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PTY Online Academy Courses

We are glad you are interested in PTY Online Academy! In the sections below, families may view the course titles, descriptions, meeting times, as well as availability for each of the upcoming PTY Online Academy sessions. Please note that synchronous course meeting times vary by course. The meeting time for each course is listed with the course description in the sections below.

Course Availability Key:

full- waiting list closed
full- waiting list only
available- limited space
available

Course availability will be updated on a weekly basis, starting 2-3 weeks after the application opens. If you submit an application for PTY Online Academy within 2-3 weeks of the application opening, please note that course availability may not be up-to-date on this page. Please contact our office at 615-322-8261 or pty.peabody@vanderbilt.edu if you have questions about availability or the length of the waiting list for a particular course.

Please select a session to jump to the course descriptions and class times for that session.

Session 1: Oct. 12-Nov. 8, 2020 | Session 2: Nov. 9-Dec. 13, 2020*

Session 3: Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2021 | Session 4: Feb. 8-Mar. 7, 2021

*Session 2 classes do not meet the week of November 23-29 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday

Session 1: Oct. 12-Nov. 8, 2020

3rd & 4th Grade
5th & 6th Grade
7th & 8th Grade
9th & 10th Grade11th & 12th Grade
Media Mania
Games Galore
Law School 101Toxicology & Public Health
Debate & Rhetoric
Comedy as Critique
Chemistry of Medicine
Law School 101
Bioethics
Pop Culture & Media Criticism
Business School 101

Choose a grade level below to view the course descriptions and class meeting times. All class meeting times are in Central Time.

3rd/4th Grade

Media Mania: Using Science to Study the Impact of Media
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00pm-5:15pm CDT

Without a doubt, we live in a media-driven age. From newspapers and magazines to television and smartphones, media is not only accessible to us, it also asserts itself into our busy lives. In this class we will pull back the curtain to examine how the media industry works and investigate how media and technology impact our lives. We will uncover the research methods and theories used by academic scholars to investigate issues regarding youth media use, as well as techniques used by industry representatives to determine whether media products are meeting their goals. Together we will investigate media in many forms, including both printed and digital, and discuss how media connects us and allows us to share information like never before. Class participation will culminate in a student-developed experiment designed to investigate a hypothesis related to media and technology. You will even have a chance to collect your own data and perform a data analysis, examining the results of your media research. This class will engage you and make you think critically about the media that surrounds us every day!

Games Galore!
Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm and Saturdays 9:00-10:15am CDT

When you flip a coin, does it matter if you started with heads or tails? How important is it to stick to the rules? What is the difference between skill and luck when it comes to playing games? In this exciting course, you will use advanced mathematics to explore the laws of probability and learn how to determine if a game is fair. As you analyze a variety of games, you will calculate the chances that each player can win, and you will use your creative problem solving skills to change the rules that are unfair. Be ready to test fair and unfair games in our probability lab! Then, you will take on the role of a game developer to plan, design, and create a new, fun (and fair) game for kids just like you!

5th/6th Grade

Law School 101: Think Like a Lawyer
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CDT

How many laws have affected you today? From traffic rules to terms and conditions for items purchased online to how you can decorate your front yard, laws are everywhere! In this course, you will study and debate the legal principles underlying the laws and rules that govern much of your everyday life. You will learn how laws are designed to consider different stakeholders and groups and the importance of thinking about multiple perspectives when making, interpreting and applying various laws. You will step into the shoes of lawyers and judges as you examine different legal disciplines like Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Property, and Torts. How do we make sure laws are interpreted correctly? How is the same law applied in dramatically different situations? Why is a jury needed for some cases and not others? Using the Socratic Method and examples from legal history, you will address issues as complex as Supreme Court cases and as simple as student dress code infractions. Moot court activities will allow us the opportunity to debate important legal issues like a real attorney while learning how legal advocates craft arguments. This course will give you the tools to identify legal issues, propose solutions within the law, and think like a true lawyer. No one can object to the value of this knowledge!

7th/8th Grade

Toxicology and Public Health: Exploring the Intersections of Chemistry, Biology, and Physiology
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00pm-5:30pm CDT

There are roughly 80,000 synthetic chemicals currently in use in the United States, most of which have yet to be studied for their safety. Synthetic chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, flame-retardants, and plasticizers are all around us- in our furniture, clothing, food containers, and many are causing a wide range of health effects in humans and wildlife. Toxicologists are scientists who use knowledge of chemistry, biology, and physiology to understand how chemicals that we are exposed to in the environment affect our health (or the health of wildlife). In this introduction to the field of toxicology, you will learn how to use toxicology methods to understand how chemicals interact with cellular receptors and organ systems of the body to cause toxicity, how to analyze scientific data like a toxicologist, and how to evaluate the risks of environmental chemicals to the health of wildlife and humans. Course activities will include review of historical toxicology case studies, analysis of cellular and physiological data from known toxic exposures in humans and wildlife, and collaboration with expert groups to solve environmental toxicology mysteries. If you love biology, chemistry, or physiology, and have an interest in environmental issues, this course is for you!

