Splash program arrives at Yale

This weekend, Yale offered classes on origami and pirates. But they weren’t taught by Yale professors: they were run by undergraduates as part of Splash at Yale.

Splash, a national program that began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has attracted thousands of students there annually since 1988, took place on Yale’s campus for the first time Saturday. The program, which is run by Cambridge, Mass.-based teaching nonprofit Learning Unlimited, brought together 36 Yale undergraduates to teach 170 high school and middle school students from the Connecticut area in Leet Oliver Memorial Hall and other venues on Hillhouse Avenue.

“Put simply, Splash is education for students, by students,” Splash at Yale Director Sebastian Caliri ’12 said in a Sunday email. “We want to give kids the opportunity to go beyond what is typically taught in the classroom in both breadth and depth, and help cultivate a genuine love of learning.”

Though Splash at Yale was not sponsored by the University, program codirectors Caliri and Benjamin Horowitz ’14 said they have worked with Yale administrators since March to address logistical and safety concerns for Saturday’s event.

Both Caliri and Horowitz said they participated in the two-day MIT Splash during high school, which inspired them to bring the program to campus as Splash at Yale this fall, with help from Learning Unlimited CEO Dan Zaharopol and other members of the Splash parent organization.

While Yale students involved said they were originally unsure how successful Splash at Yale would be, most of the classes had filled up through online registration a few days before the event. Registration closed a few days before the program because of space limitations, Caliri said, adding that a “reasonable number” of students had to be turned away.

Horowitz said program organizers had publicized the event by contacting guidance counselors at schools, and by notifying friends in academic groups on campus. Based on this weekend’s demand for Splash at Yale, Caliri said he expects the program will take place again in the spring and expand to accommodate more participants.

“Because Saturday went so well, we are confident that when we run another Splash in April, we will be able to scale up to at least twice the size if we can find enough classroom space,” he said.

Those admitted to Splash at Yale paid $10 each upon arrival ­— a fee that helped cover program costs such as T-shirts, printing and student lanyards, Caliri said. While materials and supplies were a substantial investment this weekend, Caliri said the initial costs will help Splash at Yale create a pool of resources to use at future events. The program waived the $10 fee and provided need-based financial aid to cover lunch costs of four students, instructor Linda Zhou ’14 said.

Once parents dropped students off at 9 a.m., Yale students took charge until the day ended at 5 p.m. The Yale teachers designed their curricula and chose their class sizes — averaging 25 students, Caliri said, with subjects such as oil painting and improv comedy capped at 10 students.

Darren Gooden ’13, who led classes on mathematics and graph theory, said he enjoyed teaching about his academic passions and his students seemed genuinely interested in the subjects.

“The students seemed really taken with the class,” he said. “They were generally happy and they didn’t seem tired for a two-hour-long class.”

Five high school and middle school students interviewed — who ranged from homeschooled to public school backgrounds — said they enjoyed partaking in Splash at Yale and having a chance to see Yale’s campus.

Howard Ho, a homeschooled 16-year-old who attended MIT Splash in 2010, said that Splash at Yale was run more efficiently than its MIT counterpart and he would likely return in the spring.

Caroline McArdle, a homeschooled student in the ninth grade and another former MIT Splash attendee, said she enjoyed all three classes she took ­­— especially modern Hebrew. Still, McArdle said she wished Splash at Yale had lasted for two days like the MIT program.

“Some of the material is more advanced, but that’s what makes it challenging and fun,” McArdle said. “The teachers are really engaging, but I wish [the program] lasted longer.”

Splash at Yale held 46 classes.

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