Student Courses

Flex Courses

What is a Flex Course?

Short, interactive online classes about the most important issues facing the world today.

Flex courses are opportunities for middle and high school students (ages 13 and up) to join a global conversation about relevant, real-world topics. Designed and facilitated by experienced GOA teachers, flex courses are mostly asynchronous, highly interactive online experiences (two to three weeks) with no required meeting times. Students explore playlists of resources, engage in discussions, and complete hands-on activities to apply their new knowledge.

Designed for teachers and students to incorporate into existing classes, clubs, advisory programs, etc., flex courses ask participants to spend two to three hours per week in the course (in-class and/or as homework), leaving time to weave online learning into in-school coursework. Many teachers and advisors supplement GOA flex courses with materials and classroom activities of their own in order to best meet students’ needs. While most students come to GOA flex courses when their teachers sign up the whole class, we certainly welcome individuals (including teachers!) who just want to learn more about the topic.

Flex Courses 2019-2020

Flex courses are delivered via GOA's secure online platform and are open to all students. They are free for member schools and $25/participant for non-members.

Algorithms, AI & Machine Learning — September 30-October 10, 2019

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When you go online to search for something, buy something, listen to music, or interact with peers, you can’t escape the influence of algorithms: the programmed rules and sequences of code that work on you--on all of us--like invisible forces. They influence your news consumption and political opinions, your taste in movies and clothing. They are forever shaping your understanding of the world around you. And what about their effect on your future? When you apply to college, will a computer program screen your application in or out of the pool for consideration? In the workplace, will increasingly sophisticated algorithms chip away at your job or force unexpected adaptations?

Whether you want to resist the influence of algorithms or harness their power for your own purposes, the first step is to understand them. In this course, you will discover the ways a wide range of professionals, including political scientists, economists, psychologists, marketing experts, and computer programmers, are investigating the power of algorithms. You’ll take inventory of the their presence in your daily life and compare findings with classmates around the world. You’ll learn to trace the outlines of these seemingly invisible forces.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Social Studies, Government, Journalism, Psychology, Math, Statistics, Economics and Computer Science students.

Write Where You Are — November 11-22, 2019

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Why does place matter in the stories we tell? How are we shaped by the places where we live? What happens when stories of place are shared with readers from other locations?

Write Where You Are is a two week experience in creative writing that focuses on the stories you have to tell about your places, yourselves, and your communities. This is an opportunity for students from around the world to collectively write, record, and share place-inspired drafts in a global gallery of words and media.

You’ll look closely at where you are. And who you are. And your communities. You may conduct interviews, dabble in travel writing, or dig deep into personal narrative. You’ll have a variety of pathways from which to choose, each offering creative inspiration and each focusing on how place can be the foundation for some of the most meaningful stories we have to tell.

You’ll be joined by inspiration from published authors and a community of student writers from around the world working simultaneously to draft, explore, and share storytelling from varied locations and experiences.

Course Details

Like all GOA flex courses, this experience is designed for teachers to incorporate into existing courses, clubs, advisory programs, and school related endeavors. Students and teachers can expect to spend 2-3 hours per week (in-class and/or outside of the regular school day), which leaves significant time for other curricular work in the typical middle or high school schedule. Many teachers or club advisors supplement GOA flex courses with materials of their own in order to best meet their students’ needs.

All students in this course will gain an introductory understanding of the fundamentals of place-based writing, personal narrative structure, and creative techniques. Everyone will participate in the same course introduction. Following that launching point, students and teachers will choose from several pathways. They might include more in-depth explorations of travel writing, personal narrative, storytelling elements, or the art of telling the stories of others. Each pathway will include multimedia resources curated for students from grades 7-12. Participants can expect interactive discussions, creative exercises, and opportunities to draft short place-based essays that lead to a festival of audio-recordings. All students in the course will reconvene at the end of the second week to share their essay recordings in a global gallery.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including English, language arts, social studies, global studies, and journalism.

Voice & Vision: A Flex Course Film Festival — January 21-February 7, 2020

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Voice & Vision is a three-week film production challenge, contest, and film festival. This is an opportunity for students to amplify their creative voices by producing a 2-minute autobiographical story that projects a vision of our shared future. What potential exists for greater freedom, equality, safety and peace in our own communities and across the world? The medium of film expands our vision by allowing us to see into another’s experience.

This course is designed to for students with no experience at all making films as well as those who are already budding filmmakers! After the films have screened and the jury has decided, we’ll have walked a few steps in many people’s shoes, and lasting empathic links will have formed between the filmmakers and their audiences.