Debate and Rhetoric: The Art of Argument
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CDT

Do you want to be a better public speaker? Are you curious how someone understands what is true and what is hyperbole? Do you want to explore techniques experts of rhetoric and debate use to effectively research and organize arguments when they have massive amounts of information to make sense of? In this class, you will learn how to conduct research, develop and organize arguments, adapt persuasive appeals to specific audiences, and, perhaps even change minds. Through the use of logical arguments and appropriate evidence, you will learn how to defend your viewpoints, persuade your friends, and influence people. Just like any skill, the art of persuasion takes practice. By exploring specific types of fallacies that can negatively impact your ability to persuade, we will become more aware of the principles great debaters and public speakers use to present their points. We will also analyze arguments in context as we learn basic rhetorical theories and apply them to speeches from history and current events. Become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information as you learn the art of the persuasive argument.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

9th/10th Grade

Comedy as Critique
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30pm-6:00pm CDT

Have you ever wondered how your favorite shows create such hilarious content? Do you enjoy making entertaining content with your friends? In this class will analyze the way experts of comedy use humor to prove points and to engage and enlighten audiences. We will work together to produce comedic content – a stand-up performance, a funny game, a collection of original memes, a short story or vignette – that analyze an aspect of our world or our own lives. By using humor through parody and satire as a method of critique, we will learn how laughter can facilitate difficult conversations and, when done thoughtfully, can create opportunities for discussion with those who have different viewpoints. We will discuss, read about, write, perform, film, and possibly edit humorous original content on specific societal issues or events.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

The Chemistry of Medicine
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30pm-6:00pm CDT

Today, it is more imperative than ever to understand exactly how our bodies interact on a molecular level. Knowing this helps us understand medical problems, treat these issues, and detect them before they cause irreparable harm. Across our globe, millions of scientists and doctors work together to solve a variety of ailments from every possible angle. A knowledge of chemistry is a must in order to truly comprehend the mechanisms that occur. In this course, we will begin by creating a knowledge base with the foundations of general chemistry. Once we have a solid understanding of these necessary basics, we will examine the chemistry of different common diseases, a variety of treatments, and detection methods. Finally, you will complete a project where you investigate a disease or illness of your choosing and look at the chemistry behind how it works, and its current treatments and available detection methods.

Note: While SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 may be of interest in the course, it will not be the focus of this course and it will not be covered in depth.

Law School 101: Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research
Saturdays 2:00pm-5:00pm CDT

Any lawyer worth their billable hour knows that most of the work happens outside the courtroom. In this course, you will get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes when a lawyer prepares arguments for their client. You will learn about fundamental subject areas taken by every first-year law student (or 1Ls, as they’re called) and produce a true-to-form legal work product. In the classroom, you will read real cases on a variety of subject areas including torts, property and constitutional law, and we will discuss the legal rules and theories these cases provide. Outside the classroom, you will prepare a legal brief advocating for a client using the laws and rules you learned about in class, as well as others. As you craft your brief, you can expect to not only test your reading and writing skills, but also your analytical abilities in fashioning the most effective argument for your client under the law. Will you get the claims against your client dismissed, or can Plaintiff’s successfully argue that their claims should survive? In this course, that answer all depends on you!

11th/12th Grade

Bioethics
Time TBD CDT

Bioethics is a growing discipline focused on developing ethical tools for making moral judgments in biology and medical fields. In this course, you will begin by exploring both historical and contemporary approaches of bioethics. With those theoretical foundations in your scholarly tool belt, you will critically engage a variety of case studies that focus on access to healthcare utilizing conceptual frameworks such as social justice and the common good. After historical analysis, you will leverage your emerging understandings of justice and/or the common good to specifically evaluate problems in the U.S. and global health as well as healthcare realities and inequalities. The readings, student projects, and other class materials will survey a variety of traditions and viewpoints.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Popular Culture and Media Criticism
Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00pm-7:30pm CDT

Popular culture calls to mind a constant flow of media, bearing promises of pleasure, excitement, danger and anxiety. Some say it’s simply a part of everyday life, a necessary aspect of living in a society. Others view popular culture as dangerous, arguing that the rise of mass media also means an encroachment of consumerism and lifestyles predicated on instant gratification. Some scholars still try to delineate pop culture from art, while artists work to blur the lines. Today, understanding pop culture means scrutinizing a web of symbols, signs, and myths, as well as criticizing one’s place within this network. In this class, you will develop a framework for defining popular culture as well as tools for dissecting the social and political implications within these contexts. By engaging with such cultural artifacts as TV programs, advertising, films, books, songs, games, and of course, memes, you will interrogate the material that saturates all of our lives.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Business School 101
Time TBD CDT

Leadership translates vision into reality. In today’s world of growing complexity, it is essential to not only have knowledge, but to have the imagination to anticipate, adapt to and initiate change. This course seeks to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who seek to positively change the world. Students who take this course will explore major frameworks of leadership and will collaborate with peers and industry experts on developing a personal leadership philosophy. Students seeking to polish leadership qualities and challenge conventional thinking are invited to join this Leadership Institute course.

