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 Stacie Muñoz.

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 2021-22

Full Year 2021-22    

  • Multivariable Calculus (honors)

Fall 2021    

  • Digital Music Production    
  • Financial Literacy    
  • Applied AI in Python    
  • Public Health and Vulnerable Populations    
  • Social Psychology (honors)

Spring 2022    

  • Bay Area Cinema and Filmmaking    
  • Citizen Science & the Great Outdoors    
  • Food: A History    
  • Gender Studies    
  • Machine Learning    
  • San Francisco History and Art    
  • Social History of Disease

Multivariable Calculus
Multivariable Calculus will begin by exploring vector geometry and functions in more than one variable. Then, after expanding the concepts of limits and continuity to include multivariate functions, students will develop a rich understanding of concepts and methods relating to the main topics of Partial Differentiation and Multiple Integration.  After generalizing a number of tools from single-variable to multivariate calculus, we will explore topics of optimization and geometric applications in areas including physics, economics, probability and technology. We will expand our fluency with topics to address vector fields and parametric functions, and we will understand applications of Green’s and Stokes’ Theorems. We will employ multidimensional graphing programs to aid in developing a more thorough understanding of the myriad ways for describing and analyzing properties of multivariate functions. At the conclusion of the course, students will have the opportunity to further explore applications of and/or concepts relating to topics covered by the course.

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; face-to-face sessions may include visits with experts analyzing functions in multiple variables, as well as group problem-solving activities and assessments. (Honors level course)

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

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.

Depending on county health regulations, some possible plans for face-to-face meetings include hosting guest speakers/lecturers from recording studios or local music producers (e.g. N8Beats or The Bay Area Music Collective). In addition, students may 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 virtually meet as a class one evening per week 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
- Visit to local financial institution(s), both traditional and Internet-based
- Guided Q&A with a financial advisor

Students must attend the welcome meeting and two out of the three other in-person meetings.

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.

Public Health and 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 during one of their Saturday Eco-Steward Programs. 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. Additionally, students will be expected to collaborate with a team on a video project outside of school hours. Students will also be expected to attend one virtual meeting roughly every other week on either Tuesday or Wednesday for one hour.

Social Psychology
From the rise of fascism to modern fashion trends, why do humans conform? How do prejudices arise? How do people persuade others? Where do behaviors come from? Social Psychology is a course that will explore these questions and the nature of human relations as a whole through four key areas of study—social thinking, social influence, social relations, and applications of social psychology in the real world. Social thinking is how an individual's thoughts and perceptions are affected by those around them. Within different social situations, people interpret the behavior of others by assessing both perceived intention and emotion in order to appropriately respond.  Social influence is the behaviors that are acted upon in response to social thinking. Social influence reveals itself in various ways, and can be seen through conformity, peer pressure, and leadership.  Social relations can be described as the development of relationships between two or more people. These relationships occur over time after multiple social interactions, which can evolve into shared behaviors or power dynamics within a group. In this course, students will apply social psychology to the real world in a variety of settings, engage in discussion, conduct research, and write reports/papers.  (Honors level course)

Bay Area Cinema and Filmmaking
Film, animation, and alternative film and video has been a stalwart of Bay Area culture from Muybridge to Silent Film, from Pixar to the Prelinger Archive. In this course we will explore the history of the moving image and its cultural impact in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as create our own imaginative responses to the ideas and concepts in the course. Students will get a chance to study films, technologies, philosophies and ideas related to the manipulation of time, as well as create their own art, videos and visual journal entries. Topics include a wide variety of cinematic genres and motion picture technologies. Students will learn interdisciplinary skills related to their own independent filmmaking in tandem with film and cultural studies. Students will be expected to make connections with larger social, political and cultural forces, and be interested in independently creating artworks, visual journal entries, and film and animation.

Online meetings with the whole class will take place every other week to discuss projects and share presentations. Students will sometimes be paired together or in small groups during our online meeting time or may occasionally arrange their own meeting times for collaborative activities and projects.

During our four to five face-to-face sessions we may be meeting filmmakers, exploring museums, cinemas, archives, film festivals and places of cinematic industry in the prolific Bay Area arts culture. Tea and discussion will follow. Students will need access to a digital still camera and be able to upload images to the web. Students will need to have some knowledge of video editing and have access to basic video editing software, a digital video camera/tripod combination, and will need access to basic art supplies*.

*Some supplies will be provided.

Citizen Science, Outside Experiences
Were you that kid who played outside all day long? Do you miss being outside and losing track of time? Do you hear the call of a red-tailed hawk and wonder what the heck is going on up above? This course will get you OUTSIDE. In fact, students should expect to spend three hours a week outdoors immersed in the Bay Area as they learn about ecology, wildlife, plant communities, land use, natural and cultural history, citizen science, tools for collaborative conservation, and environmental advocacy. Students will meet local experts and scholars and learn tricks of the trade from invited guests from a wide variety of backgrounds. The course will culminate with students showing off their naturalist skills and interpreting the world around them through interpretive talks and making meaning for themselves and others.

