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Science Fiction

Session I: June 14 - 25, 2021

What excites us about Star Wars? How do the Marvel movies imagine our own future? Why are we so interested in stories about aliens and spaceships and superheroes? How do these science fiction worlds get created in the first place? 

In this two-week creative writing course, students will have the opportunity to create their own fictional worlds, powered by their imagination and the chance of sharing these creations with their peers. Along the way, we will look closely at some of the most popular examples of science fiction and learn how to think critically about how they work, including what they tell us about the future of science and technology. Students will engage in daily writing workshops as they develop their own science fiction settings and stories, and by the end of the course will have produced a portfolio of work that they can and will be proud of. This fully online course will take advantage of the digital setting, with a broad range of fun, engaging, multimedia activities, all designed to help students develop their skills in creative and expressive writing, clear communication both on the page and in interactive digital space, and collaboration with their peers – all important skills as students move forward into the very futures their creative projects imagine. 

Session II: July 19 – 30, 2021

Have you ever wanted to create your own science fiction or fantasy epic like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Marvel's superheroes? In this course we'll look at some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy stories (including movies and television) and figure out what it is that gives them their power to inspire us. Then, we'll dive into daily writing workshops, free-writing, group collaborations, and other engaging activities where we'll use what we've learned to create our own imaginative worlds, characters, and stories! 

In this two-week-long online creative writing course, students will learn all the fundamentals of successful creative writing for science fiction and fantasy: how to build rich and believable worlds, how to develop the unforgettable characters that live in those worlds, and how to tell the exciting stories that bring worlds and characters to life. 

When students complete this course, they'll have built a portfolio of creative work which they'll be able to proudly share with friends and family, and which they can continue to build upon in the future as their creative writing skills grow. At the same time, students will learn more than creative writing: clear communication, the ability to work well with others, and the patience and determination to see a project through to completion are just some of the critical life skills students will take away from this exciting summer course.

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  • Session I: June 14 - June 25, 2021
  • Session II: July 19 – 30, 2021

Group A – Morning Synchronous Sessions

  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. & 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. EST

Group B – Afternoon Synchronous Sessions

  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. & 3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. EST
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Caoimhe Harlock

Caoimhe Harlock

My name is Caoimhe Harlock and I’m a doctoral candidate with Duke English and a fiction writer. 

I came to writing early, and for me it was a practice born out of both love and need. As a kid, I loved the worlds and characters imagined by authors like Ursula LeGuin and J.R.R Tolkien, but their books also filled a real need: they helped me imagine possibilities other than the place I was stuck in but would never quite fit into as a queer woman. I don’t think this is all that unusual, either. As a culture, we seem drawn to science fiction and fantasy stories because they thrill and excite us, but also because they show us things about ourselves that we need to see, in order to understand our real world all the more clearly.  

That ability to “imagine other possibilities” has taken me far afield from where I began. My adventures with writing have brought me from the rural Florida backwoods all the way to Duke, and through barriers that once seemed impassable to me. Writing has empowered me to lead classrooms where I’ve taught some truly exceptional students, to publish my own work in a number of venues, and to discover who I really am.  

As such, this is the attitude I bring into my classrooms. I tell my students that writing is about connecting with what you love, but it’s also a way of imagining new possibilities for yourself. In addition to emphasizing the fundamentals of craft and the discipline necessary to establish an effective writing practice, I help each student discover what it is they love to write about, as well as the tools to discover what it is they need to share with the world.

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Technical Requirements

In order to fully participate in Duke Youth Programs Summer Online, you will need:

  • access to an email account for essential communications for your course.
  • speakers or headphones to hear instructors during live meetings, and a microphone to participate—a webcam is required.

Minimum requirements

These technical requirements apply to all Duke Youth Programs Summer Online classes for middle and high school students.