Session 2: Nov. 9-Dec. 13, 2020

3rd & 4th Grade
5th & 6th Grade
7th & 8th Grade
9th & 10th Grade11th & 12th Grade
Creative Contraptions
Environmental Explorers
Debate & Rhetoric
Genetic Epidemiology
Psychology in Action
Law School 101
Chemistry of Medicine
Toxicology & Public Health
Pop Culture & Media Criticism
Intro to Cognitive Science
Business School 101
Law School 101
Comedy as Critique
Social Enterprise

Choose a grade level below to view the course descriptions and class meeting times. All class meeting times are in Central Time. Session 2 courses will not meet during the week of November 23-29.

3rd/4th Grade

Creative Contraptions
Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm and Saturdays 9:00-10:15am CST

Do you have chores to do at home? Do you want to make your work easier? Perhaps you want to become the world’s next inventor. How do you come up with good ideas and go past the brainstorming stage to apply these ideas to the creation process? Maybe you have heard the phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention”? What does that mean? In this class, we will conduct investigations to learn more about simple and compound machines and how these machines can make work easier. We will learn about famous inventors, their lives, and how they came up with ideas for their creations. Then, it’s your turn! Apply what you have learned to design, create, and test your own invention that solves a problem or makes your life or work easier. Who knows, you may be the next Shark Tank sensation!

*Course adapted from an evidence-supported curriculum, Invitation to Invent, from the College of William and Mary.

Environmental Explorers: Operation Save the Beach
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-5:45pm CST

Congratulations, you have been appointed to the town council! As a member you make many important choices about your town, and you have just been asked to make a very big decision that could impact your city for years to come. You will have to decide if a children’s camp should be built on the beach in your city. At first you love the idea of the camp. However, there are also problems with the camp. People in your town are concerned that construction will cause the beach to erode. The camp director wants to begin construction right away. What will you decide to do? You owe it to your town to protect the beach from erosion, but you know the camp can also be great for your city. Is there a way to protect the beach and continue the construction on the camp? After learning about erosion and environmental protection, you will work to develop scientifically based regulations that will satisfy the long-term needs of the town and allow for continued construction for the new camp. Without an effective plan, the beach will disappear. Will your plans help save the beach?

*Course adapted from an evidence-supported science curriculum, Where’s the Beach?, from the College of William and Mary.

5th/6th Grade

Debate and Rhetoric: The Art of Argument
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CST

Do you want to be a better public speaker? Are you curious how someone understands what is true and what is hyperbole? Do you want to explore techniques experts of rhetoric and debate use to effectively research and organize arguments when they have massive amounts of information to make sense of? In this class, you will learn how to conduct research, develop and organize arguments, adapt persuasive appeals to specific audiences, and, perhaps even change minds. Through the use of logical arguments and appropriate evidence, you will learn how to defend your viewpoints, persuade your friends, and influence people. Just like any skill, the art of persuasion takes practice. By exploring specific types of fallacies that can negatively impact your ability to persuade, we will become more aware of the principles great debaters and public speakers use to present their points. We will also analyze arguments in context as we learn basic rhetorical theories and apply them to speeches from history and current events. Become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information as you learn the art of the persuasive argument.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Genetic Epidemiology and Beyond
Wednesdays 5:00-6:30pm and Saturdays 9:00-10:30am CST

A genome is defined as an organism’s complete set of DNA and contains the information needed for an organism to live and successfully function. One key question that scientists are currently asking is—how does an individual’s genome influence his/her risk for developing disease? This is such an important question that President Obama got involved! In 2015, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). This initiative involved obtaining genetic data from over one million people in order to study the biological and environmental factors that influence disease. Through the data collected by the PMI, scientists hope to use their understanding of factors to develop better treatments and cures for health concerns. In this course, you will take on the role of a human geneticist to tackle some of the same questions that researchers confront daily using data from PMI. As a budding geneticist, you will learn the basic molecular techniques common across all genetics labs, begin analyzing genetic datasets using statistical methods, and investigate ethical decisions that continually impact scientists’ research decisions. This course will provide you with an understanding of the role of genetics in disease and teach you how to design and analyze your own genetic study.

7th/8th Grade

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meanings
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

Did you know that when you are reading your favorite book, watching television, or working on a math problem, you are interacting with symbols? Symbols can take many forms, from caveman drawings, scale models, numbers, and even apps and video. But what exactly are symbols? What kind of information do symbols tell us? How do we learn to interpret and make sense of symbols? By taking on the role of a developmental psychologist, you will investigate how the human mind processes and makes sense of the symbols we interact with every day. Through hands-on experiments, scientific investigation, and maybe even a virtual visit to Vanderbilt labs to see research in action, you will uncover how symbols are helpful in our lives and learn how psychologists use numbers and theories to draw conclusions and answer important questions. You will then have a chance to test your own hypothesis as you design a study, collect and analyze data, and present your findings. Experience psychology in action as you use your new knowledge to discover new ideas!

