Presentation Descriptions

Festival of Ideas 2019 Presentations Keynote Presentation 9:30 am to 10:15 am

The Enduring and Timely Wonder of C.S. Lewis’s Life and Work

Jared Dybzinski, Literature Pedagogue, English Department Head, Liberty Common High School

C.S. Lewis has sparked delight and clarity for so many people of different ages, traditions, and convictions.  Why? Mr. Dybzinski will walk through highlights from Lewis’s life and works as well has highlights from his own reading experiences of Lewis in order to reflect on this appeal and what it means for our own reading, thinking, and living.



Session I

10:30 am to 11:25 am

Ghosts of the Universe

Dr. Robert Wilson, Physics Professor, Colorado State University

The ghostly neutrino is among the most abundant, elusive, and mysterious particles in the universe. Over the past half century, experiments revealed neutrinos, which come in three “flavors,” performing a strange quantum dance— transforming from one flavor into another. This dance contains information about fundamental features of matter in our universe, perhaps revealing why our universe contains any matter at all! Learn about neutrinos, neutrino oscillations, and the exciting Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment being built a mile underneath Lead, South Dakota. This experiment will study oscillations in a powerful (and harmless) neutrino beam sent through the earth from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, over 800 miles away.

What is Inside a Black Hole?

Dr. Andrew Hamilton, Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado

Using an interactive Black Hole Flight Simulator, Professor Andrew Hamilton will take you inside the horizon of a black hole and explore what happens there. The true story is different from, and far more extravagant than, what is commonly portrayed in popular literature.

Building Better Immunity for a Healthier You

Dawn Karr, Anatomy & Biology Pedagogue, Science Department Head, Liberty Common High School

How many times have you been sick this school year?  What can you do about it? Mrs. Karr will give you some practical tips to strengthen your immune response and avoid catching the latest "bug" that's going around.

Why You Should (Not) Be Moral: Reflections on Oscar Wilde’s Life and Works

Florian Hild, Literature, Logic, Rhetoric, & German Pedagogue, Loveland Classical High School

We will look at Oscar Wilde's works to investigate the connection between his iconoclastic rhetoric and his often conventional, even beautiful moral views. Oscar Wilde's religious views and his personal tragedy will be a part of the talk.

Morality and the Power of Invisibility: Stories of Herodotus and Plato

Tim Smith, Classics Pedagogue, Loveland Classical High School

In this seminar, we will read short selections from Herodotus and Plato who both told the story of how Gyges, a poor shepherd, came to rule a kingdom.  Our conversation will explore the moral dilemma of the allure of power and freedom from consequence.

Off with Your Head! Stories Behind Our Favorite Decapitations in Art

Rex Seiple & Megan Salazar, Studio Art and Art History Pedagogues, Liberty Common High School

Decapitation is a powerful allegory used throughout art history. Seiple & Salazar will walk you through the lore and drama behind their favorite decapitations from art history.

The Republic in Renaissance Italy

Dr. Joel Penning, History Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

In the late Middle Ages, Italian city-states such as Florence and Venice recreated an ancient form of government, one that had been absent from the Western world for many centuries: the republic.  We will look at the development of the idea of republican government in medieval and Renaissance Italy, examining how Italians forged a meaningful life in a self-governing community, asking what challenges their republics faced, looking at the role of important political thinkers like Dante and Machiavelli, and tracing the inspiration America's founding fathers took from the Renaissance republics.

The Psychology of Why Our Politics Are So Nasty

Dominic Scarlett, Academic Support Specialist, Liberty Common High School

Polls show that partisan Americans have lower opinions of their political opponents, right now, than at any point in modern history; social media appears awash with outrage and anger; and our federal politicians seem unable to agree on just about anything. Using recent psychological research, we will examine a possible explanation for why politics have become so tribal, what it means for our country, and what can be done about it.


Session II

11:30 am to 12:25 pm

Neurology: The “Hole” Story

Dr. Timothy J. Allen, Neurologist

Dr. Allen will present on the epic and startling history of neurology.

Bee-havior: An Introduction to Honey Bees and Backyard Beekeeping

Mark Coleman

In this talk, Mr. Coleman will discuss the vital role of Honey Bees in US food production and agricultural industry. He will introduce you to the Honey Bee family, their specific behaviors, and their life cycles.

There will be a demonstration of equipment, tools, and techniques of modern backyard beekeeping. This presentation will motivate attendees to learn more about Honey Bees and their own role as stewards of this important member of our ecosystem.

The Big Bang

Dr. Gavin Polhemus, Physics Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

The universe's beginning was an explosive, frantic, complicated event. New observations  have given us a detailed picture of these first moments and and a clear understanding of the  gradual evolution from the small, hot, and almost featureless early universe to the enormous, cold, and galaxy-filled universe we see today. Find out about the expansion of space, the origins of energy and matter, and our new view of our cosmic history and home.

