Stanford’s biannual Splash! Program attracted more than 1,500 middle and high schoolers to campus this weekend to attend a range of about 300 Stanford student-taught classes, from “The Philosophy of Star Wars” to “How to Curl Your Hair with a Straightener” to even “Getting Free Money from Safeway Using Coupons.”
Although the majority of students come from the Bay Area, this time around the program attracted some from Southern California and even Utah.
Instructors, meanwhile, are in high demand. Splash! actively recruits undergraduates and graduate students to “teach anything.” New classes this autumn included “How to Make Balloon Animals” and “The Lab Manual of Sherlock Holmes.”
“Splash! is a growing program, but the main limiting factor is the number of teachers that we have,” said Benjamin Shank, a graduate student in physics and one of Splash!’s co-founders. “Splash!’s enrollment is about the same as last spring’s. More students want to take classes with every coming Splash!, but the real pressure is in recruiting more Stanford students to teach classes. We need the people to make it happen.”
Stanford students who did teach were enthusiastic about their positions.
“I love to teach and love the challenge of trying to transmit an idea–what I’m seeing in my head into someone’s mind,” said Gabriel Erhlich ’15, who taught “The Physics of ‘Inception.’”
“Just because we have a bunch of graduate students teaching doesn’t mean it’s all educational,” said Teresa Nguyen ’14, the current president of Splash!, who is teaching a class on sketching faces. “There are a lot of hobby classes, and they all express the passion in the program.”
Splash! is a general fees club, so funding comes from the Graduate Student Council and the Undergraduate Senate. Students generally pay $20 for a day of instruction, but financial aid and transportation are made available to some students.
Those attending the classes cited Stanford’s quality one of Splash!’s primary appeals.
“I wanted to take classes that are interesting to me,” said Monique Robinson, a senior from the Stanford New Schools East Palo Alto High School, who was attending a class on stem cells and research developments.
Splash! has a high teacher and student retention rate, with many teachers coming back to teach the same courses at the next Splash! or to try teaching a completely new subject.
“The main reason is because teachers love doing it so much,” Shank said.
David Jiang, a student at James Logan High School, attended Splash! for a second time.
“Here, I can learn about something that is outside of my main interests, so I can get a taste of them,” he said.
Splash also reaches out to underserved schools and areas. The program hopes to help students gain an even greater desire to learn, and many local high school advisors promote the Splash! program.
Event organizers recalled teachers receiving emails from students that attended their classes weeks later, expressing the appreciation and gratitude for inspiring them and making them want to learn more. A few even mentioned the students’ re-consideration of going to college.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Nguyen said. “The students are learning, and the teachers are rewarded, because the students that come are here because they want to be here.”