Law School 101: Think Like a Lawyer
Saturdays 2:00-5:00pm CST

How many laws have affected you today? From traffic rules to terms and conditions for items purchased online to how you can decorate your front yard, laws are everywhere! In this course, you will study and debate the legal principles underlying the laws and rules that govern much of your everyday life. You will learn how laws are designed to consider different stakeholders and groups and the importance of thinking about multiple perspectives when making, interpreting and applying various laws. You will step into the shoes of lawyers and judges as you examine different legal disciplines like Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Property, and Torts. How do we make sure laws are interpreted correctly? How is the same law applied in dramatically different situations? Why is a jury needed for some cases and not others? Using the Socratic Method and examples from legal history, you will address issues as complex as Supreme Court cases and as simple as student dress code infractions. Moot court activities will allow us the opportunity to debate important legal issues like a real attorney while learning how legal advocates craft arguments. This course will give you the tools to identify legal issues, propose solutions within the law, and think like a true lawyer. No one can object to the value of this knowledge!

The Chemistry of Medicine
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

Today, it is more imperative than ever to understand exactly how our bodies interact on a molecular level. Knowing this helps us understand medical problems, treat these issues, and detect them before they cause irreparable harm. Across our globe, millions of scientists and doctors work together to solve a variety of ailments from every possible angle. A knowledge of chemistry is a must in order to truly comprehend the mechanisms that occur. In this course, we will begin by creating a knowledge base with the foundations of general chemistry. Once we have a solid understanding of these necessary basics, we will examine the chemistry of different common diseases, a variety of treatments, and detection methods. Finally, you will complete a project where you investigate a disease or illness of your choosing and look at the chemistry behind how it works, and its current treatments and available detection methods.

Note: While SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 may be of interest in the course, it will not be the focus of this course and it will not be covered in depth.

9th/10th Grade

Toxicology and Public Health: Exploring the Intersections of Chemistry, Biology, and Physiology
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

There are roughly 80,000 synthetic chemicals currently in use in the United States, most of which have yet to be studied for their safety. Synthetic chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, flame-retardants, and plasticizers are all around us- in our furniture, clothing, food containers, and many are causing a wide range of health effects in humans and wildlife. Toxicologists are scientists who use knowledge of chemistry, biology, and physiology to understand how chemicals that we are exposed to in the environment affect our health (or the health of wildlife). In this introduction to the field of toxicology, you will learn how to use toxicology methods to understand how chemicals interact with cellular receptors and organ systems of the body to cause toxicity, how to analyze scientific data like a toxicologist, and how to evaluate the risks of environmental chemicals to the health of wildlife and humans. Course activities will include review of historical toxicology case studies, analysis of cellular and physiological data from known toxic exposures in humans and wildlife, and collaboration with expert groups to solve environmental toxicology mysteries. If you love biology, chemistry, or physiology, and have an interest in environmental issues, this course is for you!

Popular Culture and Media Criticism
Tuesdays and Thursday 6:00-7:30pm CST

Popular culture calls to mind a constant flow of media, bearing promises of pleasure, excitement, danger and anxiety. Some say it’s simply a part of everyday life, a necessary aspect of living in a society. Others view popular culture as dangerous, arguing that the rise of mass media also means an encroachment of consumerism and lifestyles predicated on instant gratification. Some scholars still try to delineate pop culture from art, while artists work to blur the lines. Today, understanding pop culture means scrutinizing a web of symbols, signs, and myths, as well as criticizing one’s place within this network. In this class, you will develop a framework for defining popular culture as well as tools for dissecting the social and political implications within these texts. By engaging with such cultural artifacts as TV programs, advertising, films, books, songs, games, and of course, memes, you will interrogate the material that saturates all of our lives.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Intro to Cognitive Science
Saturdays 1:00-4:00pm CST

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we make decisions about the world around us? Is our behavior a product of nature or nurture? These questions, among many others, are all ones that cognitive scientists investigate in the field of cognitive psychology. Cognitive scientists research perception, memory, language, learning, and judgment in order to understand how the mind senses, uses, and acts on information from the world around it. In this class, you’ll learn about the basics of cognitive psychology – the fundamental findings of cognitive psychology, how psychologists research the mind, and how psychologists critically evaluate scientific research. Then you’ll get to experience the most exciting part of psychology by taking part in hands-on research! You’ll research a hypothesis you have about cognition by designing an experiment, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting your findings.

Business School 101
Time TBD CST

Leadership translates vision into reality. In today’s world of growing complexity, it is essential to not only have knowledge, but to have the imagination to anticipate, adapt to and initiate change. This course seeks to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who seek to positively change the world. Students who take this course will explore major frameworks of leadership and will collaborate with peers and industry experts on developing a personal leadership philosophy. Students seeking polish leadership qualities and challenge conventional thinking are invited to join this Leadership Institute course.

