Online Class Descriptions

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Course Descriptions

Spring 2014 teachers bios


Instructor: Liz Burr-Brandstadt.

This middle school level one semester course for students 8 and up includes analyses of some of the great epic heroes, including Odysseus, Beowulf, and Mwindo (an African hero). Cultural similarities and differences amongst the heroes will be addressed, as well as characteristics of epic texts. Modern concepts of heroism will also be discussed. Students will have the opportunity to give feedback of their own impressions of the works, as well as complete a creative project that reflects an understanding of epic heroes. Texts will include translations of various epics, as well as suggestions for supplemental reading.

Technomythica: Technology and Myth in the Ancient and Modern World

Instructor: Liz Burr-Brandstadt.

This one semester course for ages 12 and up covers selected Greek myths and their thematic relevance to technology in our modern culture. With all of the insights that myths provide into human nature, doesn’t it make sense that there are also messages about our relationship with technology? Even Socrates in “The Judgment of Thamus” grapples with the notion that a mere pencil could change the way humans think. Some of the mythic characters discussed will be Orpheus, Icarus, Narcissus and Hermes. Students will be asked to keep a journal of reading and observations, as well as have the opportunity to give feedback and create their own connections between modern culture and Greco-Roman mythology. Texts will include an anthology of classical mythology as well as suggestions for supplemental reading.

Comparative Mythology

Instructor: Allison Stieger.

This course examines the myths of the world, with special attention paid to their similarities and differences. The second semester covers mythologies of Africa, Arabia, and Europe. Along the way we’ll be asking questions such as: How can we compare myths from two different cultures? What can we learn from the similarities and differences between myths? Special class sessions will be held on common themes such as creation myths and trickster mythologies. Students can enroll in either course, or for the full year, depending on their interests; entrance in the course is welcomed in the spring term as well as the fall. Texts will include everything from selections from classics such as Beowulf to comic book myth retellings from different cultures.

Introduction to Economics

Instructor: Mary Margaret O’Melia.

This one semester high school level course will introduce students to the US and global economy. Topics covered include supply and demand, personal finance, business and labor, the free enterprise system, major economic systems of the world and global economic interdependence. Advance reading and minimal homework is to be completed before class. Class time is spent discussing the subject with the instructor and classmates. We will engage in debate, simulations, discussion, writing exercises, presentations and games to deepen our understanding of the material and hone our thinking and argument skills.

The textbook is Civics Today, published by Glencoe:
Here’s the link to the text book. Scroll down to “previous editions.” Civics Today is the 2nd choice on the row. Click on that. The student version of the online text is approximately $20.

If you prefer a printed version, used copies are available from on-line bookstores. Any edition is acceptable.

Current Events & Issues Forum

Instructor: Mary Margaret O’Melia.

Each month, September through May, High School level students will discuss current events and explore enduring socio-political issues in a 1.5 hour video chat. The focus will be on creating a discussion environment that is open to and respectful of all views. Students will be supported and encouraged as they learn to listen to one another with open minds, use their critical thinking skills and engage in civil discussion with all participants. In addition to the live monthly video chat, students will have the opportunity to engage in text based discussions each week with their instructor and fellow students via online class forums. The instructor will also post news articles for the students to read throughout the month.

Discussion topics and issues may include: citizenship and participation, politics and public policy, international affairs, environmental issues, developments in science and technology, economics, and education.

Literature of Identity & Belonging

Instructor: Rebecca McMillan.

This year-long, high school level, interdisciplinary course combines literary analysis with a study of adolescent development and psychology to explore themes of identity and belonging as they arise for adolescents. The novels and readings address such fundamental questions as: Who am I? Where do I fit in? What am I good at? What are my challenges? Who are my friends? Can I show my true colors? Should I try to blend in with those around me? How can I find my tribe? What should I do with my life?

Students will read and discuss one contemporary novel per month plus additional articles and videos on a broad range of psychological concepts including identity formation, peer interactions, resiliency, personality traits, individual differences, moral development, and adolescent brain development. Second semester books include: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bless Me, Ultima, The House of the Scorpion and a book selected by the students.

In addition to the weekly live video discussion, students will receive short weekly journal assignments, one slightly longer writing assignment at the end of the first semester and an open-ended creative assignment at the end of the course. Final project possibilities include anything from creating your own personally meaningful rite of passage to analyzing the family dynamics of one of the characters encountered in the course to creating a short biopic of your future imagined self.

Film Festival

Instructor: Scott Myers.

Film Festival offers high school level students an opportunity to delve into the wonderful world of cinema and key principles of storytelling and critical analysis.

Each month, January through May, we will watch 1 great movie. The films will run the gamut in terms of era, genre and nation of origin. Spring titles include Gone with the Wind, Groundhog Day, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Singin’ in the Rain and Whale Rider.

The last Thursday of each month, we will have a 90-minute live video conference to discuss each movie based on conversations we will have during the preceding weeks in online class forums — targeted questions provided by the instructor, short but compelling written assignments provided by the students.

We will focus on the theme of metamorphosis, a dynamic present in all of the movies we will study. The idea of transformation is particularly relevant to adolescents who are going through many physical, psychological and life changes, so our discussions of the movies we watch and analyze should also provide an interesting touch point in each of the student’s lives.


The Films of Hayao Miyazaki

Instructor: Will Myers

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki will cover the entirety of Miyazaki’s oeuvre from The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) to The Wind Rises (2013). We will explore the unifying themes of his works, as well as the development of his style over the years. In addition, we will consider to what extent, if at all, it is possible to find external influences on his fantastical worlds and what role that might play in interpreting his films.

The class will consist of weekly one-hour teleconferences during which we will discuss the film we watched during the previous week. Whenever possible, the films will be made available for free for the class to watch. When that is not possible, students will be notified in ample time so that they can be checked out from libraries/rented/purchased. Apart from watching the films, very little outside-of-class work will be assigned. Occasionally students may be asked to write brief responses to the films. At the end of the class, interested students can explore an open-ended, creative project pertaining to Miyazaki and his films.

Who Am I: Book Club New students welcome!

Instructor: Rebecca McMillan.

Each month, September through May, we will read and discuss one book focused on stories of self-discovery for gifted young readers. In addition to the monthly live video discussion, students will engage in a weekly text based dialogue with the instructor and other students to exchange ideas and explore the themes in each book via online class forums. Instructor will also pose questions for the students to ponder and post activities for the students to complete at home in order to deepen their understanding of the stories.

Second semester titles include: The Green Glass Sea, Shadow of a Bull, Esperanza Rising, Bud, Not Buddy and one title selected by the students.

Introduction to Music Theory

Instructor: Will Myers.

This Introduction to Music Theory course is intended to give students with the ability to read music (at least one clef) a more in-depth understanding of musical structures, processes, and approaches. Students will study music written as long ago as 1000 CE and as recently as this year from around the world, although the focus will nominally be on Western classical music. Topics covered include (but are not limited to!): meter, rhythm, key, mode, scale type, chord types and inversions, chord progressions, species counterpoint, melodic structure, form, and timbre.
The class will consist of weekly one-hour teleconference, and students will often be asked to complete short homework assignments and/or read briefly about concepts relating to a week’s lesson..

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