Bay Area BlendEd

Bay Area BlendEd was founded by Urban School and four other Bay Area independent schools in 2014. Now comprising seven regional high schools, the consortium brings our students a new level of engaging curriculum that takes advantage of the geography, talent and culture of the Bay Area.

Courses offered by the BlendEd Consortium combine face-to-face and online instruction and help our students prepare for the changing methods of instruction and communication they will see in college and in the workforce, while preserving the core relational culture and values that are at the heart of Urban’s and our partner schools’ educational missions.

BlendEd courses are interactive with significant time working online individually and in small groups, in occasional virtual class meetings, and with a minimum of three to five face-to-face sessions. These sessions will occur outside regular school hours and may occur on weekends. The face-to-face sessions may be held at one of the partner schools or at a specific location relating to the class topic. Three Urban 11th or 12th graders will be given spots for each of the courses. For additional information, please email Urban's BlendEd site coordinator Bethany Hellerich.

Note: most Bay Area BlendEd courses are based on a semester schedule. For Urban students, these courses will overlap portions of your winter or spring terms.

Bay Area BlendEd Consortium - Course Descriptions 2022-23

Full Year 2022-23   

  • Multivariable Calculus (honors)


Fall 2022

  • American Politics
  • Applied AI in Python
  • Digital Music Production
  • Financial Literacy
  • Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • Public Health & Vulnerable Populations
  • Shakespeare in Performance

Spring 2023

  • Applied AI in Python
  • Black Holes and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
  • Ecological Architecture
  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology


FULL YEAR 2022-23

Multivariable Calculus

This course covers the typical third semester of college Calculus (typically called Calculus III), specifically the extension of differentiation and integration techniques to two or more variables, the study of vector calculus, and the application of these concepts to vector fields. The course wraps up with the "big three" theorems – Green's, Stokes', and Divergence – which are important in the study of fluid dynamics, gravitational fields and other areas of physics. Throughout the course, we utilize graphing programs to aid in developing a more thorough understanding of the myriad ways of describing and analyzing properties of multivariate and vector-valued functions.

Emphasis will be placed on students expressing fluency with numerical, algebraic, visual and verbal interpretations of concepts. Students can expect to collaborate weekly on homework, problem sets, and projects in small groups and in tutorial with their instructor online via Zoom. The face-to-face sessions may include visits with experts in a variety of fields utilizing Calculus techniques in their work, as well as hands-on application of concepts at the SFMOMA and other group activities and projects.

Prerequisites: Completion of one full year of Single Variable Calculus AB or BC (or equivalent).


FALL 2022

American Politics
American Politics will examine the development of the American Republic and its institutions, and will investigate the various groups, constituencies, beliefs and ideas that characterize current U.S. politics. Constitutional questions, political values, political beliefs, political parties, interest groups, the influence of mass media, and the effects of government and public policy both upon the states and individuals will be studied throughout the course. Because 2022 is an election year, a great deal of emphasis will be placed upon studying party politics, and the fall’s most significant or closely watched Senate and House elections.

We will hold a virtual class meeting via Zoom video conferencing every week. Students will be expected to come prepared having done all assignments and ready to share and ask relevant questions. We will also use Zoom for regular small group collaborations. Students will have the chance to present their own research, and to lead discussions concerning the ongoing elections.

There will be four face-to-face (F2F) meetings over the course of the term. Participation in F2F meetings is a course requirement, and students must attend all four meetings. Dates and locations are pending, but the first F2F will occur during the opening two weeks of the course, and the final face to face will likely happen on the last Saturday of the term at The Branson School, and will give students a chance to present their final work to one another.

Applied AI in Python
This semester-long course will give students hands-on experience with artificial intelligence (AI) by applying machine learning models and libraries using the Python programming language. The course will explore the construction of algorithms which can learn from and make predictions on real-world data. Students will firstly recap on Python loops, lists and dictionaries and learn how to manage file input and output. They will then learn how to use the Pandas and Numpy libraries to analyze and interpret data. Students will then be introduced to the Tensorflow and Keras frameworks and build machine learning models to analyze images and text. Students will apply their knowledge to implement and refine machine learning models to a data set of their choice and understand the ethical implications. Finally, students will present their findings to an authentic audience. Emphasis will be placed on the project development life cycle and the importance of testing. Students will be expected to conduct independent research in addition to working collaboratively on projects. Weekly Zoom sessions will be used for short presentations, Q&A and discussions. In person sessions will be used to present and discuss project progress with the rest of the class and meet with guest experts. At the end of the course, students will have a basic knowledge of machine learning models and libraries and how to use these tools effectively with real-world data.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Python Programming (B+ and above) or sufficient knowledge of Python.