  • Computer running one of the following operating systems:
    • Window 7 or newer
    • Mac OSX 10.10 or newer
    • Access only to a mobile device will not be suitable for fully participating in Duke Youth Programs Summer Online.
  • 1 GB RAM available
  • 2 GHz or faster processor


  •  Consistently reliable internet with at least 2k kbps available bandwidth
  • Chrome browser, latest two versions, with cookies enabled

Other requirements

Technical assistance

If you encounter difficulties with accessing you course, live meetings, online resources, or other technical materials, please contact

If you are having difficulty with hardware or with software unrelated to Duke Youth Programs Summer Online, you will need to seek technical assistance from the computer or software manufacturer.

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Youth Programs Policies

Program Application Fee:

There is a non-refundable $50 fee due upon application.

Program Fee:

A non-refundable deposit of $300 per course is due two weeks after your acceptance to the program. This deposit reserves your space in the course. The remaining balance is due no later than: 

  • May 31, 2021 for Session I courses;

  • July 5, 2021 for Session II courses.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellations made prior to the dates outlined above (two weeks prior to the start date of the course) will result in a full refund, less the $300 non-refundable deposit fee. Refunds are not available if the cancellation is made within two weeks of the course start date.

Admissions Policy

Eligibility Requirements

Students who are in grades 6th-8th in the 2020-2021 school year and who are living and/or studying in the United States during the time of the program are eligible to apply.

Required Supplementary Documents

In addition to our application, you will need to submit the following items in order for your application to be complete. 

We will not review your application until we have received all of the required documents listed below.

  • Personal Statement

Selection Process

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Your application will be reviewed as soon as you have submitted all of your supplementary materials (see Application Directions for more information). You are responsible for ensuring that your application is complete. Applicants receive an admissions decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application. Seats in each session are limited, so we strongly encourage you to apply as soon as possible.

Duke University Minor’s Policy

We adhere Duke University’s policies for students under the age of 18 years old, following The Standards of Best Practices.

Duke Youth Programs Participation Agreement

The Program is an interactive, collaborative community of learners. Meaningful participation in the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online program is the responsibility of the Participant, the Parent/ Legal Guardian, and the instructor.

It is the responsibility of the Participant to:

  • log in and engage with instructor, peers, course activities, and course tools a minimum of five days a week;
  • respond within twenty-four hours to communications from instructors and Duke office staff;
  • notify the instructor at the start of the course about any planned absences, understanding that absences exceeding two synchronous sessions are against Program policy;
  • notify the instructor as soon as possible about any unplanned absences and take steps to prepare work for early or late submission, per the course make-up policy, and schedule submissions with the instructor;
  • check weekly announcements, course calendars, and activity checklists in order to stay up to date with assignments;
  • complete work on time in order to contribute to the community of learners;
  • actively engage in live and asynchronous discussions each week;
  • complete the majority of required assignments and assessments in order to receive a final evaluation;
  • know and understand the success criteria for individual assignments and assessments before attempting them;
  • know and understand the criteria for exemplary, successful, insufficient, and unsatisfactory work in the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online Program; and
  • review and reflect on instructor feedback and look for and opportunities to apply feedback to new tasks.

It is the responsibility of the Parent/ Legal Guardian to:

  • provide necessary resources (tools, time, and required technical equipment) for Participants to log in regularly;
  • review email and other notifications from program staff members regularly and, when needed, respond within twenty-four hours to communications from instructors and Duke office staff;
  • discuss your summer schedule with Participant during the application process, prior to the term, and at the start of the term, understanding that absences from online access exceeding two synchronous sessions are against Program policy;
  • communicate regularly with Participant about any unplanned absences so Participant can inform the instructor and arrange for early submission or make-up work;
  • check in with Participant weekly about coursework and progress in the course toward meeting success criteria and course completion;
  • know and understand the criteria for exemplary, successful, insufficient, and unsatisfactory work in the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online Program; and
  • utilize the available resources to monitor your Participant’s participation and progress as needed.

