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Summer 2015

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Rising 1st Grade

Survive and Thrive

Have you ever pondered how animals know when danger is near? Have you ever wondered what animals do in a thunderstorm? Have you questioned how animals survive in the blistering heat of summer or in the coldest months of winter? If so, you are thinking like a scientist. In this course, we will delve into these questions and many others as we investigate the habits of animals, learning more about their unique characteristics and habitats. Throughout the class, you will investigate serious questions related to preservation and animal protection, so get ready to take on the multi-faceted roles of scientist and animal advocate.

Beyond the Pyramids: Egyptian Exploration

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!

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 become engineers as you learn to use measuring and modeling to create the perfect swimming pool. As you work through the design process you will learn to answer lots of important questions – Why do we measure? Why is accuracy even important? What should you consider when choosing a measurement tool? Get ready to dive into the deep end of a problem-based task that requires critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and lots of fun with measurement.

Budding Botanist

You’ve just discovered a professor’s old journal and notes. His notes are fascinating! He suggests that plants can possibly be used as an alternative fuel source. Could he be right? Get your lab coat ready! In this class you will take 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 investigation. Come ready to get dirty as you unearth hidden truths about plants!

Story Creations

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 and professional writer. In this session, you will explore the writing process and learn engaging, interactive, and dynamic strategies that help you focus on story you are creating. You will learn strategies to help create the best versions of your creations! Whether you are crafting 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!

Engineering Solutions

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, 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 engineer!

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 us 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.

Rising 2nd and 3rd Grade


Think engineering is all about machines? Not true! Come and learn how the world of biology and engineering combine to answer some of our most complex biological questions! In this class you will become a biological engineer as you study how the body works, developing ways to help it work more effectively. In order to begin devising solutions, you will learn about the parts of the cell and how they work together to make a body function. You will explore the role of DNA and genetics and learn how engineers and scientists use this knowledge to understand and treat disease. By using both the scientific method and engineering design, you will employ problem-solving skills and creativity to observe, formulate hypotheses, and investigate real life problems.

Shaping Up in Geometry

What makes a square a square? Can you prove it? Why is a square always a rectangle but a rectangle is only sometimes square? How many ways can you classify a particular shape? Why are classifications even important? What is the relationship between two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes? In this class, we will explore these questions and many more as you think about the importance of shapes in our lives. As you learn more about the relationship between two-dimensional and three dimension shapes you will learn how to create flat, accurate representations or the three-dimensional world. Through our study of shapes will discover more about numbers, algebra, and measurement.

X Marks the Spot

Let’s go treasure hunting! While some ancient treasures have been found using modern technology—answering some of histories deepest secrets—there are many legendary lost treasures still waiting to be discovered. In this class we will consider what history and literature tell us about lost treasures and decipher if such clues help us to solve long-standing mysteries. The sunken Spanish fleet off the coast of Florida will take us back to the early 1700s. We will learn about the colonies of the New World and the ships that transported gold, silver, and other precious cargo across the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll consider the treasure (gold said to be worth over one billion dollars), supposedly buried near Victorio Peak in New Mexico as well as the 750 tons of Incan gold said to be lost in the national park “Los Llaganates” in the mountains of Ecuador. We will consider questions such as: What did treasure mean to different cultures and during different time periods and how do the stories of lost treasure become “lost” themselves?

Ecological Explorers

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 join our 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 experiments, computer simulations, and field observations around Vanderbilt’s campus to determine how all the different parts of an ecosystem work together. Once you dig below the earth’s surface, you’ll see the world in a whole new way!

Charting Your Hero’s Journey

Are you ready to answer the call to adventure and follow in the footsteps of the literary and historical heroes who have gone before you? Join us as we study how heroes from classic literature, modern movies, and even Storycorps participants travel into the unknown, face challenges, and return home transformed. We will chart their progress through the stages of the journey, geographically, multimodally, and through enactment. We will discuss how these stories relate to our everyday experiences, binding us to other heroes. Then we will then turn the lens inward to compose digital stories of our own journeys, using tools such as Book Creator, Animoto, and Animation Desk. Get ready to read, reflect, map, act, and compose as we engage in the timeless purpose of literacy—to make meaning of our human experience.

It’s Elemental

Why does ice float? How can salt be used to make ice cream? How do fireworks display so many colors? 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, awesome demonstrations, and fun activities we will learn about the physical properties of elements. We will see how the observations from molecules have led to amazing technology and you will get several explanations for things you 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.

