Rising 1st Grade
Playing with Words
Are you a teller of stories and jokes? Do you coin new phrases? Are you a fan of riddles and rhymes? If so, then you, my friend, like to play with words! In this class you’ll see how authors use words and phrases to capture their readers through laughter and complex thought. Learn to recognize special literary devices such as similes, metaphors, symbols, and personification, all tools that writers use to better communicate their ideas. You, too, can experiment with figurative language and wordplay, the very same tools that writers have used for centuries! A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can paint a pretty awesome picture.
The Unseen World of Microorganisms
Why do people get sick? Why does medicine make you feel better? Is there such a thing as good bacteria? In this hands-on and minds-on science course, you will learn the answers to these questions and many others as you investigate the fascinating world of microbiology. Microorganisms come in many shapes and sizes and include bacteria, viruses, fungi, protists and more! You might not be able to see them, but by the end of this course, you will know where to find microorganisms, what your cells look like, and how microorganisms impact your life. Come ready to take on the role of a scientist as you investigate microbiology by conducting experiments and participating in lab work alongside a real microbiologist!
Entomology: The Science of Bugs
Are bugs just here to bug us, or do they have some other important purpose? How do scientists study these jumpy, crawly critters? What can insects tell us about the state of the environment around us? Together we’ll tackle these questions and more in our study of entomology. In this course, you will examine important characteristics of different insects and learn how to classify them based on their distinct parts. We will learn about how bugs are important friends to plants, animals, and humans, and discuss how choices that humans make can have positive or negative impacts on the life of insects, especially bees. You’re guaranteed to leave this class with a greater understanding of how important insects are to our planet, even if you think they’re a little bit creepy!
What’s the Matter?
Strange things are happening: a mysterious, unidentified substance has been found, the principal’s water is disappearing, and even more mysteries abound. Never fear, you are on the case! In this course, you will become a detective and use science to solve mysteries. After learning about the investigative processes of a scientist, you will gather your own information about solids, liquids, and gases by making scientific predictions, designing and conducting experiments, carefully recording your observations, and collecting data. You will then use the information and discoveries you uncover to solve some very puzzling matter mysteries.
Dive into Design
What did it take to create your favorite swimming pool? Did you know that architects and engineers used principles of mathematics and measurement to ensure that your favorite swimming pool is a fun and safe place? In this course, you will learn about engineering design processes, including how measurement and modeling are used when creating structures such as swimming pools. Why do we measure? What goes into taking accurate measurements? Why is accuracy so important? What should you consider when choosing a measurement tool? You will answer these questions and more as you create a model for a community pool! Get ready to dive into a problem-based task that requires critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and lots of fun with measurement.
Budding BotanistYou’ve just discovered a professor’s old journal. His notes are very intriguing, as they suggest that plants can possibly be used as an alternative fuel source. Could he be right? Get your lab coat ready as we investigate this curious case! In this course, you will be taking on the role of a botanist to investigate this professor’s idea. Before determining if plants can be used as a fuel source, you will first learn as much as you can about the life cycle and structure of plants by conducting experiments and field investigations. Come ready to get dirty as you unearth knowledge about plants!
Have you ever read a great story and wondered how the author created such a masterpiece? What makes a great story so powerful? How do illustrations add to the power of a story? We will explore these questions and more as you take on the role of storyteller. In this session, you will explore the writing process and learn engaging, interactive, and dynamic strategies that help you focus on the story you are creating. Whether you are composing a story about a personal experience or a tale to persuade an audience, you will learn the tricks and behaviors of great writers. By the end of the class, you will have a great start to a portfolio of literary work!
We have a problem. A once beautiful plant that grew delicious berries is not looking so great. And even more troubling, the plant has stopped producing berries! In this course you will become agricultural engineers to determine what has happened to this beautiful plant, and you will use the engineering design process to design a solution to make the plant healthy again. As you investigate, you will learn about integrated pest management (IPM), butterfly metamorphosis, hand pollination, and much more. This course will forever change how you think about plants, insects, and what it means to be an agricultural engineer!