Digital Music Production
This class explores music theory, composition, recording and songwriting through the lens of computer music and MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) technology. The class will incorporate the Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) Ableton Live, as well as Garageband, Bandlab, Audacity and SoundHack.

Students in this class will learn how music is created and edited in the DAW, but also gain an understanding of basic music theory and songwriting practice. Additionally, students will learn some of the physical properties of acoustics, equalization (EQ) and harmonics from both the scientific and artistic perspectives.

This class will hold virtual meetings on a weekly or every other weekly basis to explore techniques, share projects, and discuss ideas and questions.

Face-to-face meetings may include hosting guest speakers/lecturers from recording studios or local music producers (such as N8Beats or The Bay Area Music Collective). In addition, students may visit Tiny Telephone Studio and attend a concert of avant-garde pieces at the Center for New Music.

Financial Literacy
What financial skills do you need for life? How can you make financial decisions while understanding the impact on yourself and others? What financial decisions are made for us by the institutions and structures that, for better or for worse, exist today? What is our role in creating a more equitable financial world in the future?

This interdisciplinary mathematics, economics and social science course will be organized around case studies chosen from all walks of life, circumstances, and backgrounds. We will consider the mathematics of budgeting, personal banking, credit and borrowing, renting or owning a home, taxes and insurance while discussing the tough decisions people make along the way. We will keep an eye on the ways in which these discussions are shaped by the particular economic distortions we see in the Bay Area. Students will do weekly readings, engage in regular course discussions, attend field trips to gain real-life experience, and complete collaborative projects and/or presentations for each unit.

We will meet virtually as a class every Sunday evening via Zoom video conferencing for student discussions, presentations and meetings with guest experts.

Example field trip/in-person meetings:
Welcome meeting + team building and group formation
Walking tour of SF Financial District
Visit to local financial institution
In-person class using stock market simulator
 
Students must attend the welcome meeting and two out of the three other in-person meetings.

Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies
As a distinct field of academic study, Ethnic Studies grew out of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and took shape first in the form of Black Studies and Afro-American Studies departments and programs in California, and later spread to universities across the country. Soon thereafter Asian American Studies, Chican@/Latinx Studies and American Indian/Native American/Indigenous Studies programs emerged as colleges and universities found institutional space (often begrudgingly) to house intellectuals and activists whose work focused on the historical, social, political, cultural and economic experiences of marginalized racial and ethnic groups living within the United States. The field of Comparative Ethnic Studies is of more recent origin, as scholars over the last few decades began to see analytical shortcomings and intellectual pitfalls in the narrow cultural nationalisms that drove the work in these earlier fields of study. Social scientists and humanists engaged in the broader project of Ethnic Studies began to think comparatively, and focused their intellectual energy on studying the ways in which the complex histories of race and ethnicity in the greater Americas were formed through cultural cross-pollination and overlapping historical experiences of movement and settlement—experiences that were themselves often forged in the crucible of interethnic and interracial conflict—as well as inflected by issues of gender, region, religion, economics and social class, sexuality and empire.

Over the course of this term, we will study the origins of Ethnic Studies as a field of inquiry, understand the historical and social conditions that produced its core questions, and follow the field’s development over the course of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In doing so, we will also come to think about race and ethnicity (especially as they intersect with other social locations like gender, class, region, religion and sexuality) as critical sites of scholarly inquiry, as well as lenses through which we can better understand our current moment.                  

The course will be framed both chronologically and thematically. We will map the historical trajectory of the field and the processes through which Ethnic Studies’ analytics (i.e., how it sees and interprets its subject matter) became more nuanced and capacious, moving from a narrow focus on the experiences of single racial and ethnic groups (and mostly males within those groups) with the presumption that they could be studied as such, to the more current trend of not only doing comparative work across shared histories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion and region, but understanding the importance of globalizing processes to the experiences of racial and ethnic minority populations within the U.S.

We will meet as a class on Zoom weekly, or every other week, to discuss readings, participate in small group work, and to give short presentations. Your presence and robust participation in our virtual meetings is an essential component of the course, and will help foster a sense of intellectual community that is essential to doing the rigorous scholarly work of thinking deeply, critically, and intersectionally about race, racism, and ethnicity. We will also meet in person three to five times throughout the course for field trips, to engage with guest speakers, and to work in person on group projects.

