Academy Courses

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


Summer 2018 Courses

NEW! Aeronautics: Flight Science (Ages 9-12)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 3:15-4:45pm
Why are planes, birds, rockets, and balloons able to fly effectively while we humans can only soar in our dreams? Welcome to Aeronautics, where we’ll explore the fascinating history, complex science, and exhilarating future of flight! Students will learn the origins and principles of flight science, identify these properties in the natural world, and become a part of the innovative modern-day advancements in air and space travel. Through real life case studies, engineering design projects, simulations, and inquiry-based discussion, students will become masters of current aeronautics who are inspired to make even more advancements in the field!


NEW! Adventures in Astronomy (Ages 6-9)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 3:15-4:45pm
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.


Ancient Egypt: Arts & Innovation (Ages 9-12)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 1:30-3:00pm
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.


Ancient Rome: Arts, Technology, and Culture (Ages 12-14)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 9:30-11:00am
In this class, students will explore the rich and vibrant history of Ancient Rome, with an inventive twist. In support of our investigations, students will create and depict their investigations into ancient Roman life, through sculpture, painting, writing/debate, and engineering. This class will focus on the culture, customs, religion, politics, art and literature of the Roman Empire, particularly the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. Some of the themes for projects will include: constructing an aqueduct, depicting Roman myths, creating a new Roman myth, building the Colosseum, and preparing for public speaking in the “Roman Forum”. This is a class designed to stimulate creativity and expression within an investigative setting. Mastery will be demonstrated through a culminating project, accompanied by an artist’s statement (written or oral) describing their work and the themes and symbolism represented.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Algebraic Chemistry (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 3:15-4:45pm
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.

Prerequisites: Students in the class should be comfortable with the fundamentals of algebra.


NEW! And Then What? Improv 101 (Ages 12-14)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 11:15am-12:45pm
Look no further than your internal toolbox to transform fears of “What should I do?” into “Let’s go with it!” Students in this class will survey the history and grand masters of the art of improv, then dive into experimentation with basic techniques and forms by crafting their own short sketches. Whether inspired by the miraculous or deceptively mundane, students will be challenged to think on their feet and to really tune in to their fellow collaborators and the “game” of the scene. Mastery will be demonstrated by student progress toward performing a Herald, the signature improvisational structure used by iO Chicago and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.


NEW! Around the Wor(l)d: Letters and Language (Ages 6-9)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 9:30-11:00am
Where do words come from and why do we use them the way we do? How many languages are there and who made them up? We can find the answers to these questions through one field of study…Linguistics!  In this course, we will put on our linguist hats and embark upon a journey around the world to investigate word origins, history, and usage, as well as sounds, patterns, and literal and unspoken meanings. We will look at how words combine to form grammatical sentences in English and compare that structure to other languages, as we examine relationships between words of different languages, “borrowed words”, and more! Mastery will be demonstrated through active participation in group activities and discussion, completion of in-class exercises, and ongoing assessments of independent work.

Pre-requisites: Students should be comfortable reading independently and aloud.


NEW! Biology of Me (Ages 6-9)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 1:30-3:00pm
The human body can do amazing things! How does it taste and digest food, observe the world, breathe air, and pump blood? In this class, students will interactively learn about the systems of the human body and gain a deep functional knowledge of how different organs work together. Through hands-on projects and lab activities, students will better understand how the various human body systems work both independently and together. In addition, students will investigate how things like poor food choices can damage these vital systems, and moreover, the strength of the body’s healing power when put to the test.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Cenozoic Life (Ages 9-12)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 3:15-4:45pm
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!


Coding: A Universal Language (Ages 9-12)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 9:30-11:00am
Coding requires the use of both logic and creativity in order to solve puzzling problems and produce exciting outcomes. Just like other languages of the world, coding languages have a set of rules, and practice makes perfect! Students will work on increasingly challenging concepts such as algorithms, loops, and conditional statements to create animations, interactive stories, and simple games to challenge their friends (and parents).  By focusing on the concepts behind the code instead of mere memorization, students will build their skill set enough to be able to keep building their fluency even after the course ends. Mastery will be shown by an understanding of fundamental programming concepts and the ability to create and customize coding projects.


