Probability and Prediction: What Are the Odds?
When you flip a coin, does it matter if you started with heads or tails? What is the difference between skill and luck when it comes to playing games? When do you take your umbrella and when do you wear your rain boots? How does the grocery story make sure they always have your favorite ice cream flavor, and what went wrong when they don’t? In this exciting course, you will examine how probability and predictions are used in our lives and decisions everyday. As we explore a variety of real-world scenarios, we will discover how to gather data to make informed predictions. Using your newfound knowledge of probability, you will create fair and unfair games, place orders for your own ice cream store, explore the math behind weather patterns, and more. Just when we think we have figured out prediction and probability, we will be confronted with results that don’t match our expectations. We will discuss strategies, statistics, and surprises in this class as we ask, “What are the odds?!”
What’s the Matter?: Solving Science Mysteries*
Curious things are happening in your classroom: a strange, unidentified substance has been discovered on a table, the teacher’s water is disappearing, and a bracelet has been found that won’t stop glowing. Why are all these mysteries occurring? What’s the matter in your classroom? In this course, you will become a science detective as you investigate multiple matter mysteries! After learning the scientific method that all scientists use to answer questions, you will begin to put it to use as you make scientific predictions, design and conduct experiments, record your observations, and collect data. You will also gather information about tiny particles called molecules and atoms and examine their relationship with solids, liquids, and gases as you learn how to classify chemicals. We will also practice creating chemical and physical reactions to help crack each case. Come ready to gather information and make discoveries as you and other budding scientists work together to solve some very puzzling matter mysteries!
*Course is adapted from an evidence-supported science curriculum, What’s the Matter, from the College of William and Mary.
Ecological Expedition: Exploring Ecology through Literature*
Should we kill spiders in our houses? Should animals be kept in zoos? Should a forest be cleared to make way for a much-needed grocery store? In this class, you will become a scientific researcher to investigate these questions and more as we learn about the complex study of ecology. Using the concept of interactions, we will explore interactions between plants, animals, and humans in the environment. If you are a scientist who also loves reading, then this class is for you! Through an interdisciplinary investigation of ecology, we will explore multiple examples from literature that address interactions between plants, animals, and humans as we also investigate the interaction of the story elements. Come ready to debate big questions in ecology through multiple perspectives. Along the way, we will learn that there is a lot to consider when answering questions about the relationships among living things and the environment. After this ecological expedition you will better understand living organisms and the world they inhabit, and you will be able to justify your ideas about how these interactions work by using evidence, just like a professional ecologist!
*Course is adapted from an evidence-based science and ELA curriculum, Ecology in Literature, from Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth.
Why does ice float? How do fireworks display so many colors? Why can’t you see the sugar in your lemonade? These questions and more can be answered by the exciting field of chemistry. In this class we will dive head first into studying the elements that create all matter. We will explore the periodic table, how elements react with each other, and how each molecule has unique characteristics that allow scientists to identify it. Through hands on experiments, engaging demonstrations, and activities that ask us to apply our new knowledge, we will learn about the physical properties of different elements. The close observations we make of different molecular compounds will allow us to discuss how they have led to the development of amazing technology, such as super-magnets. We will use our new understanding of elements and molecules to explain things we see every day. At the end of the course you will be able to use your power of observation and problem solving skills to see the world through the perceptive eyes of a chemist.
Earth Explorers: Discovering Our World from the Inside Out
We live on an active, dynamic, and powerful planet. In this course you will learn from real-life experts in the fields of geology and environmental science as you explore important attributes of Earth and its many natural wonders. Together, you and other budding environmental scientists (your classmates) will explore topics ranging from volcanos and glaciers to groundwater and hillslopes. We will uncover how land is formed, how it evolves, and how it is destroyed as we build our very own models of the Earth. We will replicate the power of plate tectonics, observe glacier erosion, build streams and aquifers, and model the impact that human activity is having on natural Earth processes. All great researchers apply the scientific process to their work, so we will learn the application of this method to geology as we develop strong investigative and research skills—Get ready to take on the role of a geologist as you conduct experiments, gather evidence, and analyze data to learn more about our amazing planet, Earth!
Modified Organisms: Secrets of DNA Hacking
What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)? Where do GMOs come from? Why are GMOs becoming such an integral part of our lives? Are GMOs always beneficial? What are the limitations, if any, to creating and using them? In this class we will answer these questions and more as we explore the exciting and the ever-evolving industry of genetic modification. We will begin our interdisciplinary investigation by learning about the various types of GMOs, including plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses, and explore the industrial applications of these organisms. As aspiring scientists we will conduct hands-on experiments and projects to better understand GMOs. We will take an in-depth look at cellular modification as we explore DNA hacking techniques that scientists and engineers use in the real-world to develop GMOs, including DNA sequencing, PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and more. Along the way, we will discuss the pros and cons of GMOs and their varied uses. Calling all future scientists– are you ready to learn the secrets behind DNA hacking and genetically modified organisms? Then this is the class for you!