Public Health & Vulnerable Populations
The San Francisco Bay Area is rapidly becoming one of the most inequitable places to live in the nation. Taking a casual BART ride can reveal the environmental disparities that exist between places like the affluent suburb of Pleasanton and an industrialized community like West Oakland. The lack of income and environmental equality is obvious, but the disparities run much deeper. A short ride between BART stations can mean an 11-year difference in life expectancy. Folks getting off the train and living in neighborhoods near BART’s Walnut Creek station live on average 84 years, while folks that exit at and live near the Oakland City Center station live on average only 73 years. In other words, living just 16 miles apart can mean the difference between living more than a decade longer. Why does such a health disparity exist? This course will dissect the factors that influence this social gradient of health.

There will be three face-to-face sessions and at least one off-campus face-to-face meeting with a teammate. During one of the first Saturdays in September, we will do a neighborhood health assessment of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. In mid-October, we will volunteer in the native plant nursery at the Literacy for Environmental Justice in the Candlestick Point State Park Recreational Area. Our final face-to-face trip will be to the Social Emergency Medicine Department at Highland Hospital in Oakland during the first week of December. Students will also be expected to attend one virtual meeting roughly every other week, outside of school hours.

Shakespeare in Performance
In this class, we will examine Shakespeare's plays through the lenses of language, genre, character and drama. Students will gain familiarity with Shakespeare’s particular use of language (prose/verse) with an eye toward understanding the development of character and the building of dramatic tension. We will use acting tools of objectives and actions to understand character and scene dynamics. In addition to grasping Shakespeare on the page, we will watch recordings of performances on stage and on film, approaching performance as interpretation. Students will gain an understanding of a director’s vision, an actor’s approach to characterization, and design choices (sound, set, costume) as elements of production and interpretation. This class is open to students who have had experience with Shakespeare as well as those who are new to Shakespeare. A willingness to engage deeply with the reading and the performances is all that is required.

Students will watch performances in addition to the reading and can expect collaborative work via Zoom for scene analyses–both on the page and on the stage. Online tutorials will help with context and comprehension as needed, and face-to-face sessions may include visits with actors, attending a performance, as well as student-directed performances.

Primary plays will most likely include King Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, and Julius Caesar.


SPRING 2023

Applied AI in Python
This semester-long course will give students hands-on experience with artificial intelligence (AI) by applying machine learning models and libraries using the Python programming language. The course will explore the construction of algorithms which can learn from and make predictions on real-world data. Students will firstly recap on Python loops, lists and dictionaries and learn how to manage file input and output. They will then learn how to use the Pandas and Numpy libraries to analyze and interpret data. Students will then be introduced to the Tensorflow and Keras frameworks and build machine learning models to analyze images and text. Students will apply their knowledge to implement and refine machine learning models to a data set of their choice and understand the ethical implications. Finally, students will present their findings to an authentic audience. Emphasis will be placed on the project development life cycle and the importance of testing. Students will be expected to conduct independent research in addition to working collaboratively on projects. Weekly Zoom sessions will be used for short presentations, Q&A and discussions. In person sessions will be used to present and discuss project progress with the rest of the class and meet with guest experts. At the end of the course, students will have a basic knowledge of machine learning models and libraries and how to use these tools effectively with real-world data.

Prerequisites: Introduction to Python Programming (B+ and above) or sufficient knowledge of Python.

Black Holes and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
Have you ever contemplated the reality of a black hole? How long does it take to create a black hole, or how much matter does it take, or how do you calculate its mass? Will our galaxy be consumed by a black hole? What would happen if you fell into a black hole? If you would like to know the answers to these questions, then this is the class for you.

This class is concerned with studying the effects that gravity has on the structure of spacetime, from length-scales starting around 10-13 cm (the radius of an elementary particle) up to around 1028 cm (the radius of the universe). In order to understand these effects, we will use Einstein’s theory of relativity. Playing a fundamental role in our course will be the concept of a spacetime
singularity – more precisely, a black hole. Thus, more precisely stated, this course will provide a direct examination of general relativity and black holes. However, instead of the typical approach, where one first learns the principles of relativity then, using them, proves the singularity theorems of Penrose and Hawking, we will go in the opposite direction. We will assume their existence and then, using the properties of non-spinning and spinning black holes, introduce Einstein’s theory.