Awesome Algebra

Do you like to play mathematical games? Do you love to learn tricks for solving the most challenging problems in math? Did you know that many tricks and games are really just the careful and clever use of mathematical patterns, formulas, and algebraic expressions? In this class you will learn how to analyze patterns, write formulas, and solve for missing variables. You will learn how to develop such clever tricks for performing complex math computations. Get ready to wow family and friends with your mathematical skills and clever thinking. Math isn’t just fun in this class, it’s awesome!

Rising 4th and 5th Grade

No Quick Fix

Have you ever wondered what role cells play in the larger systems of our human body? How do biological concepts relate to social systems within our world, such as health care and public education? We hear about illness and disease everyday. Where do these stories and the diseases begin? How are the diseases spread? How does this affect the cells in our body, health care, and society at large? In this class, you will work to understand the causes and possible outcomes for these complex and interconnected systems through the mindset of a physician.

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, we will explore problem-solving methods by wrapping our minds around counterintuitive solutions and teasing our brains 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.

Media Mania! Using Science to Study Media’s Impact

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. Class participation will culminate in a student-developed experiment designed to investigate a hypothesis related to media and technology. Students will collect their own data and perform a data analysis, examining the results of their research. The class will engage in the scientific method as real scientists!

The Golden Age of Piracy

After losing millions of pounds to years of relentless attacks on his ships, King George of England declared that the Atlantic Ocean was “infested with pirates,” and hired a slew of pirate-hunters to protect English shipping in 1724. Armed with primary sources like letters and early newspapers, this class will explore the historical reasons why piracy was so popular at this time and place. In this course, you will identify key people and events that shaped criminal activity on the high seas. We will read unique documents, like the last words of some of history’s most bloody pirates, in order to understand more about what life was like for both pirates and pirate-hunters in this time period historians now refer to as the Golden Age of Piracy.

The Mathematics of Card Shuffling

Card shuffling ensures fairness in a game, right? One of the most common types of shuffles, the riffle shuffle, involves dividing the deck in half and releasing the cards by the thumbs so they interlace. What if you cut the cards in half and interlace the cards perfectly? Perfect shuffles have been used by magicians to trick and amaze. In this class you will learn the math behind perfect shuffles. Shuffling can be related to a specific type of math called permutation, which is a form of abstract algebra. You will study how to use our understanding of permutations to solve not only our shuffling dilemma, but also to investigate problems that involve groups, orders, combinations, and symmetry of regular polygons. And, with an understanding of permutations, you will be able to amaze your friends as explain how to use math in card shuffling!

Physics in Action

Physics is a remarkably practical science – its principles are evident in ball games, bicycles, musical instruments, the colors of a rainbow, electrical circuits, and interplanetary spacecraft. Physics is everywhere! In this course we will observe and experiment to figure out how physics is in action in everyday life. We will use physics to explain how things work and sometimes why they don’t. Our field of inquiry ranges from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest stars and galaxies, so grab your clipboard and join us as we discover physics in the universe!


Have you ever wonder why you look or act like you do? Have you considered questions like —Why do I have blue eyes and my mom and dad have brown eyes? Why am I left-handed? Why do all of my siblings have red hair? If you find yourself asking these questions, then you are already thinking about genetics. These questions and more will be addressed in this course that 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 examine how scientists use genetics to investigate 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 that solves a crime!

Rising 6th and 7th Grade

From Page to Screen: Film Adaptations

Have you ever loved a book and anxiously awaited 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 the 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 stories and analyze how they have been adapted for film. By studying multiple adaptions of the same story, we will think critically about filmmakers’ artistic choices when approaching a story. We’ll investigate questions like – What elements separate a good adaption 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 books and watching good movies.

Pop Culture and Philosophy

Do Marvel comics teach us anything about metaphysics? What even is metaphysics? What might Plato or Hobbes  have to say to about the Hunger Games? Today there are many books, movies, and tv shows that portray vampires and zombies. We will explore vampires and zombies to help us understand our brain and how it relates to our body. Delving further into the connection between pop culture and philosophy, we will look at what Foucault might have to say about social media or rap and pop music. In this course you will be introduced to a range of thinkers and theories in western philosophy by way of popular culture (and, inversely, we will to reflect on popular culture by way of philosophy). Get ready to think about the trends of today based on ideas of the past.

