EXPLO Mini: Courses - EXPLO

2017 Course Listings

Explore our EXPLO Mini Courses

Try something new! What you discover might just amaze you.

Explorer (Grades 2+3) Pioneer Only (Grades 4+5) Voyager Only (Grades 6+7)

Refine Results

Explorer (Grades 2+3) Pioneer Only (Grades 4+5) Voyager Only (Grades 6+7)


Hands-on Learning and Discovery


Take a chance and explore! Paint your masterpiece, cook up some fresh ideas, or create a constellation. Dig into subjects from art and science to baking, engineering, and team building. With new projects and activities every week, come try as many new things as you can imagine — and discover what excites you about learning and about life.

Please note: Projects and activities will vary every week (no repeats!) so that you can come for all six weeks and continue to discover new and different ways of exploring your world.

Potential EXPLORE! Projects:

  • Create a life-size mural from a tiny photo

  • Explore wavelength and participate in an Electron Relay Race

  • Program simple robots with LEGO WeDo kits

  • Eat like an astronaut by preparing (and enjoying!) dehydrated food

  • Cross a hot lava field with your team

  • Make a sculpture in the style of famous artists or your own imagination

  • Capture light and break it down by color in a spectrometer you make

  • Compete with your team in a Mount Everest pack relay

  • Use littleBits electronic building blocks to explore how circuits work and make simple inventions

  • Make ice cream to investigate temperature and physical changes

  • Construct a model boat to cross the Panama Canal or survive a Tsunami wave tank

  • Invent and construct a contraption that allows you to paint without touching the paint

  • Create special effects like fog, magical potions, and thunder (just like in a play or a movie!)

  • Take photographs and create a visual representation of a spectrum

  • Unlock riddles and logic puzzles

WEEK 1: May The Force Be With You

Lego Engineering


Your mission: help the Rebel Alliance. Your job: engineer and construct sophisticated machines that help Rey and Finn (and Chewbacca) defeat Kylo Ren — using Lego NXT robots. Perhaps you’ll construct a weapon to combat stormtroopers outside the Millennium Falcon, build a catapult for an Ewok battle on Endor, or develop a harness to save BB8 from a fall. Whatever the task, you’ll engineer your solutions with Lego motors, gears, and blocks. So snap to it! Come learn to design and program functioning machines as we challenge your problem-solving skills and immerse ourselves in the world of Lego engineering (and the Force).

WEEK 1: Sculpt It, Sketch It, Sign It

Visual Arts


Painting, building, sketching, layering, drawing, forming, twisting, stacking! We’re putting together the biggest art show you can imagine and we need YOU to create brave, bold, and beautiful art like you’ve never created it before. We’ll give you all the supplies you need — like paints, paper, canvases, pencils, sculpting wire, ink, and maybe even a water balloon (a water balloon?!) — and introduce you to classic genres. We’ll teach you different techniques and you’ll be free to experiment with abstract and figurative art pieces through mixed media and non-traditional materials. All you need to bring is your boundless imagination and your sense of adventure. This will be a show to remember — let’s get started!

WEEK 2: Light Up the Lab

Chemistry + Biology


We’re looking for scientist magicians who can change the color of a flower and pop a balloon of water without spilling. a. drop. We’re looking for lab wizards who can extract DNA from their lunch, build a larger-than-life animal cell and unravel the mystery of “hot ice.” In our lab, you’ll experiment with osmosis and cell structure (to find out where color lives) and explore the structure of molecules (which we’ll help you figure out). Experiment with different biological, chemical, and physical reactions as we explore out-of-the-box solutions to solve scientific riddles and puzzles.

WEEK 2: The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon

World Cooking


It’s time to travel the world, but you can leave your passport at home. In this class, all you need is your taste for adventure and a chef’s hat. What’s the difference between an empanada and a dumpling? What’s the best way to make pasta from scratch or wrap a wonton? With each technique you master you’ll discover customs and traditions that help make each dish and dining experience unique. You might learn how to hold chopsticks (and proper etiquette for placing them back down), how to order the best dishes in India, or how to prepare the most fragrant Moroccan tagine. When you travel, the best memories you make are of what you experience, what you eat, and what you learn along the way. In our kitchen, we’ll make sure you discover all three.

Please note: Students with food allergies or sensitivities should contact our Admission Office for more details before enrolling in this course. This course may not be appropriate for students with specific dietary restrictions. Students will not be enrolled concurrently in 604 and W104.