It is the responsibility of the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online Program instructor to:

  • post weekly announcements, activity checklists, and make-up policies, and maintain an updated course calendar;
  • clearly communicate to Participants the expectations and success criteria for all assignments and assessments;
  • regularly provide timely feedback to Participants on assignments and assessments;
  • maintain the course gradebook so that Participants can accurately assess their progress;
  • provide a final evaluation that is reflective of the Participant’s work and follows the criteria for exemplary, successful, insufficient, and unsatisfactory work in the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online Program;
  • respond to inquiries and communications from Participants and families within twenty-four; and
  • follow participation checkpoints and the program participation policy for instructors by messaging all Participants and families per the policy regarding class assignments and engagement expectations.

Duke Youth Programs Community Standard

  • I will take full advantage of the academic and social opportunities provided by Duke. I will apply myself to the best of my ability in my studies and participate fully in collaborative activities and the Duke community.
  • I will not lie, cheat, steal, or plagiarize in my academic and collaborative endeavors, nor will I support the actions of those who do.
  • I understand that Duke policies have been developed to promote the safety and enjoyment of the program for all participants. I will adhere to these policies and follow the direction of Duke staff members.
  • I will be honest, responsible and fair in all my activities as a Participant. I will conduct myself in a manner that is respectful of other Participants, Duke staff, and Duke digital spaces. I understand that harassment, intimidation, and bullying will not be tolerated.
  • I will share in the responsibility of maintaining an environment where individual actions do not violate the integrity of the community. I will accept responsibility for my own actions and accept the consequences of those actions.
  • I will view the Program as a community and will recognize the commonalities and respect the differences that make each Participant unique. I will abide by Duke University's nondiscrimination policy regarding race, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex, genetic information, and age.

Duke Youth Programs Digital Citizenship Agreement

The Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online program utilizes a variety of online resources and other tools and programs that require Participants to post, share, and publish work online in both protected and open environments. This agreement serves as a resource to help Participants maintain safety and privacy while interacting in online environments such as these. It is important that both the Participant and the Parent/ Legal Guardian carefully read and understand this agreement.

I will protect my identity in all online environments. This includes not sharing your email address, home address, phone number, full name, birthdate, location, school name, or any other information that might pose a privacy or security risk.

I will protect the security of my fellow classmates, instructor, and Duke information by not sharing information in our Duke online community with others. It is important that Duke online communities are a safe and welcoming space to share ideas and work. Therefore, it is very important that you don’t share the course content, participant information, or participant work with anyone other than your parents.

I will manage my own passwords. It is crucial that you develop a secure password for all sites, and that you never share that password. You are responsible for managing all passwords you create. Should your instructor assign a tool that requires you to create an account, you will need to remember that password on your own.

I will be responsible for maintaining or deleting my accounts. You are solely responsible for what happens with the accounts you create after the conclusion of your Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online course. Duke and your instructor may share links to your products or capture screenshots of your work, but you own both the products and the accounts you create. It is recommended that you go into the settings of these accounts and change the email address to a personal email at the conclusion of your course. We request that you keep all accounts and products active for one week following the conclusion of your session to ensure your work can be properly assessed and evaluated by your instructor. Deleting these products before that date could result in an incomplete program evaluation from Duke. After August, you may choose to either maintain or delete these accounts. Duke will not be able to assist you with retrieving passwords or products from these accounts, either during or after the course.

I will use my Sakai account to communicate with classmates and my instructor. All course-related communications should be from your Sakai account to your instructor or classmates’ Sakai accounts. You should never use a personal account for course communications.

I will exhibit appropriate behavior online. Many internet tools allow for a wide range of interaction, including comments, posts, discussions, and peer feedback. Everything you write or share online is a reflection of you, and should be treated as both permanent and public. It is your responsibility to make wise decisions about how you want to be perceived by instructors and classmates, as well as potential schools and employers that might one day see the interactions you have had online. Commit to only sharing appropriate information, images, and multimedia resources.

I will respect myself and others at all times. Never share a post, comment, or image that could be perceived as disrespectful. Do not engage with or respond to inappropriate or disrespectful posts or images. Report inappropriate activity to your instructor or Duke.