Beyond the Pyramids: Egyptian Explorations
Did you know that the Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted over 3,000 years? When we think of Ancient Egypt we often think about pyramids, mummies, and hieroglyphics, but Ancient Egypt has even more to offer. In this course you will take on the role of an anthropologist to investigate how the Egyptians’ systems of language, leadership, economics, architecture, and geography created a strong civilization that lasted for thousands of years. Don’t worry — we will talk about mummies and pyramids too. Plus, you’ll even get to try your hand at writing Egyptian hieroglyphics!
Rising 2nd and 3rd Grades
Have you ever wondered what makes the best habitat for a crayfish? Or why one plant thrives in a particular location but can’t take root in another? If so, come be part of a team of ecological explorers as we uncover the secrets behind living organisms and their environments! In this class, you’ll gather and analyze data from hands-on experiments and field observations around Vanderbilt’s campus to determine how all the different parts of an ecosystem work together. You’ll look at the world in a whole new way after this in-depth investigation of how plants, animals, and humans interact with each other and the environment around them!
The Power of Poetry
Roses are red. Violets are blue. If you like poetry, then this class is for you! Inspiration for poetry is all around us. You can use any space or setting as inspiration for creating poetic works. In this class you will learn how poets use their surroundings and experiences in their writing. Learning elements of the craft of poetry, including line, image, and metaphor, you will create your own poems by using everyday places and experiences as a backdrop for ideas. We will also closely examine the various forms that poetry can take, using examples from both historical and current day poetry collections. As you read and critique a variety of poems from famous poets, you will explore the impact that poetry can have on your emotions and thoughts. After this course you will have started to develop your own powerful poetic voice.
From the floating ice in your water bottle to the colorful fireworks in the sky, chemistry is all around us! In this class you will begin to recognize chemistry in your everyday life as we 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, demonstrations, and activities, we will investigate the physical properties of elements, and we will consider how observations from molecules have led to amazing technology. 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.
All movies and plays begin as words on a page. It is up to the screenwriter to craft a script that is meaningful enough to be interpreted by actors. It is up to the actors to interpret the words in the script and use action and tone to convey themes and emotions to an audience. Crafting a play or screenplay from a story or novel takes thoughtful consideration of the narration and action used to convey the meaning. What elements of a story need to be kept or added to enhance the story as a theatrical presentation? How does an author alter the setting, characters, or dialogue when preparing to change a story into a play? How do actors convey meaning through their physical actions? In this course, you will closely examine the language and processes involved in bringing written tales to life as plays or movies. Action! Take on the role of a scriptwriter or playwright to learn how to turn your favorite stories into entertaining productions.
Come and learn about the organ with the most personality: the brain! This course is all about exploring what scientists know about the amazing brain. Learn how your foot communicates with your head and how to protect your brain from damage. Create your own neuron, one of the brain’s cells, and model how fast these cells talk to one another through chemistry. Gain an understanding of how a single cell works as a team so you can move and think. Through hands-on inquiry labs, students will use their problem-solving skills and creativity to make hypotheses, observe, and investigate. Get ready for a brain blast as you learn new information from a neuroscientist!
Ready, set, go! In this course we will examine the mathematics and engineering that underlie studies of motion and design our own investigations. Using video, machines, and basic principles of physics, we will investigate and make hypotheses about the science behind motion. But we won’t stop there! We will also engineer the materials required to see, hear, and digitize motion in order to measure changes in speed, including acceleration due to gravity. After learning some computer programming and coding skills, we will apply these skills to create models and graphics of objects in motion. Your mind will be working full speed as we study and design creative ways to observe motion!
From Blueprint to Business: Math Behind Entrepreneurship
Calling all entrepreneurs! A great business starts with a great idea, but to ensure that your idea is successful, you also need a great business plan. How do you begin designing a strong plan? You start with math! In this class, you will learn about the important mathematical concepts behind business design. We will learn how to conduct market research so that you can target your advertising based on your findings. We will investigate how profit margins, pricing strategies, interest rates, and cost analysis impact businesses. We will even study successful businesses to use as models for our own. Do you have a special talent or skill that could be turned into a business? Come ready to work with a group of SAVY classmates and turn your business blueprint into a reality when customers visit the SAVY Mall!
