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Fall 2022 Courses

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Astrobiology: The search for life on other worlds

Do aliens exist? Where do they live? And how do we find them? From the clouds of Venus to the deep ocean volcanoes of Europa, the icy poles of Mars to the seas of Titan, many planets and moons in our Solar System could potentially host life. But looking for life on other worlds is like looking for a needle in a haystack when you don’t know what a needle looks like. NASA has to make difficult choices: which planets to explore and what tools to use. In this course we’ll investigate some of the more habitable environments in our Solar System by looking at the most extreme environments on Earth. We’ll examine the rovers used to explore Mars and new tools being developed for ocean worlds. On Earth, we’ll look at the deserts of Antarctica, deep sea vents in the Pacific, and ice in the North Pole, among others. After learning about these extreme environments and their unique ecosystems, we’ll find the planets and moons that could host similar life and discuss how to find it with the tools at our disposal. If you have ever looked at the night sky and wondered what could be out there, this is your chance to find out.

Taught by Caleb Rosen

9:30AM - 10:55AM

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Videogames as Literature: Analyzing Narratives in Undertale and The Beginner's Guide

“To me, video games are the ultimate art form. It’s just the ultimate media. I mean, it’s the sum total of every expressive medium of all time, made interactive.”

  • Phil Fish, award-winning videogame designer


As Fish says, videogames are among the most immersive mediums ever created, literally putting you in someone else’s (digital) shoes. The connections and memories players make with narratives in videogames are wholly unlike those that are made with, say, readers of a novel or watchers of a film. This class is for this purpose exactly — studying videogames and building videogame literacy in the same way we have done with other mediums.


In this class, we will discuss Toby Fox’s Undertale, a critically-acclaimed role-playing game with a strong narrative and memorable characters, and Davey Wreden’s The Beginner’s Guide, an interactive storytelling game where Wreden himself walks players through games made by his friend—one of gaming’s most mysterious figures, a developer named Coda.

Taught by Ishaan Shrestha

9:30AM - 10:55AM

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How to become a literary rebel: Writing in your own words 

Have you ever suspected that claim-evidence-warrant might be sucking the life out of your ideas? Or written an entire essay only to feel like you've forgotten the sound of your own voice? Writing in school often feels like a test on how well you can conform to other people’s expectations. The good news is this: if you know the rules, you also know how to break them. In this class, we’ll try to answer a question: Why are the writers who break the rules the ones that we remember? This class is not just a window into the true stories of some of the most iconic rebels of the writing scene. We’ll also discuss creative writing in forms that usually get left out of classrooms–songs, comics, short stories, poems, protest posters, scripts, and more. And finally, we’ll experiment–we’ll try writing in our own words. Come to class expecting to hear hushed-up stories about household names, challenge your imagination with creative warm-ups and exercises, and become a critical part of a community of fellow rebels.

Taught by Rachel Cassar and Chad Olson

11:00AM - 12:25PM

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Comedy is Remedy: Healing through Laughter

What is laughter therapy? Using humor to improve a person's overall sense of well-being and actually help relieve pain and stress, this therapeutic approach is rapidly gaining popularity in the medical field. Extensive research has confirmed that, by speaking through the universal language of play and humor, comedy has helped improve health outcomes for a variety of diverse populations around the world. A patient’s emotional state can greatly influence the course of a disease or injury they are facing. This is the reason for humor’s incredible power. Laughter has been proven to improve both immune and hormone responses in patients–it can even increase pain tolerance! This class will blend together the art of comedy and the evidence for its power. Get ready for startling research, real discussions, improv exercises, and more. Together, we will try to answer these critical questions: When and where is it appropriate to use comedy? How do we use it effectively? And finally, why is it so important that we do?

Taught by Phong Doozy & Sophie Garrett

11:00AM - 12:25PM

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Still Here! Exploring Contemporary Indigenous Identity through Art of Resistance 

Often, we are taught about Native Americans as stereotypical figures existing only in history. The only problem with that idea is…everything! In this class, we will be fighting against that narrative by actively exploring and discussing modern-day Native American identity. But, wait—who gets to identify as a Native American? What’s blood quantum? How do tribes actually work? What is settler colonialism? Why does frybread smell so amazing and make my stomach hurt so badly? Through the works of modern Indigenous artists, we will discuss these questions in pursuit of deeper understanding, not answers. All you need to participate is a willingness to listen to rock music and rap, watch comedies, scroll through Instagram posts, listen to podcasts, and read some revolutionary writings about basketball—all created by contemporary Native artists and activists. If you’re lucky, I may even share some scary legends! Come ready to discuss, create, and laugh.

Taught by Cat Broderick

11:00AM - 12:25PM

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Fishy Business: Wildlife Crime, Conservation, and the Dark Side of the Aquarium Trade

Your favorite true crime podcast has nothing on the shadowy world of wildlife crime. It’s no secret that the world’s aquatic ecosystems are in peril, but what’s lesser-known is that one of the biggest threats facing marine life is straight out of a heist flick. Aquatic wildlife trafficking - the illegal capture of and trade in marine and freshwater animals - is a growing issue. Between culinary aficionados hankering for a taste of shark fin soup, wealthy collectors priding themselves on keeping the rarest species of fish on the planet as pets, and public aquariums displaying animals which are not all legally sourced, demand is soaring. This course will explore the various reasons that ecologically devastating wildlife trafficking is a thriving black-market industry, and why some proponents still argue that the capture of wild species does more good than harm. The wildlife trade is full of larger-than-life schemes, daring smugglers, and influential buyers - not the least of whom are public aquariums, many of whom claim that the research they conduct is vital to the conservation of marine species. But are they right? And what can be done about the factors that drive traffickers to capture wildlife in the first place?

Taught by Sarah Salisbury

12:30PM - 1:55PM

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Pass the Aux! Music appreciation from the front seat

Have you ever wondered why you like the music you like, or why you hate the music you hate? Have you ever experienced strong emotions in response to music and been unable to articulate why? Music is familiar to all of us, but the many layers and dimensions that make it so special, and personal, as an art form often go unexamined as we experience it.

In this class, we'll explore an expansive array of genres, familiar and unfamiliar, to dig into why music affects us in the ways that it does. Together, we will study new types of music you’ve never encountered in your music classes. You’ll have the opportunity to share all of your favorite music with your peers while examining its many musical elements, such as harmony, melody, texture, rhythm, pulse, form, and methods of expression. At the same time, you’ll be equally empowered to critique music you don’t like and support your opinions through objective analysis. If you intend to pursue music as a profession, perform in school or beyond, or just have a general love for music and want to learn more about how it affects us, this class is for you!

Taught by Matt Weaver

12:30PM - 1:55PM

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