Unpacking Adaptation: From the Page to the Stage
Have you ever anxiously awaited to see the movie or play of a favorite novel only to be disappointed when you did? Theatermakers have the challenge of taking the words on the page and turning them into a unique production that will still satisfy fans of the novel. The journey from the book page to the stage is one of translation and adaptation. But what does this process look like? What do playwrights, screenwriters, actors, and directors have to consider when developing a production that will surprise and excite an audience but remain true to the written story? How can artistic choices portray the themes, mood, and tone envisioned by the novelist, and how can these choices also impact the audience’s understanding of an original novel? In this class, we will answer these questions and more through the exploration of passages of C.S. Lewis’s novel The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and Joseph Robinette’s script by the same name. We will critically analyze the choices that Robinette made when turning the novel into a script. We will also explore how actors bring in their own interpretation by analyzing different productions and speaking directly with actors who have performed Robinette’s script themselves. After this course you will not only have the skills needed to analyze any text that you love and but you will also be able to justify what choices you would make to bring it to life for others!
A Great Debate: The Art of Argument and Power of Persuasion
What do you think of when you hear the word argument? In most cases, people have an initial negative reaction to this word– they sometimes think to argue is to fight. However, this is not necessarily true! Philosophy defines an argument as simple statements used to persuade someone of something using evidence and reason or to confirm a certain conclusion. In this class, you will learn the skills and methods that ancient philosophers used as you develop your techniques to convince others to accept your point of view. Through the use of logical arguments and appropriate evidence, you will learn how to defend your viewpoints and persuade you friends. Just like any skill, the art of argument takes practice. By exploring specific types of fallacies that can negatively impact an argument, we will become more aware of the principles great debaters use to present their points. We will also analyze historical speeches and debates as we explore the power that good debate skills can have on others. Each week we will put our skills to the test as we work to incorporate our ever-growing knowledge of persuasion into our own practice. If you are interested in debating timely and relevant topics that directly impact your life then look no further! Come ready to hone your skills as you take part in a great debate!
Truth vs. Perception*
What is reality? Just because we perceive something to be real, does it actually exist? How do we know if something is real or just a figment of our own beliefs and imagination? Join us in this philosophical exploration of the relationship between truth and perception! In this course, you will discover how reality is presented and interpreted in fiction, nonfiction, art, and media by studying famous works by Shirley Jackson, Jonathan Swift, Sherman Alexie, Andy Warhol, and Rene Magritte. Throughout the course, we will engage in reflective activities such as Socratic seminars, literary analysis, skits, art, and creative writing, as we begin to apply our understanding of the difference between truth and how we perceive reality. We will conclude with a critical evaluation of how modern media presents reality to us and how we can train ourselves to be smart consumers of information in its varying forms. Test yourself – in reading or media are you really seeing the truth or just one’s perception of it?
*Course is adapted from an evidence-based curriculum, In the Mind’s Eye, from Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth.
Messages in Maps: Using Maps to Understand History
Before Google Maps and Siri, people from around the world used different methods and practices to create maps and understand the world they lived in. Without satellite imagery to help with the map-making process, people in early America had to think critically about pertinent information to place on a map. And so, historical maps often represent the knowledge and biased interest of those who created them. In this course, we explore historical moments and eras from 1500 to 1800AD by analyzing maps and other primary accounts to gain a better understanding of the people of the time and their values. We will explore great map-makers of early America, like Samuel de Champlain and John Smith, who left primary accounts to accompany their maps in order to shed greater light on their motives for creating maps and investigate the cross-cultural encounters that mapping represented. After exploring the messages of historical maps in reflecting values, map-makers’ motives, and knowledge of the time, we will make our own maps and writings to correspond with the historical moments that we ourselves have traveled through. What do our maps say about us and our values, beliefs, and knowledge of this time period? In this class you will take on the role of a historian and map maker, as you work to analyze the hidden messages in this sometimes forgotten powerful primary source!
Biophotonics: Shedding Light on Medical Methods and Disease
Scientists and engineers are constantly working to develop new innovations to solve some of the most challenging problems in medicine. Biophotonics, the application of light in biology, has grown extensively over the past 50 years and is one such innovation. From x-ray machines to microscopes to lasers, biophotonics harnesses the power of light to help doctors and researchers better understand biological systems and processes as well as diagnose and treat various diseases. In this class, we will examine the properties of light and its interactions with matter to learn how to apply specific imaging and spectroscopy techniques to current global health challenges. In addition, we will learn about some of the most common optical methods used in both research and medicine. We will then apply this knowledge to design our own biophotonic solutions to tackle current and future challenges in medicine. Get ready to put your science and problem-solving skills to the test as we shed light on the exciting world of biophotonics!