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Fall 2017

Kindergarten | 1st and 2nd Grades | 3rd and 4th Grades
5th and 6th Grades

Kindergarten

Environmental Explorations: Dig It!*

You just received a message from an environmentalist on living on an Island. The inhabitants are in trouble– their island is slowly eroding away! Can you help them? Bring your best investigation skills and get ready to take on the role of environmental scientist as we try to solve this crucial real-world problem. What do you need to know in order to tackle this challenge? Together we will learn about resource preservation, pollution, erosion, and conservation through hands-on experimentation, topics that will serve as well in saving this Island. As a member of a team of scientists, you will work with your peers to create a preservation park to help the island maintain its natural resources for the sake of the humans and animals that call this Island home. Hurry, time is running out! We need your help to dig into the problems surrounding erosion and unearth a good solution to stop it!

*Course is adapted from an evidence-based science curriculum, Dig It!, from the College of William and Mary.

First and Second Grades

Adventures in Algebra

Can you think of multiple ways to get to the right answer? When does one strategy work better than another? Can you justify why? What is an equation, and how are equations used to solve problems in math? Can you use mathematical tricks to solve the most challenging problems in math? In this class we will answer these questions and more as we go on an unforgettable journey into the fun and complex world of algebraic thinking! We will explore how to use important strategies and games to discover mathematical patterns and formulas in careful and clever ways. We will tour the algebraic landscape as we learn how to analyze patterns, write formulas, and solve for missing variables. We will also learn how to develop clever tricks for conquering the challenging terrain of math computations as we use Hands-On Equations® to increase our understanding of algebra. Let’s go on an algebraic adventure!

Intro to Programming: Coding 101

Computer programmers are learners, dreamers, strategists, and creative thinkers as they develop complex codes to solve everyday problems. The skill of coding is becoming more and more important in our technology-driven world. Being able to code may be fun and sound cool to your friends, but how is coding used in real life? In what ways do computer programmers help make our lives easier? How do computer programmers turn lines of code into action? What are the thinking processes and personal characteristics needed to write successful code? Come learn the answers to these questions and more as you challenge your mind and test your creativity while learning the basics of computer programming! In this introductory coding course, you will take on the role of a programmer to solve coding challenges by developing working scripts based on your level of ability. By the end of the course you will have plenty of new ideas about how to use coding to solve small and big challenges in our world today, and you will have the knowledge of coding required to develop creative and useful solutions to all sorts of difficult problems.

Third and Fourth Grades

Disease Detectives: How Scientists Prevent Big Problems

Bacteria! Viruses! Disease! Who or what caused the problem and how can it be stopped?! Only a disease detective would be able to answer this question! In this class, you will immerse yourself in the mysterious world of epidemiology and learn about epidemics, pandemics, and public health on a global scale. Together we will explore possible real-life health scenarios that scientists think about everyday and tackle these problems by using methodology that skilled epidemiologists and microbiologists employ to prevent outbreaks. Beginning with some basic microbiology, we will uncover how one little ‘bug’ can cause a really big problem, especially if there is no focus on prevention and control. As you take on the role of a scientist, you will engage in detailed discussions about prevention tactics (such as immunizations and health campaigns) that everyone from local health departments to the World Health Organization participate in to ensure the safety of human life on Earth. You will become a disease detective and will explore some of the world’s greatest health mysteries in mock simulations.You will leave this class with the knowledge to solve cases and prevent big health problems!

Journey into the Universe: Astronomy 101

The history of the universe is written in the sky! In this course you will take on the role of an astronomer to investigate our wide universe. Did you know that astronomers have identified over 2,900 planets outside our solar system and has determined that as many as 44 may be habitable? In this course you will use astrophysics, publicly available data, and the power of statistics to better understand our planet-filled universe. You will learn how to identify and characterize different types of celestial objects and how the study of light is essential to astronomy. We will also take what we know about our own solar system to generate models for studying extrasolar planets. In this way, you will gain firsthand experience in how scientists pose research questions, design studies, and present their findings to their peers. Get ready to contribute your own voice to our global, astronomical dialogue! This course will help you ask and answer questions as wide and diverse as the universe itself.

Fifth and Sixth Grades

Leads and Angles: Judging Journalism Through Analysis and Perspective

Thomas Jefferson has been attributed with the statement, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” which is now the motto for The Fourth Estate, the unaffiliated collection of journalists and investigative reporters whose works serve to educate citizens. And yet, the stories reporters share naturally lend themselves to subjectivity. How can we truly be educated when we are exposed to so much subjective knowledge? Can a news story ever be fully objective? How does a reader contend with a reporter’s natural opinions and bias? While we rely on newspapers, magazines, and various other forms of media to maintain and expand our awareness of important events, we also must understand the varying angles, leads, and limitations of the news we consume. In this class, we will engage with different forms of text-based news sources, ranging from traditional print media to electronic sources of information. We will select timely news stories and events and chart theory trajectories and narratives as we ask ourselves important questions about the material at hand. How can the arrangement of empirical data lead a news consumer towards a certain position? How might competitive news sources choose to frame an issue so as to perpetuate a desired perspective? After this course you will know how to effectively judge journalism and educate yourself in a subjective world!

Exploring the Human Experience: Who Am I? Who Are We?

What does it mean to be human? What are the universal issues that all humans seem to face? How do literature and art represent what it means to be a human being? Why are do authors and artists attribute human qualities to possessions or other inanimate objects? What aspects of the human experience are camouflaged in stories, poems, art, and film that connect us with worlds very different from our own? And, why is it important to recognize the human experience in these worlds anyway? What does this recognition teach us about ourselves and others? In this course, we will address these questions and many more as we take on the role of psychologists and philosophers to unpack the definition of what it means to be “human”. Through comparative readings and film examples we will explore works ranging from Shakespeare to science fiction, from philosophy to current dystopian literature, as we encounter worlds outside our own realities and explore what each says about the human experience. Come ready to read, analyze, critique, discuss, and debate in a class that will make you think more deeply about the hidden messages related to the human experience in what you watch and read. In the process of defining what it means to be human, you may begin to better understand yourself and others around you, too.

Genetic Engineering: The Science of Modified Organisms

From scientific research to alternative energy to the food we consume, Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are becoming an integral part of everyday life. But what exactly is a GMO? How are GMOs developed and how are they used to better our lives? Do they always make life better? We will begin our investigation by learning about the various types of GMOs and explore the industrial applications of these organisms in fields such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and environmental science. As aspiring scientists, we will then take an in-depth look at the DNA modification techniques and procedures that scientists and engineers use in the real-world when working with GMOs, including DNA sequencing, PCR, gene isolation and targeting, hybridization, and more, through hands-on experimentation and activities. Along the way, we will also discuss and debate the ethical implications of using Genetically Modified Organisms and their impact on the larger world. Do GMOs do more harm or more good? What are the limitations, if any, of GMOs? Be prepared to think critically and creatively as we delve into the ever-expanding field of genetic engineering!