A sample list of past Academy courses can be found here.
Fall 2019 Courses
Please click on any class to view the full description for that course.
Can classic geometry proofs be made with 3D prints? Starting with triangles and circles and going on to conic sections, probability, and more, we will reimagine classic and new geometry proofs. 3D printed models will be created in OpenSCAD (www.openscad.org) which is an open-source, free CAD program. Students will learn the basics of OpenSCAD, and start with existing geometry puzzles and design their own. Some coding experience will be very helpful, but is not required. This course requires a $25 materials fee.
How do engineers design strong bridges, efficient transportation, and sturdy skyscrapers? Math! This class will explore the foundations of math that relate to engineering and will apply those topics to building projects. Students will become adept at finding dimensions, taking measurements, interpreting engineering word problems, and using their math skills to continually improve the products they design and build. pre-requisites: Students should be familiar with some multiplication. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, have become some of the most accessible and engaging media for storytelling in the world. This course will provide students with the tools necessary to carefully balance art and language to construct narratives that bring the Hero’s Journey to life, from epic tales of adventure and allies to adversity and triumph! Students will learn and apply elements of creation unique to graphic novels including storyboarding, page layout, panel transitions, text distribution, and more to develop their own characters and stories as action-packed as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. By the end of the course, students will have completed the beginning pages of their graphic novels and will have a road map for going all the way through to a finished product. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
When Isaac Newton developed calculus in the 1600s, he drew a lot of pictures and saw it as a tool to study how things move and change. After that, it got buried in a lot of algebra and symbols. Suppose Newton had owned a 3D printer? Maybe calculus would still be taught with pictures and models. We will take an intuitive approach to calculus with minimal algebra and lots of 3D prints. Students will start off with models the instructors have developed, and go beyond by learning to modify them and develop their own. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
This course runs 8-weeks from October 8-December 3 and takes place at Sierra Madre Elementary School. All Academy students are welcome. Students in this class will go beyond grade level science standards by diving into challenging concepts that integrate mathematical applications across scientific fields. Through hands-on, inquiry-based activities, students will learn to convert miles to light years as astronomers, balance equations as chemists, calculate ratio and proportions as medical doctors, learn coding as computer scientists, and more! Mastery will be demonstrated by the ability to problem-solve across scientific disciplines using math, and the creation of a final project illustrating concepts covered. Prerequisites: Students should be comfortable with multiplication and division.
In this class, students will learn the fundamentals of science; chemistry, physics, geology, environmental science, life science, and more through hands-on experiments! Starting with fundamental principals like the scientific method and discovery though questioning, students will learn about the micro and macro of science across divisions. From sunlight and photosynthesis to the origin of our Earth and solar system, this class will build a foundation for learning by gathering and evaluating evidence, communicating scientific findings to others, and instilling a quest for knowledge. Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of the scientific method to lab and field experiments, and the construction of creative projects. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
Courage is knowing what not to fear. -Plato Snakes are some of the most feared creatures on planet Earth, and yet they are also one of the most misunderstood. In this class, students will learn all about snakes, from their evolution and biodiversity, to their locomotion and senses, to their transfixing colors and patterns and rightful place in the labyrinth of human history, religion and folklore. Students will have the opportunity to interact with live pet serpents, then build on their experience and knowledge to construct an original serpentarium that exhibits an understanding and appreciation for these fascinating and resilient creatures.
Anatomy and physiology are the foundation of all health professions. Students will learn to identify body systems while tracing the specific regulatory pathways and mechanisms to show the cooperative functions of the human body. The curriculum will introduce the anatomy (structure), physiology (function) and pathology (disease) of the pulmonary, and neurologic systems through case studies, clinical simulation, modeling, and dissection. Students will learn and practice monitoring and intervention, as well as how to conduct a physical exam. Mastery of this course will involve a demonstrated understanding of each system and its link to cooperative functions that control the human body to help identify the effects of drugs and trauma to each system. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
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 grandmasters of the art of improv, then dive into experimentation with basic techniques and forms by crafting their short sketches. Whether inspired by the miraculous or deceptively mundane, students will be challenged to think on their feet and to tune in to their fellow collaborators and the "game" of the scene.