I will adhere to copyright laws and fair use guidelines. It is important that you never use copyrighted work without permission, and that you always credit the original producer of the work. This includes text from books or websites, images, videos, and any other resource you obtain. This is particularly important when you are creating and sharing things online that could potentially have a public audience that may interpret these items as your own work. If you are unsure of whether you might be using copyrighted materials, refer to the Duke Youth Program’s Summer Online polices or seek the help of your instructor. “I didn’t know” is not an excuse for plagiarism or copyright infringement.

I understand that it is my responsibility to read the terms of use or service and adhere to any age restrictions. Most web tools have specific age restrictions and terms of use that they expect users to follow. These are typically located at the bottom of all pages, particularly the home pages. It is your responsibility to read, understand, and follow these guidelines. Duke will never expect or require you to use any tool in a manner that violates the terms of use or age restrictions. If you aren’t sure whether you can complete an assignment due to age restrictions, seek the help of your instructor immediately.

I will contact my instructor or Duke staff if at any time I feel uncomfortable about online activity related to my course. You have the right to feel safe and protected when utilizing online tools and resources. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, or experience or witness instances of bullying, harassment, inappropriate language or content, please contact your instructor or Duke staff as soon as possible. If you are concerned about the manner in which you are being asked to share an assignment, your instructor can offer an alternative method or tool, or an alternate assignment

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1. These programs will in some cases require a brief application process. With an approved application, you can then register online with our secure, real-time registration system to pay by credit card. Please add the class to your shopping cart and follow the instructions for checking out. You must select the Youth Participant option when creating the student's account, either as a registrant or an applicant. You will receive email notification of your registration and payment. If you have not received this notification within four business days or if you have any questions, please email

2. Email us at for additional assistance.  Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, EST.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does the date and time schedule work?

You will choose your preferred session dates from the options available. Then, you have the option to enroll in Group A or Group B. All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).

What does the program fee cover?

The program fee covers expenses associated with the online course, such as access to course readings and all online materials and live access to the Duke instructors during scheduled meetings.

Who will teach the course?

The classes will be taught by Duke affiliates, faculty and staff. Each class will also have a Teaching Associate for every 8 students. TA’s are Duke undergraduates.

How do I apply?

You can access our application by clicking here or on the Apply Now button at the top of this page. Please review the application directions to ensure you have submitted a complete application with all supporting documentation, as we will only review your application after it is complete.

Who is eligible to apply?

Middle school students who are currently 6th - 8th graders (2020-2021 academic year) are eligible to apply.

If I require assistance with the application, who do I contact?

You can email and a staff member will assist you.

Is financial aid available?

Financial assistance is available to students from groups and organizations associated with Duke Youth Programs. Please make sure your organization/group is aware that you are applying to the program. Remember to indicate on the application that you would like to be considered for financial assistance.

For students who do not qualify for financial assistance from Duke Youth Programs, you and your family may wish to contact your own local educational funding organizations, non-profits, community-based organizations (CBOs), and large corporations to explore financial funding opportunities.

Here are some pointers on how to write a pitch to community-based organizations or corporations when seeking funding for a course or program:

1. Locate a company or community-based organization that specializes in the same subject as the course or program of interest.

2. Do your due diligence by investigating the company or CBO to see how the goals connect with your future goals.

3. Write a letter to the company or CBO requesting a company sponsorship or funding (avoid the term scholarship, as it connotes university tuition).

4. Write a statement of how attending the program or taking the course benefits you as a student. Demonstrate how the company or CBO’s investment in you will benefit the company or community as you gain skills from the course/program.

5. Contact the company or CBO’s volunteer or community support department, which is often found on their website.

What do I have to submit with my application?

In addition to our application, you will need to submit the following items in order for your application to be complete.

We will not review your application until we have received all of the required documents listed below.

  • Personal Statement

How does the application process work?

You will be notified if any part of your application is missing. Once your application is complete, we will review it and send you an email with the enrollment decision within two weeks of the receipt of the entire application.

When can I expect to hear about my admission status?

Admissions decisions will be made on a rolling basis, and you will receive an admission decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application.

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