11th/12th Grade

Law School 101: Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CST

From determining the way genetic codes are transferred from generation to generation to the way proteins are produced to the way food is digested, the field of biochemistry provides the road map for how life occurs on earth and for how the body communicates with itself. Understanding biochemical processes, such as cell signaling pathways and the ability to transmit information from cell to cell, tissue to tissue, or organ system to organ system, allows scientists to comprehend how it is possible for the body to converse in this unspoken cellular language. In this course, you will learn how the interaction of organic material on a fundamental level determines our biology. We will study how biochemistry can be used as a diagnostic tool in other fields of study, including forensic science and disease detection. We may also explore how medications and treatments are developed and classified. If you’ve ever been curious about pathology, genetics, or how the human body processes chemical information, this class is for you!

Comedy as Critique
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

Have you ever wondered how your favorite shows create such hilarious content? Do you enjoy making entertaining content with your friends? In this class will analyze the way experts of comedy use humor to prove points and to engage and enlighten audiences. We will work together to produce comedic content – a stand-up performance, a funny game, a collection of original memes, a short story or vignette – that analyze an aspect of our world or our own lives. By using humor through satire and parody as a method of critique we will learn how laughter can facilitate difficult conversations and, when done thoughtfully, can create opportunities for discussion with those who have different viewpoints. We will discuss, read about, write, perform, film, and possibly edit humorous original content on specific societal issues or events.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Social Enterprise
Time TBD CST

Are you a creative problem solver with a passion for making a difference in the world? Then this class is for you! In this project-based course, you will begin by exploring research on existing social enterprises and work to, as a class, identify one or two concrete social problems that demand innovative solutions. In project teams (or as a class, depending on class size) you will use human-centered-design to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test solutions that will lead to an idea for a project start-up. You will then work to develop this idea into a potential startup venture with a logical and viable business model, a clearly articulated mission and vision, a well-articulated social impact aim with an assessment mechanism to measure it, a minimally viable proof of concept and a marketing plan. In the end, you will “pitch” your ventures to a public audience via a Zoom pitch session. The pitches will be judged “shark tank style” by a group of real impact investors and entrepreneurs with experience in the field!

Session 3: Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2021

3rd & 4th Grade
5th & 6th Grade
7th & 8th Grade
9th & 10th Grade11th & 12th Grade
Biology of the Brain
Aquatic Ecology
Secrets of the Moli Stone
Psychology in Action
Chemistry of Medicine
What's So Funny?
Intro to Cognitive Science
Energy5
Social Enterprise
Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Ethics of Filmmaking

Choose a grade level below to view the course descriptions and class meeting times. All class meeting times are in Central Time.

3rd/4th Grade

Biology of the Brain
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm CST

Your brain is the most powerful organ in your body. It helps control your breathing, your feelings, and even your body temperature. Have you ever wondered how this giant bundle of nerves works? How are we able to remember some things but not remember others? What microscopic events happen in your brain when you see something familiar or hear your favorite song? In this course we will take an in-depth look at the biology of your brain and discuss how your brain influences other systems in your body. We will learn about the important neurotransmitters in your brain and how they contribute to your emotions, learning, and overall health. We will also investigate the role that genetics and biochemical compounds play in your well-being and how neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, begin and develop in the brain. If you’ve ever wondered about how and why you are able to wonder at all, then you are ready to join us as we explore the biology of the brain!

Aquatic Ecology
Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm and Saturdays 9:00-10:15am CST

Oh no! Your local pond used to be a thriving habitat for diverse aquatic plants and animals, but unexpectedly the water has turned brown and sludgy and all the fish are dying. What is happening to the pond? Come along as we uncover the mystery of what, or who, is behind the destruction of this watery ecosystem and decide how to clean up the mess. In this problem-based course, you’ll take on the role of a scientist as you investigate aquatic ecosystems and all of the ways the systems within this habitat are related. You will learn about chemical reactions and the systems at play as you work with your “community” of classmates to develop a solution to restore this once healthy pond. As you investigate the problem, you’ll also uncover and discuss other real-world concerns involved in cleaning up a polluted habitat in a community. We need your help to solve this fishy mystery!

*Course adapted from an evidence-supported curriculum, Something Fishy, from the College of William and Mary.

Secrets of the Moli Stone
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-5:45pm CST

A stone tablet has just been unearthed. What an exciting discovery! The only problem is that the information on it is written in a secret code. The tablet is covered with unusual symbols and interesting mathematical markings. What do these symbols and markings mean? What information are they trying to tell us? How do we interpret meaning in symbols that aren’t words or in numbers that seem unfamiliar? In this class, you will take on the role of a mathematician to unravel the secrets of the Moli Stone. To solve the mystery, we will begin with an exploration of our number system as we explore the concepts of place value and base 10. Did you know that we use a base 10 system but you can do math in a different system too? We will compare and contrast our base 10 system with number systems different from our own, investigating how cultures and groups of people use particular number systems. No stone will be left unturned in this mysterious mathematical adventure that will reveal new number understanding!

*Course adapted from an evidence-supported math curriculum, Unraveling the Mystery of the Moli Stone, from Project M3.