Congratulations! You have your own country. Now you must think about how to keep it going. What will make people living in your country want to stay and become your citizens? What laws does your country need, how will you make them, and what system will you have in place to make sure people follow them? How will you defend your country if threatened? In this class, we will look at examples of how other countries have solved these problems as you determine what will work best for your country. Mastery will be demonstrated by students presenting their vision of how their country will sustain itself and will be assessed by the practicality and completeness of their plans.
This class makes use of actual rockets and simulations to teach students the basics of algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus. Students will simultaneously learn conceptual physics and the corresponding intuition behind the math. Mastery will be demonstrated by solving math problems, building a model rocket, and witnessing a successful launch. pre-requisites: Students in the class should be comfortable with the fundamentals of algebra. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
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 universal themes, 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.
When it comes to finding the values of unknown quantities, Algebra does some heavy lifting! So why not condition your brain and body to help solve X? In this continuation of Active Algebra 1: Solving for X, 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. While Active Algebra 1 is not a prerequisite for Active Algebra 2, incoming students should have comfort with arithmetic through multiplication and division, fractions, and knowledge of solving multi-step and straightforward equations. This class requires a $10 materials fee.
The Middle Ages has been branded unfairly as the “Dark Ages,” a time in which little academic progress was made. However, the advances made in science, technology, and learning at this time demonstrate otherwise! In this class, we will learn about the various ways in which medieval scholars advanced knowledge in the fields of machinery, architecture, botany, mathematics, and chemistry (alchemy). We will learn the history of science at this time, along with engaging in hands-on experiments and constructions. We will also learn about how medieval science and modern science overlap. Activities will include learning about botany, astronomy, and alchemy, building and testing miniature catapults and trebuchets, simulating medieval chemistry experiments, and building models of Gothic arches. Mastery will be demonstrated by completing class assignments and participating in and reflecting on experiments and constructions throughout the course. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
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! This class requires a $25 materials fee.
Using Royal Fireworks Press curriculum, students will investigate a court case in which a teacher has been fired for using the novel To Kill a Mockingbird in her class. Students will take on the role of members of the court of appeals who must decide the case by diving into the nuances of the First Amendment. Framed around the concept of continuity and based on a real court case, this class will demonstrate how court decisions are made as students address the same questions facing real judges. What speech is protected, and what is not? What are the rights of employers and employees? This class will follow award-winning curriculum by Dr. Shelagh Gallagher, which incorporates case study and problem-based learning specifically designed for gifted learners. This class requires a $10 problem log fee.
Algorithms exist in technology, but they can also be found outside of computers, ruling endless natural processes! Explore a variety of algorithms that govern computer science programs (e.g. search engines, sorting), robotics (wayfinding, computer vision), and animals (e.g. insect navigation, game theory). The goals of the course include learning what makes an algorithm successful, what professions and endeavors use algorithms, and how to express, describe, and implement algorithms. Students will be introduced to a range of subjects, including programming, artificial intelligence, psychology and zoology. Mastery will be demonstrated by the student’s classroom presentation of an algorithmic analysis of robot or animal behavior.
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 combining 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.
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 are looking to create something from scratch, or simply improve upon an existing product, you will have the chance to see it through from conceptualization to completion. A culminating pitch, including a prototype, business plan, and marketing campaign will demonstrate mastery to a panel.
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. This class requres a $10 program log fee.
The animal kingdom is buzzing with amazing architects of structures and systems! City-like beehives, earthworm tunnels, termite mounds, weaver bird nests, and beaver dams are examples of spectacular structures designed and built by animals. This class will look not only at animals' impressive structures, but also how some species help keep nature in balance through pollination, decomposition, and more! Students will learn from and about animal builders, demonstrating their mastery by building a product inspired by an animal architect.