The Science of Complexity
What do ants, the brain, and the Internet have in common? They are all complex systems! Complex systems researchers seek to explain how large numbers of simple elements organize themselves to achieve results that are greater than the sum of their parts. Systems like ant colonies, flocks of birds, and the worldwide web are particularly puzzling because there is no leader that organizes the elements within the system– somehow, they just work! In this course, you will learn how to define and measure the complexity of a system, explore current topics in complex systems research, and use computer programming to model and mathematize systems. After this course, you will be able to identify the complex systems that are all around you and how to model many of them through computer programming!
Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to the exciting world of atoms, molecules, bonds, and chemistry! This course will mix it up by teaching you how elements combine in amazing ways to make new substances through chemical reactions. You will learn the structure of the atom, how to know if a chemical reaction has happened, proper chemical and lab safety, the periodic table of elements, and chemical energy conversions. Through safe hands-on inquiry labs, you will use problem-solving skills and creativity to make hypotheses, observe, and investigate the exhilarating, and sometimes unstable, world of chemistry.
Secrets of the Moli Stone
A stone tablet has just been unearthed. What an exciting discovery! The tablet is covered with unusual symbols and interesting mathematical markings. What do these symbols and markings mean? In this class you will take on the role of a mathematician so that you can unravel the secrets of the Moli Stone. You will begin with an exploration of our number system and then delve into other number systems as you learn about place value and base systems. No stone will be left unturned in this mysterious mathematical adventure.
Rising 4th and 5th Grades
Science Simulations: Computer Models of Change
Modeling systems of change is a key scientific activity in many fields of study. However, in order to really see what is taking place during some scientific phenomena, scientists must develop diverse and creative ways to investigate real-world motion events and illustrate the important details of these events through simulation. In this class, we will use computer modeling tools to make models of motion phenomena that are too fast, slow, big, or tiny to measure in our everyday experience, and we will engineer new ways to see and measure patterns of change related to these phenomena. This course will allow you the opportunity to explore how computer modeling and science interact and how programming is used to create computer simulations in real-life scientific research!
Puzzles and Problem Solving
How does a group of logical pirates agree to distribute their loot? If a car changes its speed according to its distance from its final destination, how long does it take the car to reach its goal? You will learn to answer these questions and many more in this course as you learn the principles of probability, logic, and game theory. In this hands-on math class, you will explore problem-solving methods by wrapping your mind around counterintuitive solutions and teasing your brain with apparent contradictions. As the class develops, you may even begin to pose your own questions for the class to solve. Get ready to get stumped and stump others in a class that is sure to make you think critically and strategize with precision.
Have you ever wondered why you look or act like you do? Have you asked yourself why you have blue eyes when your mom and dad have brown eyes, why you are left-handed, or why all of your siblings have red hair? If so, then you are already thinking about genetics. These questions and more will be addressed in this course, which introduces you to the cells in your body and how a special molecule called DNA plays a role in making you! You will learn the basics of Mendelian genetics, explore the double helix, investigate natural selection, and begin to understand how scientists use genetics to study human disease. Understanding genetics will allow you to better understand yourself and others. By the end of the course you will be able use the “rules” of genetics to design your own creature and use your knowledge of DNA to become a forensic scientist and solve a crime!
Looking into Language
English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese– we may speak different languages, but we all use some form of language to communicate complex ideas and share our stories with others. We often try to learn different languages, but we rarely learn about the complex characteristics of spoken words. Why do scientists study human language? How do language and culture influence each other? In this class, we will learn the essential concepts of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and proxemics. We will consider the importance of dialect and how people can speak the same language in unique ways. We will also investigate the intersections of language, culture, and social relationships to help us understand how relatively small variations in how people speak are connected to larger issues in society. After this class you will never think about language and how we talk in the same way!