5th/6th Grade

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meaning
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

Whether you are reading your favorite book, watching television, or working on a math problem, did you know you are interacting with symbols? Symbols can take many forms, from caveman drawings, scale models, numbers, and even apps and video. But what exactly are symbols? What kind of information do symbols tell us? How do we learn to interpret and make sense of symbols? By taking on the role of a developmental psychologist, you will investigate how the human mind processes and makes sense of the symbols we interact with every day. Through hands-on experiments, scientific investigation, and maybe even a virtual visit to Vanderbilt labs to see research in action, you will uncover how symbols are helpful in our lives and learn how psychologists use numbers and theories to draw conclusions and answer important questions. You will then have a chance to test your own hypothesis as you design a study, collect and analyze data, and present your findings. Experience psychology in action as you use your new knowledge to discover new ideas!

The Chemistry of Medicine
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

When you do not feel well, your parent probably gives you medicine – abracadabra – you feel better! How does medicine do that? It’s all about chemistry! In this class, we will explore the chemistry of our bodies and the way our bodies work on a molecular level. Understanding chemistry is important in order to identify medical problems and treat issues when things go wrong in our bodies. In this course, we will begin by learning about general chemistry. Once we have an understanding of these necessary basics, we will move on to looking at the chemistry behind what happens when we get sick and how we can fix it with medicine. Finally, you will complete a project where you investigate an illness, look at the chemistry behind it, and outline how it is currently detected and treated. You will never think of your common headache, sore throat, or stomach bug the same way again after this class! 

NOTE: While SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 may be asked about in the course, it will not be the focus of this course and it will not be covered in depth.

7th/8th Grade

What’s So Funny?
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

Do you ever wonder why something makes you laugh? Do you want to learn how to write and perform jokes that will tickle your friends and family? Do you like books that make you laugh? Oftentimes we do not take funny seriously. We think that the things we laugh at are simple, silly fodder meant only for our enjoyment. However, the truth is that humor is one of the most powerful tools for expressing ourselves and explaining our passions and concerns with others. Humor, when used strategically, can make important points and influence people. To be strategic with humor, you have to think about word choice, structure of your message, timing, and so much more. Being funny is hard work! In this class, you explore how to use humor in meaningful ways. Through improv and games, we will learn about the theories of humor alongside comedy techniques. We will watch kid comedians perform, explore funny TV shows, and investigate authors who employ humor in their writing as we learn how to craft jokes, create our own unique onstage personas, and write with humor. Get ready to laugh in this class as we learn what is so funny!

Intro to Cognitive Science
Saturdays 1:00-4:00pm CST

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we make decisions about the world around us? Is our behavior a product of nature or nurture? These questions, among many others, are all ones that cognitive scientists investigate in the field of cognitive psychology. Cognitive scientists research perception, memory, language, learning, and judgment in order to understand how the mind senses, uses, and acts on information from the world around it. In this class, you’ll learn about the basics of cognitive psychology – the fundamental findings of cognitive psychology, how psychologists research the mind, and how psychologists critically evaluate scientific research. Then you’ll get to experience the most exciting part of psychology by taking part in hands-on research! You’ll research a hypothesis you have about cognition by designing an experiment, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting your findings.

9th/10th Grade

Energy 5: Electrochemical Devices for Energy Applications
Saturdays 10:00-1:00pm CST

Energy is all around us and scientists have come up with cutting edge and exciting ways of developing new devices to manipulate and produce energy. Electrochemistry is the branch of physical chemistry that studies the relationship between electricity and identifiable chemical change. In this course, you will delve into 2 different electrochemical systems that 1) convert energy and 2) synthesize valuable chemicals. You will engage in cutting edge research as you consider how these systems are designed, implemented, characterized, and perform. Building on this research, you will develop the beginnings of your own design for an electrochemical device and detail its potential benefits and pitfalls. This final project will help convey the thought-process that goes into materials-selection as well as analysis of an electrochemical system.

Social Enterprise
Time TBD CST

Are you a creative problem solver with a passion for making a difference in the world? Then this class is for you! In this project-based course, you will begin by exploring research on existing social enterprises and work to, as a class, identify one or two concrete social problems that demand innovative solutions. In project teams (or as a class, depending on class size) you will use human-centered-design to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test solutions that will lead to an idea for a project start-up. You will then work to develop this idea into a potential startup venture with a logical and viable business model, a clearly articulated mission and vision, a well-articulated social impact aim with an assessment mechanism to measure it, a minimally viable proof of concept and a marketing plan. In the end, you will “pitch” your ventures to a a public audience via a Zoom pitch session. The pitches will be judged “shark tank style” by a group of real impact investors and entrepreneurs with experience in the field!

11th/12th Grade

Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Time TBD CST

Today, some of the biggest problems in medicine, science, and engineering are being solved with some of the smallest technologies. Nanoparticles are used in everything from computer science to disease treatments. In this course, you will get an introduction into key nanoparticles, their properties, and how scientists synthesize and manipulate them. In addition to lessons and research, this class will involve hands-on learning with at-home laboratory experiences. You will also be introduced to state of the art imaging tools to give you a greater understanding of the potential of nanoparticles so that you can gain the skills to develop your own scientific research project!