WEEK 3: Hunt for Treasure

Logic + Riddles


Can you change a one-syllable word into a three-syllable word by adding just one letter? What about figuring out the exact age of a group of friends with only two clues, or building your own decoder tools? We’ll tackle riddles and logic puzzles, secret codes, basic navigational techniques, physical challenges and difficult puzzles as we collaborate to interpret clues during a week-long treasure hunt. We need your creativity, wits, and smarts, think you can help us? Get out your compass and throw on your thinking caps — it’s time for an adventure quest!

WEEK 3: Wise to the Rise

Science of Baking


How would you feel about eating a compound consisting of crystallized starches, binding agents, and carbon dioxide bubbles held in place by a web of protein strands? What’s the matter, you don’t like cake? What about the byproducts of a live, single-celled fungus? No bread either? Join us in the kitchen lab as we uncover the basic chemical reactions that make our favorite baked goods possible — from cupcakes to cookies, muffins, and more. You’ll bake, test, and taste in order to figure out how ingredients work together — or when they should stay apart! — to make us all say “Mmmmmmm!”

Please note: Students with food allergies or sensitivities should contact our Admission Office for more details before enrolling in this course. This course may not be appropriate for students with specific dietary restrictions.

WEEK 4: Defeat the Orange Jester

Teambuilding & Leadership Skills


He’s a master of mayhem, a doctor of deception, and a wizard of all things wonky. With his band of Rainbow Bandits — the Ruby Rascal, the Yellow Jokester, the Green Goon, and the Blue Buffoon — the Orange Jester likes to make mischief wherever he goes, unless you can stop him in his orange-suited tracks. But the Rainbow Bandits — though they might look like clowns — are no laughing matter. Each day, once you find (and figure out) their first clue, you’ll have a chance to thwart them in their tracks: get your team through a human-sized spider web, create a life-sized portal out of a regular piece of paper, cross a (simulated) minefield unscathed, extract yourself from human knots, outwit the laser maze, and transport (not-so) dangerous magical refuse with the help of your team and the tools you create. Once you succeed, you’ll find your next clue and get us one step closer to stopping the evil plot of the Orange Jester. Can you help us win back our summer fun?

WEEK 4: Super Secret Spy Society

Spying + Surveillance


You might get a secret identity. Then again, you might not. You might learn how to tail people without them spotting you, listen in on their conversations without them seeing you, track them with a remote-control spy drone and take photos of them without them once hearing the shutter click. Then again, you might not. You might have to create a fictitious cover story so friends and family won’t know what you do for a living and won’t get suspicious. Then again, you might not. It’s a lot of pressure, leading this double life. But we think you can handle it. Welcome to the Super Secret Spy Society. We’ve been watching… we mean, waiting for you.

WEEK 5: Code Orange

Introduction to Programming


Have you ever wondered how your favorite video game character knows when to jump or run, how a tablet responds to your every touch, or how you can stream a movie with just one click? Programming and coding are the ‘magic’ of all technology, and in this course, you’ll become the magician. Practice speaking the language of robots and computers by creating commands using conditional “if…then” logic. See if you can use commands based on binary code to get a robot through a maze your classmates create, or design and build your own simple interactive online game that you can share with friends at Explo and at home. From functions and loops to basic boolean logic, if you’re ready to explore programming, then your wish is our command!

WEEK 5: Trash to Treasure



Can you turn a toilet paper tube into a car that will jump a ramp AND protect the egg that it’s carrying — no matter what? Or construct a table out of paper that can carry your lunch? What — you’ve got it covered? Great!! Here’s what else we need: Design a boat out of cardboard that can carry you across our pool — and back. Invent a balloon-powered glider (that’ll win the Explo Glider Road Rally). Or engineer a working mechanical hand (that you’ll design, test, and build) out of drinking straws. If you like to think and tinker with creative challenges you’re just the engineer we need!

WEEK 6: Creating a Kingdom

Building a Medieval Empire


The year is 1246. After centuries of moving from place to place, a group of barbarian nomads has finally settled on an area of land that they will call their own. You, as leaders of the group, must decide where you will build your castles. Who will be your king and queen? Where will you get the resources to build a medieval nation? You must appoint local magistrates to look after your land while you send knights to conquer neighboring territories and local dragons. Where will you get food and water? How will you trade with surrounding kingdoms? Be prepared to be an architect, economist, and political leader as we create a medieval empire!