NEW! Dungeons and Dragons (Ages 12-14)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 3:15-4:45pm
Are you a fan of fantasy, monsters, and magic? Have you ever dreamed of going on an adventure in which you starred 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.


Electronics and Arduino I (Ages 9-12)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 11:15am-12:45pm
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.


How to Save the World: Problem Solving on a Global Scale (Ages 12-14)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 3:15-4:45pm
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.


Intro to Physics (Ages 6-9)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 11:15am-12:45pm
The class for the curious child will introduce basic principles of physics through demonstrations and fun class activities. Students will explore topics such as gravity, pressure, energy, light, and sound through hands-on projects, including building a catapult, exploring rainbows, and playing with waves on a string. Each class will introduce a different experiment that demonstrates one or more scientific principles, while drawing connections to accessible examples of these topics. Additional subjects in this extended course over the summer will include exploring everyday phenomena including air pressure, wind, basic chemical reactions, and more!

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Intro to Robotics with Arduino (Ages 12-14)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 9:30-11:00am
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.


Intro to Web Design (Ages 9-12 and 12-14)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 11:15am-12:45pm (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 11:15am-12:45pm (Ages 9-12)
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.


NEW! King George: What Was His Problem? (Ages 9-12)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 11:15am-12:45pm
Inspired by Steve Sheinkin’s book of the same name, this course will engage the burgeoning history buff with its investigation into the causes and effects of the American Revolution. Students will examine the chain of events that led to the Patriots’ fight for freedom from British tyranny, rooting out fact from fiction through hands-on activities, class discussion, and guided analysis of media, including sample texts and video clips. Mastery will be demonstrated through individual and group projects, including the creation of a timeline charting the cultural and socio-political changes that resulted in America’s revolution.


Kitchen Chemistry: The Delicious World of Food Science (Ages 6-9)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 9:30-11:00am
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.

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


NEW! Math Magic: Numbers Up Your Sleeve (Ages 6-9)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 3:15-4:45pm
Presto Change-o! With the numbers and symbols of mathematics we can tell stories, reimagine the world, and even describe the future. Students in this course will build up an intuition for how to use multiplication, division, and geometry to navigate real-world situations through hands-on activities and plenty of puzzles and games. Mastery will be demonstrated through creative projects that reflect successful application of concepts covered.

Prerequisites: Students should be proficient in addition and subtraction.


Microbiology (Ages 6-9)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 11:15am-12:45pm
Have you ever wondered about the invisible friends and foes that make up the microscopic world around us? This course is designed for young students who want to investigate and gain in-depth knowledge of the biology of bacteria, viruses, and more. Students will explore both beneficial microbes and disease-causing pathogens while learning how they grow, multiply, and impact our lives both positively and negatively. Classes will include hands-on experiments, creative projects, and inquiry-based exploration into the microscopic world and its large-scale effects. Mastery will be demonstrated by direct feedback, question and answer sessions, and a creative project on a microbe of the student’s choice.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! Microbiology: Pathogens and Petri Dishes (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 11:15am-12:45pm
From Actinomyces (beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract that helps us break down food) to Varicella Zoster (the tiny virus that causes chicken pox) the microscopic world is wildly diverse in structure, function, and impact on our lives.  If you’ve ever wondered about the culprits behind common diseases or the heroes behind some of life’s core processes, this class will help lead you to answers through hands-on activities, case studies, and engaging discussion. By the end of the class, students will be able to understand the cause, mode of transmission, signs and symptoms, and cures for illnesses, as well as how some microbes are beneficial to humans and the environment. Mastery will be demonstrated by classroom participation and activities in which students act as doctors and microbiologists in intriguing case studies.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Mosaic Elements: An Artistic Application of Euclidian Geometry (Ages 9-12)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 1:30-3:00pm
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.


Myths & Monsters (Ages 9-12)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 1:30-3:00pm
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! Mythology of Many Lands (Ages 6-9)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 11:15-12:45pm
Are you enthralled with exciting stories, fantastical creatures, and other cultures? You are not alone! Humans have been telling stories for 3,000 years. Prepare to journey around the world, through time, and in and out of reality as you explore the mythology, folklore and fairytales that have shaped cultures and imparted words of wisdom! Students will listen to, read, write and tell stories from near and far while practicing grammar, vocabulary, and presentation skills. Mastery will be demonstrated by the production of a written or visual work of art, inspired by the Mythology of Many Lands!


