HSSP Harvard HSSP Spring 2010
Course Catalog

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Arts Humanities
[Deprecated] Math & Computer Science [Deprecated] Science and Engineering

The class catalog is subject to change. We reserve the right to add or remove classes.

This term, we will only be offering classes for high school students . We apologize for any inconvenience. Harvard HSSP will offer classes for middle school students in the future.

This is an old catalog! If you want to register for this year's Harvard HSSP, visit Harvard HSSP's website.


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Creative Writing Full!
Teachers: Katie Banks

Like reading fiction, but don't know how you'd write a good story? Tired of the kinds of nonfiction essays you write for school? In this class, we'll read short stories and creative nonfiction essays by various authors, and try our hands at our own writing, both short fiction and creative nonfiction. There will be class time devoted to writing exercises and experiments, and everyone will have the option to workshop and share their work with the class. There will be reading and writing to be done outside of class.

None - just being excited to write!


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Shakespeare for Groundlings, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bard
Teachers: Chelsea Link

Think 400-year-old literature is outdated? Think again. In this class, we will explore several of Shakespeare's plays, in addition to learning about his life and times, to figure out why his work has never gone out of style. How could one man's writing appeal to everyone from royalty to peasants, from counts to carpenters, from professors to plebeians, from the 16th century to the 21st? Join us to find out! (Hint: half of Shakespeare's writing is actually just thinly veiled "that's what she said" jokes in iambic pentameter.)

If you can read, you can take this class. Previous experience with Shakespeare is NOT required! (However, I will accommodate all levels, so you will not be bored if you've been going to see Shakespeare plays your whole life.) All you need is curiosity!

Perspectives: Analytical Studies of History and Events Full!

This course will delve into numerous historical and modern events and policies and attempt to analyze them from a economic, political and ideological perspectives. The roles of leaders and institutions in the frame of general social forces will be broken down as well. Example topics will include The Changing Face of China, The Iranian Revolution, The Events and Forces surrounding WWI and WWII, The Stimulus Package, just to name a few. Over the course of the program, students will learn to notice the more subtle influences involved in making history as well as develop the tools needed to better present their ideas and draw on information to further an argument. This class will be highly discussion based and and involve significant student participation.

General knowledge of current events and modern history (1900's on) is strongly desired. Insight into unique historical events and affairs would be beneficial.

Reading Between the Lines: The Art of Interpretation
Teachers: Ryan Hanley

In this course, we will read captivating literature and spend a lot of time discussing it. There will be a heavy focus on the art of close-reading, as we investigate the different lenses through which single lines or words can be read and interpreted. We will talk about the aesthetics of what we read, and why certain lines or images are seen as beautiful. We will also investigate how authors negotiate character and dialogue. This course will span genres, styles, and authors, all the while employing the same techniques of understanding. The goal is to discover the beauty or darkness of the stories we read, interpret what is going on, and have fun doing it.

Expect manageable reading assignments every week. We may read short stories, graphic novels, and/or novels. Authors may include Bret Easton Ellis, Salinger, Hemingway, Joan Didion, and James Baldwin. Sex, drugs, and/or alcohol may feature prominently in certain readings.

An interest in reading great new stories is a must. Also a desire to discuss literature freely.

Harry Potter in Society
Teachers: Erin Harrington

In this class, we will explore the Harry Potter series from a variety of perspectives. A major theme of the course will be the roles of morality and justice in the series. Also, we will spend significant time considering the ways JK Rowling uses wizard-Muggle relationships as a metaphor for race relations. Other topics will include gender issues, politics, psychology, and the interactions among the Harry Potter series, individual readers, society, and the media. All students are strongly encouraged to contribute to and shape the direction of our discussions.

We will presume that all students will have read the series before taking this class.

Plato and The Dude: Western Philosophy in the Contemporary World

In this course, we will use the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski to explore the role philosophy plays in shaping our lives, our culture, and our civilization. The central question of investigation will be: “What is Philosophy and what is it for?” Students will debate the relevance and value of a range of topics from Ancient Greek concepts of “Form” and “Essence,” to Enlightenment notions of Objectivity, Subjectivity, and the limits of reason and understanding, to Existentialist questions about purpose, freedom, and authenticity. Students will be encouraged to explore the means by which films like The Big Lebowski represent both the expression of philosophical ideas in the popular media and the effect of philosophy on contemporary life in general.

No background in philosophy is expected or required. Students who are under 17 should bring a permission note from a parent/guardian to the first class (during which the film will be screened), as The Big Lebowski is an R-rated movie.

Dante's Divine Comedy - Inferno Full!
Teachers: Joanna Li

A close reading of Dante's Inferno and its poetry, history, and synthesis of medieval culture. Special emphasis will be placed on the Inferno's central philosophical and theological concerns, including the relationship between individuals and society, progress and happiness, politics and morality. Discussion-based class with short weekly reading assignments from the text and secondary sources.


China: A Broad Overview
Teachers: Linfeng Yang

Why China is called “China”? What do people do everyday there? Why China has such a huge population? Are kids there attending similar schools as those in the States? This course gives a broad overview covering a wide range of materials introducing both China as a country and Chinese culture as a whole. Topics include: traditional and pop culture, philosophy, history, economics, politics, education system and so on. We will try to touch as many areas as possible without going into too much detail.

There is absolutely no prerequisite. You don't need to know anything about China or to speak Chinese, as long as you are interested in this topic.