WEEK 6: Journey to the Blogosphere

Introduction to Blogging


You have: a favorite singer, designer, sports team, game, subject, food, book, animal, or world-changing idea. You need: a platform to share your vision with the world — we can help you make that happen. Working in WordPress, you’ll sketch a conceptual design of what you want your blog to look like, and we’ll guide you through the process of testing different blog layouts, fonts, and formats. Think of what you want your blog to say — create and test out various color schemes to see which one captures how you want your site to look. Figure out the ideal balance of words and photos to convey your site’s purpose or mission, and what exactly you want the message to be. And once you have all those pieces in place, you’ll be well on your way to sharing your passion with the rest of the world.

Please note: This is not a computer programming course. Students will not be using HTML, but rather will be generating and organizing content in an offline WordPress site around their chosen subject. Once students return home and obtain parental permission, they will have the option to make their WordPress sites public.

WEEK 1: Build a Nation

Government Simulation Challenge


A deserted island. A group of people hungry for change and revolution. With your basic needs secured, it’s time for a constitution, a flag, and currency — a new nation is born. Next up: design a harbor. Manage a forest. Build a movie theater. Groom some beachfront property. Hey, building a nation isn’t so hard, is it? Except, wait a minute, how are you going to provide power to your new country? Does everyone have a place to live? Is there enough to eat? What are those other countries around you doing? Is there a war on the horizon? Should alliances be formed? Who is making all the decisions around here? As we plan, build, and decorate a large-scale, 3D model of our utopian island countries, you’ll face the challenge of building a nation from scratch, and surviving this global game!

WEEK 1: Seamless Style

No-Sew Fashion Design


This year, it’s all up to you: your vision, your eye, and your instinct with trends, color, patterns, and fabric. With your new clothing line, you’re going to blow the world of fashion wide open — without sewing a stitch! Explore colors, patterns, and textures: which combinations work best together? Then dive into a treasure-trove of fabric and notions: how do different fabrics drape across the body? As you start researching and sketching your next design, you’ll see: inspiration is everywhere. Want to create a new statement piece (on a budget)? Simple! Using such genius tools as duct tape, fabric fusing, weaving, and ribbon ties, you’ll assemble your creations and pull off the fiercest fashion show EXPLO has ever seen. It’s custom, it’s designer, it’s seamless — and it’s eco-chic. How fabulous is that? All that’s missing, it seems, is you.

WEEK 1: Short Circuits

littleBits Engineering


In a world where cell phones answer questions for us, and cars can drive themselves, it’s more clear than ever that anything is possible. But it’s not just engineers and inventors that are bringing their big ideas to life — kids are playing a bigger role than ever in making the world a more interesting place, and here’s your chance to make your own contribution! Using littleBits — easy to use electronic building blocks — you’ll explore the properties of basic and complex electrical circuits. Does your cardboard arcade game work better with an analog switch, or a digital button? How can you arm your bedroom door with an alarm that responds to movement AND noise? Tinker and test as you work with your classmates to invent and build your own creations, and maybe even change the world!

WEEK 2: Rig a Robot

Lego Engineering


Motors? Check. Sensors? Check. Programming software that translates your imagination to your Lego NXT robot with just a click and a drag? Check and check. We’ll get you started with the basics, but then it’s up to you and your classmates to work together to construct a solution to some of the world’s tougher problems. Using sensors that respond to touch, noise, color, and light, you’ll have your robots spinning, climbing, and reacting to your every command. We’ll present you with different scenarios (like obstacle courses or timed trials), and you’ll customize your bot to conquer as many challenges as possible. Working together, you’ll program your bot to maneuver through each test while learning how to respond at a moment’s notice. Because as soon as that buzzer sounds, the robot action begins.

WEEK 2: Sky Scraping



Design a building that’s cooler than the Taj Mahal or bigger than the Empire State Building. Build an animal shelter where rescued dogs will feel safe and an aquarium where you just might get to swim with the fishes. Working with a scale ruler (which you’ll make), design and engineer buildings — like a restaurant that’s the hottest new place in town, or a football stadium that seats 30,000 people — by making 3D perspective drawings (we’ll teach you how), completing real architectural plans, and building scale models that’ll reshape the skyline as we know it.