Along the way, we will learn about the physics of flat spacetime (the special theory), curvature, metrics, tests of the general theory, the physics of black holes, cosmology, and gravitational waves, with other fascinating topics sprinkled throughout.

Throughout our development of the theory and its consequences, we will use only calculus and algebra, and require only the basics of Newtonian mechanics in order to achieve our goals. (While some basic knowledge of the special theory of relativity would be helpful, it is not a prerequisite). Class activities will consist of working through problems related to selected readings, alongside discussions, question/answer sessions; simulations (e.g galaxy creation, formation, and destruction); finding and analyzing numerical solutions to Einstein’s equations; and a few lectures.

This class will have weekly meetings via Zoom. These virtual assemblies will be used as a time for discussion of the topics from the readings, along with highlighting the problems and debating their solutions, as well as Q&A sessions.

In-person sessions will be used as time for students to present projects that they have worked through, guest presenters (on occasion), and “verification” of the models to describe large-scale spacetime that we are learning about. In addition, we are hoping to be able to visit a nearby observatory where we can see the theories in action.

Prerequisites:  If you are ready for AB Calculus exam, you are ready for this course.

Ecological Architecture
Ecological Architecture is a course that seeks to help students understand the necessity of sustainable architecture and the effect of our cities on the environment and climate. As our climate rapidly changes, it is vital that our use of materials, techniques, and designs meet the urgency of the climate and environmental challenges facing our world. Ecological architecture marries an understanding of ecology (the relationship of organisms to each other and the environment around them) and architectural design (the planning, design, and implementation of physical structures) to create a better, more sustainable world.

We will meet once per week on Zoom to study fundamental concepts, learn physical and CAD modeling techniques, and complete designs of our own. Students will be provided with tools and materials at the beginning of the course that they will use throughout the term to complete their projects. Zoom will also be used for 1:1 help, group work and teacher office hours.

Our face-to-face meetings will include visits to local Architecture firms, buildings and construction sites that are incorporating sustainable and eco-architectural concepts and fundamentals in their designs. We will also hear from local and international architects who are committed to sustainability and ecological design throughout the term, and work with real-world problems in our own projects.   

Gender Studies
In this course, students will investigate, explore, challenge and develop an understanding of the role gender plays in both history and our modern society. Using an interdisciplinary approach students will examine ideas related to gender through an intersectional lens that includes historical, feminist, queer, ethnic, sociological, and cultural perspectives. Using specific case studies, we will take deep dives into historical moments or events using scholarly texts, primary sources and popular media with the goal of developing a critical perspective on the role of gender in society. Students will then have an opportunity to develop their own research topic, using the skills we have practiced as a class.

The capstone project will allow students to pursue their own research interest connected to gender studies in a format of their choosing (traditional research paper, blog, podcast, oral histories, art, etc.) and share their research with their classmates and peers. Collaboration with other students on projects will be encouraged.

We will likely meet in-person three times throughout the semester to connect with guest presenters, visit local area organizations or museums, and work on collaborative projects. Weekly virtual classes may include guest speakers, class discussions, virtual field trips and small group research check-ins.

Social Psychology
This course is a UC Honors approved G (Interdisciplinary) History/Social Science course.

Social psychology is a course that asks us to be introspective, to learn about ourselves as individuals and as social creatures. In a period of our history where we feel particularly divided politically, and yet more connected globally than ever before, it is important to strive to understand the ways in which we affect each other. We will focus on two through line questions:
How have I become who I am today?
How do we connect across difference?  

As we do deep dives into the introspective questions about who we are in the present, and how we got here, it helps us understand the psychological development of those around us. As we strive to make more meaningful connections with others, and imagine their own introspective journey, in return it helps us better understand ourselves. In this course we will explore the nature of human relations as a whole through three key areas of study: social thinking, social influence and social relations. We will apply social psychology in the real world in a variety of settings, engage in discussion, conduct research, and explore scientific communication.

This class will hold virtual meetings on a weekly or every other weekly basis to discuss, debate, and present new ideas. Students’ preparation for and participation in virtual meetings is essential to creating a sense of community and enriching the learning experience of all. Students will be responsible for leading discussions around articles assigned, or debating theories or findings either solo or in groups.

There will be four to five face-to-face (F2F) meetings over the course of the semester. Dates and locations are subject to guest and host availability and will be announced as available.