Poetry in Practice
Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and e e cummings. Profound poets such as these have the ability to create written pieces that transcend time. Powerful poems can impact your emotions and thoughts, and remain etched in your mind for days, months, and even years. But what characteristics make a poem memorable? How do we tell a meaningful story using so few words? In this course, we will closely examine how famous poets create compelling poetry and we will discover how to apply similar skills and ideas in our own work. By using examples from both historical and current-day collections, we will examine the different forms that poetry can take and discuss the elements of craft employed in preparing influential poetic creations. After exploring the work of famous poets, we will write our own unique pieces to share. Start to develop your own powerful poetic voice with this in-depth look into the complex world of poetry in practice.
What would you do if a truck carrying an unidentified liquid crashed on a busy highway and began to leak its liquid into a nearby creek? How would you isolate the spill? What experiments would you need to conduct to determine whether or not the liquid is dangerous? How do you keep people and animals in the surrounding environment safe? Through a series of role-play examples, scientific experimentation, and the study of complex systems, you will learn about acid and base chemistry as you solve key problems related to a chemical spill. We will examine the damaging effects that such an event can have on the ecosystem, economy, and human transportation, and we will brainstorm solutions to a culturally relevant and potentially hazardous event.
Memory and the Brain
Why do we have so few memories from the first few years of our lives? Why can we remember some things, like the delicious cake at our last birthday party, but not other things, like the name of someone we just met? Despite the large amount of knowledge we have about memories, there are still many unanswered questions. In this course, we will examine the cognitive and neural foundations of memory, how these processes change across our lifespans, and the methods that cognitive neuroscientists use to measure memory, including functional magnetic resonance imaging and electrophysiology. As we take on the role of neuroscientists, we will read and discuss research articles and famous neurological cases, as well as conduct our own experiments and collect data. This is one class you won’t forget!
Fact and Fiction: The New World
What really happened in 1492? Were the Spaniards the first Europeans to travel to the Americas? What about the people who already lived here? In this course you will examine the role of Native American inhabitants and Spanish conquistadors in shaping the New World, and some of the commonly believed myths about this early European-American contact. You will read accounts of soldiers, priests, and indigenous peoples in their own words to learn about the economic, social, and political systems at play in the New World. You will also use historical and modern maps to test your geographic skill and maybe plan a journey of your own. As you read Columbus’s diary, Aztec poetry, and Hernando de Soto’s account of his travels across modern-day Tennessee, you’ll grow to understand why Spaniards came to America, what they did here, and how the Native Americans reacted.
Hydrology: World of Water
Water is everywhere! Did you know that approximately 71% of the Earth is covered in water? But, where does fresh water come from? How do we make sure that we don’t run out of this precious resource and provide water that is safe for people? The study of hydrology involves investigating water-related questions. In this course we will take on the role of hydrologists to explore many topics like the hydrologic cycle, water conservation, and rising sea levels. Using field and laboratory techniques, we will identify the most important characteristics of streams, explore the physical processes controlling water and landscape interactions, and learn how to analyze water quality. We will integrate environmental science and policy to discuss pressing global water issues and water management. You may even have a chance to use your knowledge of the world of water to model healthy watersheds and construct your very own water treatment plant!
Why do apple slices turn brown when we leave them on our plate too long? What compounds make our food taste sour or salty? In this course, we will learn how science contributes to something we do everyday, eat! We will investigate the chemical structures of food components such as carbohydrates, lipids, and vitamins, and learn how these structures make foods look and taste different. We will then analyze the content of these components in a variety of foods, and uncover why some snacks are better for our body than others. Using scientific modeling kits, we will examine how important chemical structures in food change under certain conditions, as well as the role enzymes and microorganisms play in some everyday food processes. Come learn how science and food intertwine with the world of culinary chemistry.
Rising 6th and 7th Grades
Social Psychology 101
From speaking Spanish to cooking your dad’s signature spaghetti sauce, much of learning involves human interaction. Human beings are savvy socializers and learners long before reaching adulthood, adjusting how closely they follow the instructions of others or imitate their behavior depending on the situation. But it’s a fine line to walk – imitate your Spanish teacher too loosely and you’re unintelligible, but follow your dad’s recipe too closely and you’ll never invent your own signature dish. How do people decide when, what, and who to learn from? When does social learning lead to cooperation and consensus, and when does it lead to conformity or negative peer pressure? In this course, we will explore and analyze the psychology of social learning from infancy to adulthood, discovering instances when following the leader can be useful or problematic—and sometimes both!