Neuroanatomy (Ages 9-12)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 9:30-11:00am
Does your child wonder how the brain works? How their brain may be different from another person?  In this class, students will explore the science of neuroanatomy through an introduction to the basic structures and functions of the brain. Through creative hands-on activities and experiments, students will learn about what neurons are, how they are connected, and delve into more challenging areas of inquiry concerning how the brain computes to enable vision, audition, memory, motor control, and other modalities. Students will also be able to identify what happens when an area of the brain is damaged through research and exploration of previous phenomena. 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 perceive the world.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Ocean Exploration: Below the Surface (Ages 6-9)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 3:15-4:45pm
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.


NEW! Page One: Creative Writing (Ages 6-9)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 9:30-11:00am
Welcome to page one, where writing springs from imagination! This course will draw inspiration straight from the stories, poems, lyrics and even comic books that students love most. Through short reading and writing exercises, students will learn how word choice, syntax, rhythm and rhyme bring setting, characters and plot to life. Interactive games and creative projects will build skills and confidence through exploration, experimentation and play. Mastery will be demonstrated by the creation of a short written work in the student’s genre of choice, which illustrates independent thinking and progress in reading, writing, and verbal expression.


Primary Geometry (Ages 6-9)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 1:30-3:00pm
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, 3D prisms, 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.


Programming with Python (Ages 9-12)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 3:15-4:45pm
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.


Rocket to Calculus (Ages 12-14)
Session 1 (June 11-22) from 1:30-3:00pm
This class makes use of actual rockets and simulations to teach students the basics of algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus. Students will learn conceptual physics at the same time as they learn the intuition behind the math. . Calculations will be brought to life with a real rocket launch! Mastery will be demonstrated by solving math problems, building a model rocket, and witnessing a successful launch.

Prerequisites: Students in the class should be comfortable with the fundamentals of algebra.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


Rube Goldberg: Machines and Mazes (Ages 6-9)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 1:30-3:00pm
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: an original Rube Goldberg machine! Mastery will be demonstrated by designing and constructing an original Rube Goldberg machine that successfully demonstrates an understanding of the different forces while optimizing potential and kinetic energies.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


NEW! The Science of Sound (Ages 9-12)
Session 3 (July 23-Aug 4) from 9:30-11:00am
What makes a violin sound the way it does? How does the human ear detect and interpret sound? What is the difference between pitch, amplitude and timbre? What affects the dynamics of sound? How can we alter musical instruments to give us the sound we desire? This introductory course into the physics of sound will explore these questions and more through scientific inquiry and hands-on experimentation. Students will listen to, see and touch the vibrations, waveforms, harmonics and distortions that meld sound into music, whether through analog or digital production. Furthermore, students will understand how electronics and electrical engineering affect sound design. Mastery will be demonstrated by creative projects illustrating understanding and appreciation of concepts covered.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.


The Ultimate Guide to Predators (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 1:30-3:00pm
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.


Video Game Development & Design (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 23-Aug 3) from 1:30-3:00pm
Video Game development is a fun and engaging form of computer programming. In this fast-moving class, you will become immersed in the fundamental programming skills of logical thinking and problem solving. While the focus will be on building fluency in Python coding, we’ll also delve into the art, sound and technicalities of game design. Join us as we investigate and understand the creation of basic and classic games, through physics simulations, procedurally generated content, beginning AI, and other useful algorithms. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn how math-intensive game development is and how creative you can be! Mastery will be demonstrated by the completion of an independent project.

Prerequisites: Pre-algebra and some beginner programming experience will be useful.


Widgets and Gadgets (Ages 12-14)
Session 2 (July 9-20) from 9:30-11:00am
We live in a world where we are surrounded by electronics. Electronic circuits are present in nearly everything daily interaction: cars, cell phones, computers, and even toasters. This course will instruct students in the fundamentals of electronic circuit design and function. Components such as resistors, power sources, bulbs, wires, switches, motors, capacitors, and transistors will be explained and used in device creation. Students will have the opportunity to build many simple circuits, increasing in complexity and function as the course progresses, and will examine how these circuits are used to make the widgets and gadgets that we use in our everyday lives.

This class requires a $25 materials fee.

Application and Schedule

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