Ethics of Filmmaking
Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00-7:30pm CST

Since the invention of broadcasting, media producers have faced novel and complicated ethical and moral dilemmas in their practice. This class explores frameworks of ethics that inform media production and practice, as well as the challenges against which future content creators will contend. As you construct your own ethical framework for filmmaking, you will explore common moral frameworks and scrutinize landmark historical cases. You will then extend the ramifications of these past practices as you consider complex questions of individual creativity and labor within the industry. In the end, you will begin to develop a diverse set of ethical tools for critically analyzing both films and the production practices necessary to create them.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

Session 4: Feb. 8-Mar. 7, 2021

3rd & 4th Grade
5th & 6th Grade
7th & 8th Grade
9th & 10th Grade11th & 12th Grade
Spatial Smarts
Adventures in Autobiography
Neuroscience 101
Microscopy of Nanomaterials
What's So Funny?
Energy5
World Beyond the Page
Psychology in Action
BioSensors
Intro to Cognitive Science
Catalyzing Change in Community
Science of Disease

Choose a grade level below to view the course descriptions and class meeting times. All class meeting times are in Central Time.

3rd/4th Grade

Spatial Smarts
Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm and Saturdays 9:00-10:15am CST

Have you ever dreamed of designing and building your own roller coaster? Ever wonder how photographers know how to capture the very best shots and angles? Do you like reading or creating your own maps? What do pilots, surgeons, engineers, artists, and film-makers all have in common? They are all individuals with strong skills in spatial reasoning! People with spatial intelligence tend to learn visually and may tend to think about things in terms of pictures and shapes. Come learn how to see and communicate in new dimensions as we explore and discuss the shapes and planes in the world around us. We may explore topics such as prisms, tangrams, symmetry, and reflection as we learn how to harness, predict, and move objects in space. What kind of problems might we be able to solve with this new knowledge? Who knows what you can create or where you will go in this exploration of spatial dimensions!

*Course adapted from an evidence-supported curriculum, Spatial Reasoning, from the College of William and Mary.

Looking in the Mirror, Digging in the Past: Adventures in Autobiography
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-5:45pm CST

Have you ever wondered about what your favorite author or celebrity was like when he or she was your age? Or how things like our friends, family traditions, and environment shape our personalities? What changes in your life have helped you become the person you are? In this class, we will explore these questions and more through an autobiographical exploration of ourselves and of others. As we examine autobiographical writings from authors such as Beverly Cleary, Jacqueline Woodson, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Laurence Yep we will explore the power of personal stories and the techniques used in this unique form of writing. Did you know not all autobiographies are showcased through writing? We may also examine self-portraits in music, productions in theater, and works of art! After examining how others tell their personal stories in powerful ways, we will create a personal work of self-reflection. What will your autobiography say about you?

*Course adapted from an evidence-based ELA curriculum, Autobiographies, from the College of William and Mary.

5th/6th Grade

Neuroscience 101
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

Do you ever wonder how your brain learns and stores information? So do neuroscientists! This class will introduce you to the science of the most marvelous, and mystifying, component of the human body — the brain. In this class, we will explore how the brain works and interacts with other body systems to support life. We will then apply our new understanding of the brain to learn about research in this exciting field. We may even have the chance to virtually visit state of the art labs to see neuroscientists at work. As neuroscientists-in-training, you and your classmates will put to work your new knowledge of brain function and the ways neuroscientists conduct research as you develop hypotheses, analyze data, and draw conclusions about how the brain learns new information. Get ready to learn about one of the fastest-growing and exciting scientific fields– neuroscience! Come ready to engage, think critically, and contribute to science in this collaborative, hands-on course. You will really have to put your brain to work in this class!

Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Time TBD CST

Today, some of the biggest problems in medicine, science, and engineering are being solved with some of the smallest technologies. Nanoparticles are used in everything from computer science to disease treatments. In this course, you will get an introduction into key nanoparticles, their properties, and how scientists synthesize and manipulate them. In addition to lessons and research, this class will involve hands-on learning with at-home laboratory experiences. You will also be introduced to state of the art imaging tools to give you a greater understanding of the potential of nanoparticles so that you can gain the skills to develop your own scientific research project!

What’s So Funny?
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

Do you ever wonder why something makes you laugh? Do you want to learn how to write and perform jokes that will tickle your friends and family? Do you like books that make you laugh? Oftentimes we do not take funny seriously. We think that the things we laugh at are simple, silly fodder meant only for our enjoyment. However, the truth is that humor is one of the most powerful tools for expressing ourselves and explaining our passions and concerns with others. Humor, used strategically, can make important points and influence people. To be strategic with humor, you have to think about word choice, structure of your message, timing, and so much more. Being funny is hard work! In this class, you explore how to use humor in meaningful ways. Through improv and games, we will learn about the theories of humor alongside comedy techniques. We will watch kid comedians perform, explore funny TV shows, and investigate authors who employ humor in their writing as we learn how to craft jokes, create our own unique onstage personas, and write with humor. Get ready to laugh in this class as we learn what is so funny!