What is the difference between a tornado and solar windstorm? Is Earth the only celestial body with plate tectonics? How do natural disasters and environmental issues advance land, ocean and space exploration? In this class, students will gain in-depth knowledge of earth’s systems and processes including earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes while investigating the physical, chemical and engineering concepts that make space exploration possible. Students will be challenged to step up their application of the scientific method (think 2-stage balloon rockets!) and hone their critical thinking skills through inquiry-based investigations. Disaster control preparedness and assessment of environmental impacts will also be covered. Mastery will be demonstrated by the application of the scientific method to lab and field experiments, and developing constructive projects and analysis. This class requires a $25 materials fee. Please report any allergies to food and plant material.
From Script to Screen takes a peek behind the curtain of what makes great cinema "Classic." Students will learn about the creative process through the use of cinematic elements like conflict and characterization as they work to craft their own story into a compelling screenplay. By studying successful writers, directors, and actors, students will identify their style and voice which they will learn to pitch to a producer. Mastery in this class will be demonstrated by the creation of a final draft screenplay that illustrates concepts covered in class.
This class, which will use the challenging yet accessible Beast Academy curriculum by Art of Problem Solving, 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.
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. Students in this class 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 Over 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.
Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that help all of us get things done. In many ways, it acts as the CEO of our brain, helping us organize, prioritize, and manage the activities and tasks we must complete on any given day. During this course, students will gain empowering tools on how to approach their academic and personal lives with a sense of purpose, passion, and fulfillment. We will cover topics such as learning styles, motivation styles, time management, stress, effective leadership, communication, and how to break down goals into positive, sustainable action steps within the student's control. With increased self-awareness, students will gain the confidence needed to be able to better handle the academic and personal challenges of school and life.
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 chemical 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 and 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. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
When did the Big Bang occur? What first sparked life in the universe? How did man go from barely surviving in caves to building advanced societies? These are some of the questions we will be addressing as we explore the established understanding of the universe, life, and nearly everything else around us with Bill Bryson's bestseller A Short History of Nearly Everything. Employing Bryson's interdisciplinary approach, students will learn about the history and foundational concepts of anthropology, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and astronomy. Through storytelling, discussion, and experimentation, we will trace the footsteps of the great thinkers of our past and discover the what, when, where, and why's that make our reality possible. Designed to allow for different learning styles and fluidity of expression and creativity, this course will culminate in an in-class presentation by students on an influential thinker of their choice featured in the book.
This class will provide students with 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 in 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 probability math problems.
Calling all inventors and engineers! Where would we be without Thomas Edison’s lightbulb, Marie Curie’s X-rays, or Alan Turing’s machine that led to modern computer algorithms? Did you know that some of the world’s favorite toys and products were created completely by accident? Students will dive into pioneering inventors throughout history and will use these design processes to develop their own amazing inventions. Each invention will be tested and modified just like real-life prototypes. Mastery will be demonstrated through the execution of the engineering design process and ability to produce a novel creation that will somehow fill a need observed by the student. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
In this sequel to Myths and Monsters I, students will delve even deeper into the realm of mythical beasts as they uncover the origins and scientific explanations behind some of the most otherworldly imaginings of Greek, Egyptian, Viking, and Native American creators. From Medieval bestiaries and mythical birds to demi-humans, ghosts, and zombies, students will explore the people and cultures responsible for entities that have transcended realities of the real-world since ancient times. Mastery will be demonstrated through in-depth group discussion on cultural beliefs, hands-on analysis of fossils and animal artifacts, tests of acquired knowledge, and the creation of an original 21st-century beast. Prerequisites: Myths and Monsters I is recommended, but not required.
This course is for the student who desires to express themselves effectively and confidently in any situation, socially or academically. Students will develop and improve their public speaking, argumentative, and critical-thinking skills through their presentation and participation in several in-class speeches and debates. We will explore and research a variety of formats, including educational and persuasive speeches, and Lincoln-Douglas, cross-examination, and academic debate. In addition, students will develop their ability to critique, analyze, and question speeches and debates delivered by others. Mastery will be demonstrated through the development and presentation of an independent speech and participation in a group debate. Students will be invited to choose their topic matter for speeches and debates appropriate for a classroom setting.