The Beatles: A Musical and Social History
Teachers: Carla Ferreira

This seminar explores the role of The Beatles in revolutionizing music and society. We'll be focusing on their musical progression album by album and the hippie culture they came to embrace and transform. From their youthful beginning as romantic crooners to their mature denouement as a rock band that defied genres, this quartet changed the way the world looked at music. We'll look at their great triumphs, their bitter shortcomings, their quirks and kinks as people and musical artists, and how they came to be the band that while defining their 1960's generation caused an earthquake in musical history that still reverberates.

A willingness to engage in discussions and to listen to awesome music. Some willingness to read articles and watch movies is also quite helpful.

[Deprecated] Math & Computer Science

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Introduction to Calculus
Teachers: Lily Hsiang, Fiona Wood

This course is designed to give students a solid foundation in single-variable calculus. We hope to cover introductory topics in differentiation, integration, differential equations, series, and vectors.

Knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, analytic geometry, and elementary functions.

Topics in Geometry
Teachers: Katie Banks

There's a lot more to geometry than Euclid! Through discussion and problem-solving, this class will introduce students to the mathematics of symmetry and transformations, the foundation of modern geometry, and its historical development. We'll take a look at a few kinds of geometry you don't often see in school, including 3D polytopes, projective geometry (the kind artists use to draw in perspective), computational geometry, and the geometry of numbers. We'll also look at ways geometry can be applied, especially to problems in engineering like how to convert circular motion to straight-line motion, and physical demonstrations of geometric ideas.

Some familiarity with any of: graph theory, combinatorics, or basic matrix algebra would be helpful, but is by no means required. We'll do proofs, but our definition of proof will be more along the lines of "a convincing demonstration," so formal proof experience is helpful, but again not required. And most of what we'll do is very different from standard plane geometry, so don't worry if all those theorems on points of triangles are fuzzy in your mind.

Introduction to Topology
Teachers: William Cember

The course will cover the basics of topology. In the process we will study topological spaces, continuous functions, and homeomorphisms on such spaces, as well as properties of topological spaces such as compactness and connectedness. The course will be proof based, and at the beginning of the course we will review how mathematical proofs work.

Students should be highly motivated and interested in learning and thinking about mathematics. Experience with proofs is recommended but by no means required.

Introduction to Abstract Algebra: Theory of Groups and Vector Spaces
Teachers: Zhao Chen

This class will cover the basics of a rudimentary course in Abstract Algebra. We will cover basics on groups, group actions, vector spaces, linear transformations, and time permitting, begin discussing ring theory. Time will also be spent at the beginning of the course on the basics of mathematical proofwriting.

Students should be highly motivated in mathematics, and at least be familiar with the concepts in Algebra 2.

[Deprecated] Science and Engineering

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What's in a Brain?
Teachers: Milly Turakhia

What is it that allows us to smell flowers, taste french fries, or pull our hands away from a hot stove? In this course, students will be introduced to the field of neuroscience, and learn about brain function and anatomy. We will also perform in-class experiments to understand the cellular basis of neural function, and to study different conditions that affect the brain.

High school biology

Introduction to Special Relativity
Teachers: Masha Baryakhtar

This class is an introduction to the theory of Special Relativity. We will start with the counterintuitive concepts of time dilation and length contraction. We’ll go on to derive the theory from basic postulates of the constant speed of light c and the principle of relativity, and develop some intuition by doing some calculations and resolving the twin paradox and other classic 'paradoxes' in special relativity. To get a more complete understanding, we will develop a bit of mathematical machinery and see how special relativity relates to classical physics. Finally, we'll see what physical effects special relativity has, use it to do a bit of particle physics, and learn to appreciate this strange but beautiful theory of physics.

Some basic familiarity with physics (from class or on your own). Being familiar with algebra and geometry is necessary; some topics in advanced math (from calculus and linear algebra) are helpful but we'll learn them as we go along.

The Science of Food Full!
Teachers: Sway Chen

This class will give an introduction to various topics in biology, chemistry, and physics as they relate to food, cooking, and nutrition. We will cover digestion, taste perception, molecular biology, thermodynamics, organic chemistry, and more. Classes will include edible demonstrations and experiments. Related readings and homework assignments will be assigned each week. NOTE: Products containing milk, eggs, nuts, and wheat will be used in demonstrations.


African Wildlife Biology
Teachers: Sondra Lavigne

This course will examine the evolution, anatomy, ecology, and management of African wildlife. We will cover the evolutionary connections and basic biology of a wide range of animals as well as topics like human-wildlife conflict and national park structures across East Africa, incorporating a few concepts from AP Biology and Environmental Science. Museum specimens (skulls, pelts, etc.) will be incorporated into classes as often as possible and we will take trips to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology to get up close and personal with these animals.

Please be aware that this class has an application question. You must answer the application question, and you will not be officially enrolled until the teacher tells you that you have been accepted into the class.

High school biology (AP level not required)

Experimental Biology or: How I Learned To Make Glowing Marmosets Full!

Follow in the footsteps of Darwin, Mendel, Hook, Avery, Watson & Crick! Learn about glowing marmosets, exploding cells, virus batteries and how a baby can have four parents.

Did you ever wonder how all these famous scientists got their Nobel prizes? We'll take a trip through biology, learning about the experiments that worked (and some that didn't) while getting a grounding in the basic science.

Completed introductory biology

Classical Mechanics
Teachers: Lynn Yi

This class is an introduction to classical mechanics and special relativity. We will cover AP Physics C Mechanics material and will go one step beyond in difficulty of problems. Emphasis will be given to problem solving as a method to learn and understand the concepts; there will be in-class problem solving each week. I will give a quick review of basic calculus for those who have not taken a calculus class. Some cool demonstrations may be involved. It is very important to keep up with the material every week. Expect it to be challenging and fast-paced, but fun.

Calculus AB is very useful!