Student teachers make a Splash at Yale

From Survival Skills 101 to Introduction to Japanese, students in middle school and high school were able to take a variety of eccentric courses taught by Yale undergrads at last Saturday’s Splash at Yale.

Splash at Yale is a student-run organization that allows Yale students to teach classes each semester on any topic of their choice. Teachers were encouraged to select subjects not taught in a traditional classroom setting, such as neurology, improvisational comedy and modern Middle Eastern Politics. Over 750 middle school and high school students from the Greater New England area registered to take part in 159 classes offered at the event.

Founders Sebastian Caliri ’13 and Ben Horowitz ’15, created Splash at Yale as a way to help students expand their learning beyond traditional school curricula.

“We want to encourage students to find something they love and get excited about learning,” Horowitz said.

Each course had an enrollment maximum of approximately 30 students. All courses had grade-level recommendations, and some had pre-requisites such as pre-calculus.

Students were given the freedom to choose their own courses and pick their own schedule. The administration required students, not parents, to sign up for courses online. Each student was required to make an account on the Splash website to register and receive emails with information about the program.

Parents were given the option of touring the Yale campus, and attending two sample classes and lectures, respectively. The lectures were geared towards teaching parents how they can help their children through the educational process. Dan Zaharopol, CEO of Learning Unlimited, gave a talk on “More Educational Opportunities: Helping Your Children Find Them.” Amy Estersohn, a former assistant director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Chicago, gave tips for a stress-free college search.

While some schools brought groups of students, many participants heard about the event by word-of-mouth. Ervin Zhou, a parent from Edison, N.J., said that Splash was recommended to him by a colleague and that he had brought his two daughters to the event. Zhou was among several parents interviewed who had heard about Splash through former participants.

Yale students were particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to reach out to students. Splash teacher Lina Zhou ’14 said that Splash is not only a chance for young students to explore new courses, it is also a chance for Yalies to get excited about teaching.

Molly Mullen ’17 taught a course titled “Modular Origami.” Mullen also attended the MIT Splash! Conference in middle school and described her experience while serving on the administration of Splash at Yale.

“It’s cool to see some students who might not catch on right away finally learn a new fold,” Mullen said.

When asked about Mullen’s class, student Sklyar Norton said simply, “It’s awesome.” Norton, a home-schooled student, said the option to change courses was one of the most attractive features of the event.

Seventh-grade student Aastha Senjalia from Somerset County, N.J. explained that she enjoyed the interactive part of the class “Learn to play ‘Go!’” in which students squared off in a board game and said she would definitely return to the event in the future.

Over the past year, Splash has expanded to include two other events: Resonance and Sprout. Resonance is a scientific outreach event for high school sophomores and juniors interested in science. Yale Synapse, which helps to support a learning environment for members of the Yale-New Haven health system, hosted the event which includes presentations by Yale professors, TED talks by undergraduates and tours of Yale facilities.

Sprout was created as a way for students to attend classes spanning over three weeks. A Sprout event took place in both July and in October. Each included over 100 students and over 40 Yale teachers. Splash worked with the University Mathematics Department to secure space in Leet Oliver Memorial Hall for the event.

The program cost $15 per student, plus an optional $5 for lunch and $10 for a t-shirt.

Correction: Nov.11

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Amy Estersohn as an assistant director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Chicago. She is in fact the former assistant director. 

 

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