The goal of this course is to develop and support a cohort of naturalists and citizen scientists. Other course objectives include:

  • Understand what it means to be a naturalist.
  • Practice and apply the skill of interpretation in the field.
  • Understand the abiotic, biotic and cultural factors that make up the unique natural, cultural and ecological histories of the Bay Area.
  • Demonstrate skills in making and recording natural history observations in a field journal and on iNaturalist.
  • Participate in local service learning.
  • Participate in citizen science and contribute to an iNaturalist project throughout the term.
  • Effectively communicate meaning about the natural world by identifying methods to gather accurate information about topics related to the local environment.
  • Conduct an effective interpretive talk that helps the audience connect emotionally and intellectually with your topic.
  • Apply knowledge of Bay Area ecology and ecosystems to local and global environmental issues.

Food: A History
Apple pie, California roll, fortune cookies, cioppino, enchilada and chicken bog. Momo, pasty, empanada and pierogi. The food we eat is the story of religion, culture, race and identity. It is the story of the agricultural revolution, the Silk Road, Columbian Exchange, economic hardships, imperialism, immigration... and Instagram and YouTube. In this course, we will tackle the topic of food by studying its history, by reading works from chefs, food historians and food critics, and by diving into the world of food television and documentaries. Finally, we will explore our own histories with food and how food has affected our lives and our families’ stories. Face-to-face sessions include a group meal at a Bay Area restaurant, visit(s) to a local farm, ranch and/or dairy, and an end-of-semester potluck featuring beloved family dishes. The course will culminate in a research project based on a historical menu from a wide selection of time periods and geographical locations.

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, sociologal 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.

Pending COVID restrictions, we will 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.

Machine Learning
Curious about machine learning (ML)? It's everywhere… health care, social media, virtual personal assistants, fraud detection, self-driving cars, to name just a few! Excited to learn about the Math and the computing tools that are used in this field? This is the course for you! We will study concepts from Math that are used in ML to build a strong foundation: selected topics from matrix decompositions, vector fields, probability distributions, and optimization. We will use software tools to familiarize ourselves with some common architectures and techniques that are used in this field. We will interact with professionals who do this for a living. The course will end with a final project that applies and showcases your learning from the semester.

Prerequisites: Precalculus topics will be used in the course. You would need to be either concurrently enrolled or have completed a Precalculus equivalent course before taking this elective. No prior programming experience necessary.

San Francisco History and Art
This course is a field study of San Francisco history and art. Organized by theme, the course requires substantial time “in the field” examining the rich historical and artistic life of the San Francisco Bay Area including public art, murals and architecture. The themes/units that have been covered in the past include: Sacred San Francisco, Green SF, The “Cultured” City, A City on the Move, and Sex and the City. Students will be expected to maintain a written journal of their observational and analytical work in the field, serve as a unit leader, and complete a midterm and final project. Unlike other traditional courses, this field study rethinks both the role of the classroom and the use of class time and requires students to be teachers of the material as much as learners.
Meeting requirements (pending COVID restrictions):
- We will have summative face to face meetings at the end of each unit.   
- Two mandatory all-class field trips will take place in early January and early May.
- Students can expect to conduct field research independently or as part of their group at least once every two weeks.   
- Weekly virtual classes will either be full class discussions or time for individual project check-ins.

Social History of Disease
In his existentialist novel The Plague, Albert Camus wrote, “All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.” Despite good intentions and the best efforts of governments and public health authorities, actions taken in order to stem the spread of a disease can actually exacerbate its dissemination--with deadly consequences for vulnerable populations. Viewing history through the lens of disease thus provides not only a unique approach to a familiar discipline, but also a way to better understand both the larger demographic turning points of world history and examine the ways in which societies break down along the lines of social class, gender, religion, and sexual orientation (among other things) in response to epidemics. This course will center on a series of case studies, beginning with the bubonic plague, proceeding through cholera, tuberculosis and AIDS, and finally ending with a consideration of contemporary epidemics like the Ebola, Zika and Coronaviruses, and the opportunity for students to pursue their own research. Students will also consider how understandings of contagion and the progress of medical science have evolved over time. Lastly, though many of these diseases have been mostly eradicated in the Western world (with some notable exceptions), students will look at the areas of the world in which these diseases persist and consider the reasons why. We’ll draw upon a variety of sources — historical, literary and visual, among others — in order to enhance our collective understanding, as well as have the opportunity to hear from medical professionals, epidemiologists and activists who have been on the front lines of epidemic diseases in recent memory.