneur? Do you enjoy brainstorming and sketching out new ideas? The next great invention, product, or service is just waiting to be created – by you! If you have an interest in business and marketing, here’s your chance to hone your skills. You’ll delve into product design, market supply and demand, focus groups, overhead costs, and much more. Whether you’re looking to create something from scratch, or simply improve upon an existing product, you’ll have the chance to see it through from conceptualization to completion. Mastery will be demonstrated by a culminating pitch to a panel, including a prototype, business plan, and marketing campaign.


Siri, What is Natural Language Processing? (Ages 12-14) on Wednesdays from 4:00-5:30pm

As our interaction with machines steadily increases, computer intelligence becomes more fluid, intuitive, and intelligent. We are now reaching the point of being able to communicate with our devices in the same way we engage with people through talking and writing, as demonstrated by voice-based assistants like Amazon Alexa, or writing support apps like Grammarly and Google Translate. This course will introduce students to the endeavor of using computers to analyze human language. Students will apply simple techniques in math, logic, and computing to intuitive exercises such as judging whether a word in an essay is misspelled or determining whether a social media post conveys positive or negative emotion. Mastery will be demonstrated by an independent project that illustrates the analytical problem-solving skills essential to all programming frameworks.


NEW! Solving for X: Active Algebra (Ages 9-12) Wednesdays from 12:00-1:30pm

When it comes to finding the values of unknown quantities, Algebra does some heavy lifting. So why not condition your body and brain to help solve X? In this class, students will supplement mathematical exercises with brain breaks that support concentration, memory, and relaxation. Algebra concepts such as solving inequalities, factoring and building fluency with math symbols will be practiced with puzzles and independent exercises, while breathing techniques and movement exercises will be introduced at optimal intervals to bring body-mind awareness into the equation. Prerequisites: Comfort with arithmetic through multiplication and division, as well as fractions. This class requires a $10 materials fee.


NEW! The Periodic Table: Essential Elements (Ages 6-9) Saturdays from 2:00-3:30pm

From aluminum to zirconium, the periodic table organizes every element that exists – and those that have yet to be discovered! This class will dive into how elements are different at the atomic level and how those structural distinctions give them physical and chemical properties we can observe. Students will explore the different groups of elements, what gives them different qualities, why they react with one another, and how to interpret the symbols and structure of the periodic table. Mastery will be demonstrated through a project that explores and explains the observable physical and chemical properties of an element or compound.


NEW! The Physics of Roller Coaster Design (Ages 12-14) Fridays from 1:00-2:30pm

The sit-down, stand-up, inverted, and pipeline are just a few types of roller coasters engineered to be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. But what brings riders back again and again? Students will explore the principles that make roller coasters so thrilling, including inertia, gravity, centripetal forces, and the conversion of potential to kinetic energy. By applying these laws to the analysis, design, and manufacture of rides, students will discover how material science has led to faster and more complex coasters over time, from the switchback of 1809 to Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso in Six Flags Texas. Mastery will be demonstrated by students’ ability to analyze the motion of gravity-driven coasters and by the creation of models that illustrate concepts covered. This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! What’s Your Strategy? Board Game Design (Ages 12-14) Wednesdays from 12:00-1:30pm

This class requires a $25 materials fee.

Students in this class will be challenged not just to learn the rules and structures of games such as “Settlers of Catan”, “Coup”, “Power Grid”, “7 Wonders”, but also to analyze how the game was designed, and how to think about game systems. Strategy, negotiation, probability, and player interaction will be investigated through gameplay, discussion and prototyping. Mastery will be demonstrated through assessing strategy, adapting systems and designing game components to make an all-original board game that is playable from start to finish.                                                                   


NEW! World Folklore and Fairy Tales (Ages 6-9) Wednesdays from 12:00-1:30pm

Are you enthralled with exciting stories, fantastical creatures, and other cultures? You are not alone! Humans have been telling and listening to stories for thousands of years.  Prepare to journey around the world and through time, as you explore the folklore and fairytales that have shaped cultures and imparted words of wisdom! We will explore their common elements, discuss their different interpretations, and see how elements from ancient stories are used and adapted in modern versions. Mastery will be demonstrated by the production of a written or visual work of art inspired by each story.


NEW! Zoo Design (Ages 9-12) Fridays from 1:00-2:30pm

Zoos make it possible for humans to have up close encounters with virtually any animal on the planet. But how and why are zoos designed the way they are, and what improvements can be made to even the most state-of-the-art habitats? Students in this class will explore all types of zoos, whether urban, safari park, or wildlife preserve to create their own original human-made habitat. Topics will include the history, evolution and ethics of zoos, considerations for sustaining diverse species and the design components that make them educational, socially conscious, and visitor friendly. Mastery will be demonstrated through the creation of an original zoo design illustrating an understanding of concepts covered in class.



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