In the Mind’s Eye: 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 Plato, Shirley Jackson, M.C. Escher, and Vincent Van Gogh. By engaging in reflective activities such as Socratic seminars, literary analysis techniques, skits, art, and creative writing, we will begin to apply our understanding of the difference between truth and our own perception of it. 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 media. Test yourself – are you perceiving the world for what it is, or are you seeing only the shadows of reality?
Behavioral Science in Action: Using Psychology and Statistics to Solve Real-World Problems
How can numbers be used to describe observable phenomena? What do you need to consider when creating a scientific hypothesis that you can test? How can you use psychology to investigate real life questions? In this class, you will examine these questions and many more as you take on the role of a research psychologist. Psychology researchers use numbers and theories to draw conclusions and answer important questions. By exploring different methods for data collection, learning how to utilize statistical software to extract meaning from data, and uncovering how scientists make educated guesses based on theory and numbers, you will learn important tools used in psychology research. After exploring psychology research methods and seeing researchers in action in Vanderbilt labs, you will develop and test your own scientific hypothesis, collect and analyze your own data, and present your findings. Experience psychology in action as you use data to make scientific discoveries!
Page to Screen
Have you ever loved a book and anxiously waited for the movie to be created only to be disappointed when you finally watched the film? So often the book and the movie don’t match. Something feels off– the actors, the setting, the events. It’s a challenge to translate the characters and events on a page into actors and events on the screen, especially given the infinite number of ways those characters and events can be interpreted. In this course you will take on the role of a literary and film critic as you read story excerpts and analyze how they have been adapted to film. By studying multiple adaptations of the same story, we will think critically about filmmakers’ artistic choices when approaching a story. What elements separate a good adaptation from a terrible one? Why do some films do justice to the original work and others don’t? This class will appeal to anyone who loves reading good books and watching good movies.
The Art of Fiction
What makes a story interesting and engaging? What techniques do writers use so that readers feel like they are inside the mind of someone who may be very different from themselves? How do authors create characters that may make poor decisions, but that readers still care about? In this course, you will examine stories in order to better understand the craft of writing fiction, including the importance of point-of-view, pacing, description, and narrative arc. You will develop and revise stories of your own, which we will read and discuss together in class, and use your newly learned skills to create complex characters. We will also examine creative visual art to explore the ways that this can inspire our writing. Ultimately, we will explore the impulses that lead each of you to write in the first place, while considering the ways writing fiction might deepen our understanding of our own lives and the communities around us.
Engineering Policy and Urban Design
Humans all across the globe share in the use of Earth’s natural resources. But who really owns these precious materials? Who should be responsible for maintaining them? We will tackle these questions and more as we investigate the issues of urban development and resource sharing in this interdisciplinary course. Together we will examine the intersection of engineering, public policy, and environmental science. We will discuss urban development and the impact it can have on natural resources like water, and we will investigate the most common sources of pollution. We will study the characteristics of healthy watersheds and read about policy solutions that help protect our environment and most widely used resources from the damaging effects of rapid population growth. Using an example from our own community, we will then take on the role of different stakeholders, such as farmers, government officials and community leaders, to investigate problems created by urban development. Through collaboration, problem solving, and research, we will develop and argue our own creative solutions to this growing global issue.
Linguistics in Your Life
Linguistics allows us to communicate complex ideas through systems of symbols. The way we each use language can seem to say a lot about who we are (even when not all of it is true)! Relatively small variations in how people speak are connected to larger issues in society like power, class, and education. In this course, we will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and proxemics, and practice transcribing speech using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). We will then learn how to recognize dialectical differences among people from various regions in the U.S. We will also explore the intersections between language, culture, and social relations to help us understand how language gives people identity but can also perpetuate stereotypes. After this class you will be able to think more critically about language and the unique ways that people use it.