WEEK 2: Stand Up + Speak

Public Speaking + Debate


Are you someone who likes to speak in front of lots of people? Or are you the shy type that stays seated in the back? Come learn how to express yourself in a calm, confident way and how to argue thoughtfully and effectively. First, we’ll practice speaking in front of groups and learn how to stay calm, cool, and collected. Then we’ll move on to debate, where we’ll learn how to organize our thoughts, present a coherent argument, and follow the basic procedures of parliamentary debate. Don’t just sit there, stand up and speak!

WEEK 3: Computation Competition

Math Challenges


Can you turn 1, 4, 15, 6, 28, and 54 into 434 using mathematical operations? Quick, where on a playground would you find a Golden Ratio? Two teams, one goal: to solve all the problems and win the Math Challenge before the other team beats you to it. Go head-to-head on geometry problems. Tag team on pre-algebra relays. Master logic puzzles. Decipher the Egyptian number system and the ancient abacus. And come up with mathematical head-scratchers for your competitors to solve. It’ll take guts, it’ll take cunning, and most of all, it’ll take all the creative thinking you can muster. Want to be crowned math champion? Then join us and prepare to strategize, prioritize, and be challenged to your mathematical limit.

WEEK 3: Drawing Attention

Commercial Illustration


Can you make a book cover, movie poster, or cereal box jump off the shelf and say, “ME! ME!! You MUST buy me!”? Come learn how to draw the drawings that draw attention. Together, we’ll investigate the technical fundamentals of illustration — composition, shape, scale, color, mark-making — and explore creative strategies for visual storytelling. Along the way, you’ll create memorable characters that sell (think Tony the Tiger) and dynamic compositions that anticipate how art will interact with product names and headlines — all while building a solid portfolio of illustrations. What kind of drawing works best for this summer’s hottest single? Nintendo’s newest release? The packaging for the latest smartphone? It’s up to you. Submit your work and help launch the next big thing — your career as a commercial illustrator.

WEEK 3: Writer’s Workshop

Creative Writing


What if Harry Potter had a happy, well-adjusted childhood, or if Katniss didn’t volunteer as Tribute? Step into the writer’s workshop, and settle in for an extended stay. We welcome authors of any style — short stories, poetry, fiction or reality — and hope that you’ll join us to share and sharpen your ideas. You might spend time crafting maps and descriptions of your own fantasy world, or painting, a portrait — with words — of your story’s dashing hero. Turn a daydream into a plot and a nightmare into a climax as you explore the parts of a story. Find out why poems don’t have to rhyme, or how to make the unbelievable feel real. We’ll spend time crafting our work and exploring strategies for sharing our stories and ideas with each other — and the world!

WEEK 4: Light + Image

Digital Photography


Want to take professional shots of your new friends? Interested in taking sweeping landscape photographs or catching spontaneous scenes on campus? If you’ve ever wanted to take your digital photography skills to the next level, this is the class for you! With your digital camera in hand, you’ll learn all the tricks of composing great images. Then, in our digital photo lab, discover the art of retouching photos — making your images brighter, sharper, and more colorful — and find out how to make gallery-ready prints from an inkjet printer. With every click of the shutter, you’ll not only be framing great shots, you’ll turn them into amazing works of art!

For this class, we request that you come prepared with your own 10+ megapixel digital camera.

WEEK 4: Movie Mash-up

Re-edited Movies


Remake Pirates of the Caribbean into a coming-of-age story where Captain Jack Sparrow overcomes adversity to find his life’s purpose. Or change up Despicable Me so the minions are covert CIA agents, acting the part of minions. Our best-loved movies are our favorites for a reason, but sometimes, do you ever wonder if changing up the story line could make the whole thing better? In this course, we’ll be reinventing our favorite movies, changing the stories’ dialogue and sound effects and adding in our own crazy ideas. SuperCinder: The Stepsisters’ Revenge. A Hipster Toy Story. You’ll create mixed-up, mashed-up stories, and then cut and re-edit a film trailer to tell your tale… whatever ridiculous, absurd, zany tale that may be.

WEEK 4: Swimming With Sharks

Business + Entrepreneurship


Ready to build some traction for a new business idea? Then jump into our business incubator, where we’ll give you the tools you need to develop and implement a fool-proof business plan. In order to pitch your business model to investors and early adopters, you’re going to need to refine your message: What is the problem your product or service will solve? Who is the target audience? Why should they pick YOU? Together, we’ll brainstorm ways to bring your idea to market; build, test, and retest a functional prototype of your product or service; develop the stage presence you need to advocate for yourself (and for your new business); and devise and implement a bang-up marketing campaign. Success is a long path, but if you truly believe your ideas could change the world — and line your pockets! — our business incubator is a great place to get started!