7th/8th Grade

Energy5: Electrochemical Devices for Energy Applications
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CST

Energy is all around us and scientists have come up with cutting edge and exciting ways of developing new devices to manipulate and produce energy. Electrochemistry is the branch of physical chemistry that studies the relationship between electricity and identifiable chemical change. In this course, you will delve into 2 different electrochemical systems that 1) convert energy and 2) synthesize valuable chemicals. You will engage in cutting edge research as you consider how these systems are designed, implemented, characterized, and perform. Building on this research, you will develop the beginnings of your own design for an electrochemical device and detail its potential benefits and pitfalls. This final project will help convey the thought-process that goes into materials-selection as well as analysis of an electrochemical system.

World Beyond the Page: Unpacking the Magic of Harry Potter
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

Would you consider yourself a huge fan of Harry Potter? Are you still waiting for your Hogwarts letter to come? Well here’s your invitation to join us for an investigation into the complex and magical universe of the wizarding world of Harry Potter! Harry Potter is more than just a series of good stories; it’s a literary phenomenon with underlying themes that reflect our modern-day muggle lives. With a critical eye, we will uncover these themes, such as social justice, the struggle for power and triumph, feminism, and other critical ideas, as we draw connections between fantasy and reality. We will not only examine the Harry Potter novels, but also the movies and other related media that were inspired by the story. This course will give you a glimpse into the world of J.K. Rowling and other creative writers as we unpack the inspiration, writing process, and other story features that have made this series a sensation.

Note: Students should have read at least one Harry Potter novel before the start of the session. Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

9th/10th Grade

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meaning
Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30pm CST

Did you know that when you are reading your favorite book, watching television, or working on a math problem, you are interacting with symbols? Symbols can take many forms, from caveman drawings, scale models, numbers, and even apps and video. But what exactly are symbols? What kind of information do symbols tell us? How do we learn to interpret and make sense of symbols? By taking on the role of a developmental psychologist, you will investigate how the human mind processes and makes sense of the symbols we interact with every day. Through hands-on experiments, scientific investigation, and a visit to Vanderbilt labs to see research in action, you will uncover how symbols are helpful in our lives and learn how psychologists use numbers and theories to draw conclusions and answer important questions. You will then have a chance to test your own hypothesis as you design a study, collect and analyze data, and present your findings. Experience psychology in action as you use your new knowledge to discover new ideas!

BioSensors
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:00pm CST

Have you ever wondered how diseases are detected and diagnosed? Have you thought about how mechanisms of the body are studied, new discoveries are made, and treatments advanced? For every protein, sugar, fat and biological molecule you can think of, there is a need to detect it quickly and quantitatively in order for scientists and physicians to determine how our bodies work, to diagnose rapidly, and to identify substances with ease in a variety of clinical and industrial settings. This is where biosensors come in! Biosensors detect various chemical and biological substances. In this course we will learn about biosensors by first exploring foundational scientific principles in biology, chemistry and medicine to create a working scholarly foundation. With these fundamentals, you will work to understand the properties that are used to design and enable a variety of biosensors to work. We will look at biosensors from all walks of life, from the most common that are encountered everyday (you can buy them in the local drugstore!) to those used in cutting edge research!

11th/12th Grade

Intro to Cognitive Science
Saturdays 1:00-4:00pm CST

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we make decisions about the world around us? Is our behavior a product of nature or nurture? These questions, among many others, are all ones that cognitive scientists investigate in the field of cognitive psychology. Cognitive scientists research perception, memory, language, learning, and judgment in order to understand how the mind senses, uses, and acts on information from the world around it. In this class, you’ll learn about the basics of cognitive psychology – the fundamental findings of cognitive psychology, how psychologists research the mind, and how psychologists critically evaluate scientific research. Then you’ll get to experience the most exciting part of psychology by taking part in hands-on research! You’ll research a hypothesis you have about cognition by designing an experiment, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting your findings.

Catalyzing Change in Community
Time TBD CST

In times and places where calls for change are voiced, one might ask, how can real change in groups and communities actually occur? In this course, you will focus on diverse approaches to community engaged work including asset-based community development, community organizing, advocacy & public policy, and social entrepreneurship. After exploring historical and contemporary proposals, you will begin to cultivate your own public voice and practice solidarity by learning from real individuals and organizations within communities. At the end of the course, you will articulate your own proposal for change in your local community.

Note: Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data (or lack thereof) as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

The Science of Disease: Type 2 Diabetes
Saturdays 10:00am-1:00pm CST

According to the CDC, over 34 million Americans have diabetes, and 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can affect every organ in the body and has several co-morbidities such as hypertension, obesity, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. In this course, you will use type 2 diabetes as the lens to study pathophysiology from a whole-body perspective. You will then be able to apply this approach to other diseases in the future. As we specifically explore type 2 diabetes, you will learn how this disease affects liver, fat, and muscle and how these tissues interact with one another in the context of the disease. Additionally, you will learn about how type 2 diabetes is studied in biomedical laboratories. At the end of the course, you will design your own therapeutics to to manage type 2 diabetes. You will also create a research plan that describes how you would test the effectiveness of your therapeutics in a lab.