Fission and Fusion: Nuclear Engineering 101
How do particles that are invisible to the naked eye help turn on our lights and power our Navy submarines? How do radioactive materials aid doctors in detecting and curing illness? How do engineers use science to minimize exposure to radioactive materials? We will answer these questions and more in our exploration of the science, mathematics, and application of nuclear engineering. To understand nuclear power, we will start with a study of basic physics concepts and learn how to calculate the probability of sustaining a chain reactor. We will then design our own safety shields and build a mock nuclear reactor using the principles we’ve learned. We will also investigate how nuclear science impacts our daily lives and visit a research laboratory that uses high-tech equipment to design materials that can safely store nuclear waste.
Fantasies of Change
Can people really come together and change the world, or is that dream just imaginative fiction? This course enables students to formulate their own answer to this pressing question! Sometimes seeing the world from a different angle broadens our vision and deepens our understanding, so we will explore protests, community organizing, and social movements by finding them in mythical, fantasy, and science fiction literature and film. After honing an understanding of collective action through fictional renditions, we will turn to historic case studies of protest, organizing, and movement-building to explore how visions might be enacted or just remain a fantasy. A passive desire to change the world is never enough – organizing a movement takes imagination and work! How might your school, community, city, or world change for the better? During this class you will have the chance to apply your newfound understanding of social change to create and organize your own movement. If you’ve ever been curious about the ability of social movements to change the world, or wondered if you have that potential, then this is the course for you! Come ready to make your fantasy of change a reality.
Neuroscience of the Senses
Your ability to sense the outside world- feel the cold weather, taste spicy peppers, hear loud music- involves your body sending information to your brain by means of electrical signals. Take a journey through sensory neurobiology to understand how the nervous system generates these signals and how the brain assembles them into a representation of the world! We will experience and closely examine optical illusions, learn how bats echolocate, and figure out why the delicious flavors of pizza have more to do with smell than taste. We will also compare and contrast human sensory systems with those of other animals and discuss how sensory systems are affected by age and disease. As a neuroscientist in training, you will explore the senses through hands-on experiments and see first-hand how scientific investigators engage in this field of research.
Capturing Perspective: The Art of Documentary Theater
Documentary theater is the art of combining primary source material, personal interviews, and stage performance to breathe life into the pressing and complex issues of our time. Through storytelling and historical context, intricate theoretical concepts, such as social justice, friendship, and power, are made human and accessible. In this course, we will combine research, critical analysis, playwriting, and journalistic integrity to construct an original theatrical work. Informal interviews and historical archives will provide rich material. You will learn how to cut and juxtapose the texts of these interviews and living documents into a meaningful work. You will learn to think critically about perspective, subjectivity, and thematic content to create a piece that not only makes you think but also leaves your audience asking deep questions long after the curtain falls.
More Data, More Problems: Tackling Genetic Epidemiology
The government has recently announced the Precision Medicine Initiative that involves obtaining genetic data for one million people in order to help determine the role of genetics in disease. This project will involve A LOT of genetic data, over one trillion genetic variants! How can we even begin to process all that data and figure out how it relates to health and disease? In this course, you will learn how to tackle big data. You will learn how to use statistical tests to look at the relationships between genetic variants and health outcomes, and how to use computer programming to run statistical scripts in order to analyze your big data. We will learn the concepts behind the statistical tests we are using as well as the genetic variants that we are analyzing. We then will use a variety of computer software and programming skills to analyze a genetic data set and tackle big questions in genetics!
A Walk Under the Stars: Astronomy and Astrophysics
The history of the universe is written in the sky! In this course, you will learn how to identify and characterize different types of celestial objects, how the study of light is essential to astronomy, and more. Astronomers recognize that there are a lot of things that we don’t know about the universe (yet). Astrophysicists use computer modeling and advanced mathematics to answer their research questions, and in this course, you’ll learn the basics of this process. You’ll learn firsthand about how computer modeling can be applied to astronomy by investigating the laws of physics on Earth and seeing if your observations match what computer models predict. This course will help you answer questions as wide and diverse as the universe itself.