This weekend over 2,000 middle school and high school students flooded MIT to “learn anything” in classes taught by over 300 students from MIT and other Boston area colleges who were willing to “teach anything” as part of the Educational Studies Program’s twentieth annual Splash event. In the largest Splash to date with 100 more classes and 20 more teachers than last year, over 400 different classes were held all over campus on a diverse variety of subjects.
The Infinite, usually deserted on Sunday mornings, witnessed frenetic activity as students, teachers and volunteers alike rushed to the first classes of the morning at nine. The Bush room was transformed into the Splash headquarters. Abuzz with activity, Lobby 10 had screens hat listed open classes.
A third of the classes had full enrollment, as the subjects ranged from the mundane to the insane. “Our slogan is ‘teach anything you want’ and we mean it,” said Stephanie L. Bachar ’11, an ESP officer. There were classes such as “Introduction to Zombie Defense” taught by Eric D. Fogg ’09, “What’s wrong with the Internets” taught by Michael Borohovski ’09 and Benjamin J. Agre ’12, “Counting Infinity” taught by Reuben M. Aronson ’12 and “The Physics of Fairytales” taught by Emily B. Pittore ’11.
Several students chose to teach multiple classes. Christopher T. Su ’11 taught a numismatics class called “The Art of Money” where he showed students coins and banknotes from a number of countries, introduced them to the intricacies of security devices incorporated in banknotes, and exposed them to the variety of designs that are contained in token currencies.
While Su even gave exquisite money as prizes for answering questions, he said that he didn’t spend more than ten dollars on the class. The highlight of the class was a 100 billion Zimbabwean dollar note (worth less than a thousandth of a penny). Su, an admissions blogger, also taught a class on applying to college. All sections of both classes were packed.
Albert Y. Wang ’12 taught a class on bridge building using gum drops and toothpicks. The bridges were tested at the end of the class and the sturdiest structure held up 450 grams.
Splash classes are classified not only into various categories but also according to age groups catering to students in grades 7 to 12. They enable students to take a short introduction on a particular subject or an intensive workshop in a specific area of interest. Several students at Splash were seniors who are applying to MIT for the coming fall and others were middle schoolers who were brought to MIT by parents who were hopeful that they would want to go to the Institute in the coming years.
Students enrolled in 6 to 8 classes on average and spent about 20 hours being taught subjects of their choice.
In order to fully exploit short attention spans, Splash classes are intentionally kept short and are usually held in hour long sections. The classes were mostly held in the Maclaurin buildings, with a couple of classes also being taught in the Kresge Auditorium.
Student and Parent forums were one of the new additions to Splash this year. Both were put in place to get direct feedback on the classes and the program.
Both students and parents were excited about Splash and several families braved long car and bus rides to come to MIT for the weekend. “Most of our students are from the Boston Area and the Northeast, but every year we have a few dedicated students who come from all over the country,” said Bachar. About two-fifths of all Splash students were from out-of-state and a sixth came from outside New England.
Helaine, 12 and Nathan, 13 who came with their mother from New Hampshire spent most of the weekend going from class to class all over campus. At his third Splash, Nathan learned how to make chain mail, tasted dark chocolates, and attended an introductory programming course. He plans on applying to MIT as a senior.
Splash which started at MIT is now expanding to other colleges as well. Last month a team from ESP went to Stanford to help them set up their own version. The response to Splash has been phenomenal in the last few years, and the program is accelerating rapidly.
Splash, which began in 1988, is run by MIT ESP. ESP was started in 1957 with the aim of sharing knowledge with local high school students through various initiatives such as Delve, SAT Prep, Splash on Wheels, and the High School Studies Program. Splash is their biggest program.
Aditi Verma taught a Splash class.