Dostoyevsky: His Life, His Work, His Enduring Assault on Nihilism

Jared Dybzinski, Literature Pedagogue, English Department Head, Liberty Common High School

Many of us have heard of Dostoyevsky’s work, but maybe we shy away from their length, their depth, their “Russian-ness.”  Mr. Dybzinski will try to shed some light on the oft-mentioned but seldom-explored “Russian Soul” of which Dostoyevsky’s life and work are lucid examples—a soul firmly convinced that amidst the darkness, light remains.

Twisted Tales and Stories Spun: An exploration of the Fiber Arts in Literature

Mary Renstrom, Literature Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

This lecture will include both storytelling and demonstrations of spinning and weaving techniques as they relate to various works of literature. Works explored will include ancient Greek myth, The Odyssey, medieval fairy tales, and Goethe’s Faust. History, culture, and literature will converge in a more relaxed “non-academic” environment than the typical literature class, giving the audience a greater appreciation for the literature and for the domestic work performed by women for millennia.

Classical Education

Ian Stout, Executive Director, Loveland Classical High School

In today’s post-truth environment, classical education takes a stand against the movement of our society towards “ultimate relativism” and is founded in the existence of universals such as Truth (with a capital T), Beauty, and Goodness.  Although we may always be seeking these ideals, a foundational belief in their existence provides the basis for the pursuit of the “good life”. Classical education is the means towards the pursuit of these ideals in the classical sense of the “good life”.

Jazz: The Baseball of American Music

Dave Lunn, Local Musician, Music History, Theory, and Orchestral Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

It has been called “America’s only true original art form”, but few understand exactly how it all works and just how influential it has been in the musical world. Its creation comes from the combination of Western European classical music traditions and African culture and defined by the act of improvisation. Join Dave Lunn with his professional jazz quartet, as they demonstrate the process of playing jazz, while also taking a journey through the history of this fascinating music. “This is definitely not elevator music we’re talking about!” says Mr. Lunn

If i is the Square Root of -1, What is the Square Root of i?

Ashley McAllister, Mathematics and Statistics Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

Explore roots of complex numbers and even discover why Euler's Formula e^(i*pi) + 1 = 0 works. Knowledge of the unit circle will be assumed for this talk.

Why Flags Matter, and How to Make Them Better

Stanton Skerjanec, History Pedagogue, Liberty Common High School

Vexillology, the study of flags, can reveal a great deal about the symbols to we pledge allegiance, rally around during war, and stake a claim with on new territory. Flags matter, as they can both unify and divide a people. But flags are a visual power, and there are such things as bad flags. Come learn about and see some of the greatest--and worst!--flags in history.


Session III: Student Presentations
1:45 pm to 2:30 pm


The History, Physiology, and Psychology of Language

Cole Goeltl (12th grade)

Although we often take it for granted, language has been and always will remain one of the most ubiquitous and powerful elements of the modern world. Over the last half a century, research has proved that, rather than being defined by motor skills, language has deep roots in physiology and neurobiology. Now that we have a glimpse of the magnitude of language, we can begin to grasp its impact on psychology.

The Day the Music Died: The History of Rock n’ Roll in Eight Minutes

Zoee Avery (12th grade)

Most of us can sing the chorus to Don McLean’s well-known song, American Pie, but do you know the meaning behind the complex lyrics? The words are rich with history of American music and illustrate the atrophy of American innocence and culture in the 1950s. This presentation will breakdown how the song’s verses paint a profound picture of the notable characters and events in the American cultural scenery of the time, from Buddy Holly to John F. Kennedy.

The Decline of Film and Rise of Digital Cinematography

Pierce Thomas (11th grade)

What happened to film in cinema? Are digital movies really better? This presentation will cover the technology and history behind moving pictures. By describing the technical limitations and abilities of, both, film and digital processes of capturing motion, we will be able to see how each system can be used to create its own artform and how, in the end digital surpassed film in prevalence.

From America to the Moon: The American Space Program

Logan French (12 grade)

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These words by Neil Armstrong as he first stepped on the surface of the moon marked one of the greatest achievements in human history. How did we get there? Who were these people that led us to achieve the impossible? What is their story? In his presentation, Logan French will walk through the legendary history of the American Space Program, from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier to the Apollo missions.

6 Rifles That Made the United States a Superpower

Caleb Pletcher (11th grade)

Many firearms, including the Kentucky rifle and the M1, have led to the ascension of power the U.S. has today. In this presentation, Caleb Pletcher will talk about the development of rifles within the U.S. military that made the United States into a superpower.

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