Written in Bones: Tales from the Ancient Andes

At the height of its power, the Inka Empire stretched over 2000 miles and controlled a diverse population of farmers, herders, chieftains, and warriors. This great empire, and its cultural predecessors, made incredible innovations in art, astronomy, engineering, and warfare, but unlike the Romans or Persians, they left no written record. This course fuses biology and archaeology to reconstruct Andean history through a unique body of evidence—the human remains of ancient people themselves. Mummies and the bones of ancestors played a vital role in Andean religion and society, and for scientists, they provide a window into diet, disease, and warfare in the past. Students will learn the field and laboratory techniques of bioarchaeological scientists and immerse themselves in the history of pre-Hispanic Peru through case studies and hands-on activities that explore the unique cultural and mortuary practices of this world region. Get ready to journey into the lost worlds of the ancient Andes!

Graphic Literature: Art and Story in Comic Books

Let’s face it. We’re not used to thinking about them as a medium of literature, but comic books are great. What other medium so effectively combines all the pleasures of literature with all the visual pleasures of art, making a whole greater than the sum of its parts? How does this dynamic relationship produce its own unique experience of reading? In this course, we’re going to explore the specifics of this experience, and learn how the combination of the literary and artistic sides of graphic narratives work together to create impressions of time, motion, and feeling with few, and sometimes no words at all. In the process, we will explore a variety of art styles and compare them with other forms of media like animation. Be ready to make observations, share opinions, and even try your hand at drawing your own graphic narrative!

Spatial Smarts

It’s a dark and stormy night; your family is driving to the beach. Lost. In the middle of nowhere… Sounds scary right? Never fear! Your mom pulls out her cell phone and before you know it your family is back on track! What would we do without the map and directions on our phone? In this class you will learn about Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the science behind satellite imagery, and the applications of geospatial technologies in our everyday lives. But, the fun doesn’t stop there. We will also investigate how maps have evolved over time. By exploring maps of the same area, we can note changes and draw conclusions to determine what these changes tell us about the area and the people living there. After this class, you will know the science behind maps and you will realize that maps can tell us much more information beyond directions and landmarks.

Common and Practical Chemistry

From paint and glue to fluorescent lighting to household appliances, chemistry is at work all around us. During this course, you will learn chemistry’s impact on you as we investigate its role in your everyday life. To better comprehend the chemistry of everyday things, we will explore basic principles of general, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry. During our investigation of everyday chemistry you will delve into central ideas related to chemistry like the ideal gas law, rotational and vibrational energy states, polymerization, catalysis, fluorescence, thermodynamics, solubility rules, electrochemistry, photochemistry, and redox reactions. Ultimately, you will come out of this class not only with a larger science vocabulary, but a real appreciation and understanding of how chemistry impacts your day-to-day life. Chemistry isn’t something you just read about in a book; its something you experience everyday!

Follow the Leader

From speaking Spanish to cooking your dad’s signature spaghetti sauce, much of learning involves social 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 situations they’re in. 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 the ways following the leader can be useful or problematic – and sometimes both!

Abstract Algebra

Shuffling a deck of cards is a common occurrence in many of our favorite games. Did you know that there is such a thing as a perfect shuffle? A perfect shuffle is when you divide the cards and interlace them perfectly. We will use an investigation into the mathematics of perfect shuffles as a launching pad for the study of permutations. Permutations arise in the broader study of group theory, a topic which investigates the natural symmetries that arise in mathematical structures. Group theory is often reserved for study during the third year of a undergraduate mathematics major, but you will have an early opportunity to dive into this challenging topic. Our study of permutations will lead us into investigations of the “decimal” expansion of rational numbers in other bases and the symmetries of regular polygons. There will be a strong emphasis on group investigations, solving difficult and non-standard problems, and mathematical communication. Be prepared to use your logic and mathematical knowledge as you learn more about the truth behind the shuffle.

Genetic Anthropology

Genetics is a fascinating area of science that helps explain who we are and why we act and look a certain way. However, genetics isn’t the only factor influencing what makes us, us. The past plays a role in influencing our genetics. Genetic anthropology is an interdisciplinary way of studying genetics that combines the study of the science behind genetics with an understanding for past civilizations based on anthropological studies. In this class you will take on the role of a genetic anthropologist as you learn specific lab techniques in the field. You will isolate your own DNA as you learn general laboratory techniques like DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that are applicable to a vast number of fields. You will even have the chance to apply your new knowledge of genetic anthropology as you analyze your own DNA to draw conclusions about your genetic ancestry.