This sequel to Page One and The Next Chapter: Creative Writing invites new and continuing students to further explore their interests in writing and to develop new creative ideas. Students will continue to participate in the Writing Process through Writer's Workshop to develop their use of narrative, vocabulary, and dialogue in genres of their choice. At the beginning of each class, new subject matter will be introduced to enrich students' passion and interest in the written word. Students will create a final project, which will challenge them to plan and execute an original idea. Prerequisites: Page One: Creative Writing is recommended, but not required.
The science of genetics is everywhere, even in the news! In this era of abundant new genetic discoveries and technologies, students will learn to explain modern DNA technologies, evaluate the ethical dilemmas surrounding genetics, and accurately interpret evidence and data. Students will look at the most pertinent genetics issues such as GMOs, gene editing, 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 genetics topic of the student’s choice, including common misconceptions.
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.
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, as well as the strength of the body’s healing power when put to the test. 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.
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 could 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.
Ready, set, build! In this course, students will hone their creative engineering skills by building, testing, and improving upon their original designs for marble runs, bridges, catapults, and more. We will use the engineering design process, integrated with both artistic elements and advanced physics topics to create products that meet specific guidelines. Each product will be evaluated through quantitative testing and qualitative evaluation to ensure every student is continually challenged and improving upon their designs. By the end of the course, students will have developed their creativity and engineering intuition and be equipped with ideas to keep building at home! Mastery will be demonstrated by completion of a final independent STEAM challenge where students will invent a structure to accomplish a specific task, then show they can test and improve upon this product. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
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.
It's been said of 3D printing that "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures." In this course, students will enable their ideas to take shape by learning to design and print using advanced modern technology. Students will use our Original Prusa i3 MK2S printer, which was voted 3D Printer of the Year in 2017 and 2018 by MAKE: Magazine and supports a wide range of materials for endless creativity! Mastery will be demonstrated through the independent design and printing of an original and useful product that can be used in students' daily lives. This class requires a $25 materials fee.
Math for Future Scientists at Sierra Madre Elementary (Grades 3rd-5th)This course runs 8-weeks from October 8-December 3 and takes place at Sierra Madre Elementary School. All Academy students are welcome.2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Seeds of Science (Ages 6-9)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Secrets of the Snake (Ages 9-12)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Anatomy and Physiology (Ages 12-14)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
And Then What? Improv 101 (Ages 6-9)10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Govern and Sustain Your Own Country: Systems and Sovereignties (Ages 9-12)10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Rocket to Calculus (Ages 12-14)10:30 am - 12:00 pm
World Mythology and Fairy Tales (Ages 6-9)12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Active Algebra 2 (Ages 9-12)12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Medieval Science and Machinery (Ages 12-14)12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Math for Future Architects (Ages 6-9)2:15 pm - 3:45 pm
Final Appeal: To Kill a Mockingbird and the First Amendment (Ages 9-12)2:15 pm - 3:45 pm
Algorithms: Processes & Pathways (Ages 12-14)2:15 pm - 3:45 pm
Rube Goldberg: Machines and Mazes (Ages 6-9)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Shark Tank (Ages 9-12)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Black Death: Problem Solving the Plague (Ages 12-14)4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Primary Math with Beast Academy (Ages 6-9)11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Roller Coaster Design (Ages 9-12)11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Executive Functioning: Training the CEO of Our Brain (Ages 10-14)11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Periodic Table: Essential Elements (Ages 6-9)1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
A Short History of Nearly Everything (Ages 9-12)1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Genetics: A Splice of Life (Ages 12-14)1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Inventioneers (Ages 6-9)3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Myths and Monsters II (Ages 9-12)3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
The Power of Speech and Debate (Ages 12-14)3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
The Plot Thickens: Creative Writing (Ages 6-9)10:00 am - 11:30 am
Scientific Literacy: Genetic Technologies (Ages 9-12)10:00 am - 11:30 am
Siri: What is Natural Language Processing? (Ages 12-14)10:00 am - 11:30 am
Biology of Me (Ages 6-9)12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
What's Your Strategy? Board Game Design (Ages 9-12)12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Zoo Design (Ages 12-14)12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
STEAM Building (Ages 6-9)2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Dungeons and Dragons (Ages 9-12)2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Take Shape! 3D Design and Printing (Ages 12-14)2:00 pm - 3:30 pm