Splash program returns to Yale

As part of the Splash program, undergraduates served as student-teachers for hundreds of high school and middle school students.
As part of the Splash program, undergraduates served as student-teachers for hundreds of high school and middle school students. Photo by Jim Horwitz.

After undergraduates introduced a Yale branch of the national Splash teaching program in October, the event more than doubled its student attendance when it returned to campus on Saturday.

Though excess demand forced organizers to cap registration for the inaugural Yale Splash, co-director Sebastian Caliri ’12 said the program could accommodate all 325 interested middle and high school students this past weekend. Roughly 60 Yale undergraduates — up from 36 in the fall semester — volunteered to teach at Yale Splash this past weekend, and the program also expanded its teaching space from Leet Oliver Memorial Hall to include Sloane Physics Laboratory as well. The flagship program of Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit Learning Unlimited, Splash holds events on college campuses in which undergraduates teach classes to middle and high school students for the day.

Splash currently takes place on 16 college and university campuses across the country — a significant increase from the four on which it began in September 2009. The program aims to pique students’ academic interests and to introduce them to Yale’s campus and resources, Caliri said, adding that Yale’s talented student-teachers make its branch of the program particularly strong.

“Our greatest strength is, and will continue to be, the quality and creativity of our teachers, which is a testament to the quality and creativity of the Yale student body,” Caliri said.

Caliri and co-director Benjamin Horowitz ’14 said the Yale Risk Management Office and the Yale College Dean’s Office — which must be consulted if undergraduates use Yale’s facilities to host non-Yale-affiliated programs — were less strict about the program’s safety and liability arrangements for Saturday’s event than in the fall, which he said resulted from close collaboration between the offices and program organizers. For example, student-teachers were no longer required to take attendance at the start of every class.

The registration cost of the program was the same as October’s, at $10, but this weekend Yale Splash offered a new $5 lunch option. The program also provided far more financial aid this spring, covering the full $15 cost for 65 middle and high school students, as opposed to just four in the fall — an increase of $975. Caliri said the financial aid budget came primarily from the $10 program fees, which also paid for printing, teacher T-shirts and class supplies.

Caliri also said Splash coordinators set up a parents’ lounge in the first-floor lobby of Kline Biology Tower, an amenity not offered in October, to give parents a place to wait while their children participated in the program.

Alkesh Shah, who drove his seventh-grade daughter to Yale from their home in Boston, said he thought Splash would offer her a chance to make friends while preparing for high school and college. Hy Braverman, who lives in Connecticut, said he was excited for his 14-year-old grandson to learn from Yale students in a “fun kind of environment.”

“This program is a way for kids to broaden their horizons and collaborate with other students their age,” Braverman said. “Anything that builds your foundation in learning is good. I just hope my grandson becomes more enthusiastic about things that spark his interest.”

Four of five middle and high school students who attended Yale Splash said they would like to participate in the program again.

Koraima Cedeno, a 10th-grade student at Bridgeport’s Central High School, said she visited Yale for the first time while attending Splash, and plans to discuss her experiences with the program in her college applications. Nzingha Primus, a ninth-grade student who lives in Brooklyn and attends the Cinema School in the Bronx, said she woke up at 3 a.m. to take the train from Grand Central Station to New Haven with her father.

“The best part [of Splash] is feeling like you’re a college student yourself, having the feeling that you’re in a college classroom and being taught a college-level course,” Primus said.

Splash began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988, and has attracted thousands of students to the school’s campus each year since then.

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