WEEK 5: Crimes, Clues + Courtrooms

Criminal Investigation + Prosecution


From the cop on the beat to the judge on the bench, you’ll investigate a crime scene and take the case all the way through the system. Using the powers of deduction (think: Sherlock) and gritty determination (like K.C. Undercover), you and your team will work together to identify a suspect, make an arrest, and take your suspect to court. Learn forensic lab fundamentals — analyzing bite marks, fingerprinting, tracking clues, and testing evidence — before playing the parts of lawyers, witnesses, judge, and jury to decide the suspect’s fate. Before we have our trial, you’ll have to figure out the crime timeline and the motive. If we want our suspects behind bars, we better be able to convince the jury we know what we’re talking about!

WEEK 5: Get Out Alive!

Wilderness Survival


We’re stranded! On an island! With nothing except the wreckage from our crash! But panicking won’t get us anywhere, so let’s get to work. First, we’ll have to figure out a way to purify water and cook food. Next, with whatever materials we have handy (rope, tarp, twigs), we’ll need to build a shelter. And a fire too, even though we don’t have any matches. With bears stealing our food and torrential rains destroying our tent, there’s no telling what disaster will strike next. We’ll practice emergency rescue procedures, and we’ll learn how to treat wounds and diseases. And we’ll plot our escape. Whatever it takes to get off this island — a giant raft, Morse code — we’ll learn how to do it so we can get back home safely!

WEEK 5: Hovercraft Heroics

Hovercraft Physics


Testing the limits of science… defying the laws of gravity… it’s all in a day’s work for the average hovercraft scientist. Welcome to the world of hovercrafts, where air becomes fuel and where a small push forward can send you soaring. We’ll study how objects in motion ricochet and move (by applying Newton’s Laws of Motion and Bernoulli’s Principle to pressure and lift) — and then you’ll design and build an armada of hovercrafts that can fly, float, and zoom over anything in their path. You’ll construct tabletop-skimming models — to truly understand the mechanics of flight — before graduating to gigantic hovercrafts so big you can ride on them. We’ll have you so pumped, you’ll be floating on air!

WEEK 6: Drawing Attention

Commercial Illustration


Can you make a book cover, movie poster, or cereal box jump off the shelf and say, “ME! ME!! You MUST buy me!”? Come learn how to draw the drawings that draw attention. Together, we’ll investigate the technical fundamentals of illustration — composition, shape, scale, color, mark-making — and explore creative strategies for visual storytelling. Along the way, you’ll create memorable characters that sell (think Tony the Tiger) and dynamic compositions that anticipate how art will interact with product names and headlines — all while building a solid portfolio of illustrations. What kind of drawing works best for this summer’s hottest single? Nintendo’s newest release? The packaging for the latest smartphone? It’s up to you. Submit your work and help launch the next big thing — your career as a commercial illustrator.

WEEK 6: Finding Patient Zero

Disease Outbreak


ALERT! ALERT! Eight Explo staff members are in quarantine, covered head to toe in strange spots and boils. We’ve ruled out the obvious — chickenpox, measles — and fear it could be something much more dangerous. We need to identify what is causing this mysterious outbreak and contain it before it becomes an epidemic. To help us better understand the outbreak, you’ll catalogue vital signs of the afflicted — looking for irregularities that might give us clues as to the nature of the malady and how it is being transmitted. You’ll conduct a sneeze simulation and probability test (to predict the disease’s path), and will collect, plate, and grow bacterial specimens (to discover how the disease spreads). All the while, you’ll keep the campus informed of best practice safety measures (based on what you discover) as you isolate the source of the outbreak. It’s a race against the clock, starting… NOW!

WEEK 6: Starting from SCRATCH

Introduction to Computer Programming


Play a piano sonata on a banana (or a tiny drum solo on a bottle cap), create a virtual self that you can command to do your bidding, or design a cardboard game console that’ll work with the video game you create. Using PicoBoards and the Scratch programming platform, we’ll show you how to code simple online games, create interactive puzzles or quizzes, make original videos, or even program and play instruments out of anything you can think of. Want to build an avatar that responds to your every whim? You got it. A basic game that takes you on an adventure quest through space? No problem! With our programming apps and your innovative ideas, who knows just how far we’ll go?