Voice & Vision begins on Tuesday, January 21 and runs until February 7, beginning just after Martin Luther King Day and leading into Black History Month. In the first week, students will explore the various filmmaking prompts, choose one, and plan out their production. The prompts may include:

  • Make a film that tells a story about a facet of your identity that you wish were represented in more stories.
  • Intersectionality is a word used to describe the overlapping or intersecting nature of our social identities (race, class, religion etc.). Use film to tell a story about a character encountering an intersectional experience.
  • Draw inspiration from the words and ideas of one of history’s great freedom fighters (Dr. King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, César Chávez, etc.) - use film to explore your own or your community’s identity through those ideas.
  • What is your dream? Drill down on Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. What is your dream for your community and for our shared humanity?

Week two will focus on the basics of filming, editing, critique, revision, and finally submission to the festival. The third and final week will be the chance to watch the breadth of entries across GOA’s global network. A panel of jurors will select winners, and audiences will even get to vote on their favorite films.

Who is this course for?

Students in grades 7-12 at GOA member schools are eligible to participate. Voice & Vision can build skills in the areas of art, history, gender studies, sociology, political science, journalism, current events, diversity & inclusivity, and technology. Teachers can integrate this experience into their curriculum related to social justice, such as February’s Black History Month in the US. Voice & Vision is project-based and also builds non-cognitive skills such as teamwork, ethics, time management, creativity, curiosity, and resilience. Student can create their films individually or as a part of a small team.

Agreeable Disagreements: Civil Political Discourse — February 24-March 6, 2020

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Have you or a member of your family stopped talking to someone because of their political beliefs? Do you tend to avoid discussions about religion? Are you afraid to express your political beliefs because of what people might say or think? Do you believe that people are far too concerned with being “politically correct?” Is the media making us more divided?

It would be easy to get the impression that all people are doing these days is either arguing or ignoring each other. In this two-week course, students will explore various strategies of engaging people in civil discourse. Students will begin with a series of self-assessments to determine where their own ideas and influences may derive from to better understand the complexity of factors in other people's opinions. Students will examine different methods of engagement from the likes of ancient philosophers to contemporary hip hop artists. We will also explore why the very act of discussing controversial topics creates a more democratic society. Scenarios will be given to students to deploy where they reside so that they may share their results with their GOA classmates.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Government, Civics, History, English.

Changing the Course of Climate Change — May 11-22, 2020

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Have you experienced climate change? Are there rising temperatures, or extreme weather conditions in your hometown? Have there been droughts or floods that leave environmental and human devastation in their wake? Or is climate change still a distant, largely theoretical threat to you?

Dramatic changes to our climate, the warming of the globe and consequent widespread damage to our environment are recorded and reported daily. The latest UN report issued in October 2018 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humanity about a decade to make substantive changes to avert future climate disasters. The risks of inaction are already evident, reported in the news daily, in floods, wildfires, droughts, and increasingly violent storm surges.

What can we do, as citizens, through our global, national, regional or local governments? And as individuals in our daily acts of energy consumption and our support for sustainable markets? In this two week course, you will explore your own opportunities to change the course of climate change, through awareness building, political action, community and individual initiatives. There is a growing network of scientists, social activists, business leaders, educators, students and concerned citizens at every level calling for action now, and we need to connect to all of our allies as we engage this battle. We will explore actions large and small and engage in a global conversation, sharing local stories of how we have experienced or anticipate climate change, and how together we can begin to reverse the course of climate change, to save ourselves and our planet.

Course Details

Like all GOA flex courses, this one is designed for teachers to incorporate into existing courses, clubs, advisory programs, etc. Students and teachers can expect to spend 2-3 hours per week (in-class and/or as homework), which leaves significant time for other curricular work in the typical middle or high school schedule. Many teachers or club advisors also supplement GOA flex courses with materials of their own in order to best meet their students’ needs.

All students in this course will gain an introductory understanding of scientific and political issues surrounding climate change . All students will participate in a common introduction and engage with our expert speakers (to be announced in March/April). Following the introduction, there are several pathways for students or teachers to choose from. These pathways will likely include the science of climate change; vulnerable populations/geographic locations; mitigation vs. adaptation; community action; the future of the Paris Climate Accords. Each pathway will include multimedia resources curated for students from grades 7-12 to discuss the resources and pose questions to teachers and peers from around the world. All students in the course will reconvene at the end of the second week for a concluding reflective activity.

Who is this course for?

This course is appropriate for students in grades 7-12. The use of pathways in the course design will allow classes from a wide variety of disciplines to connect meaningfully to the program, including Earth Sciences, Environmental Science, Biology, Civics, Social Studies, Government, Statistics, and Economics students.

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