Frequently Asked Questions

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Introductions For New Chapters
This article is part of a sequence of four articles designed for startups running a Splash or similar program. We encourage you to read them all!


Are all Splashes the same?

No, not at all! In fact, every Splash is quite different, customized to its campus, its community, and the interests of its leaders. Splashes differ in size, length, age of students, main source of teachers (college or graduate students), academic scope, target population of students, and much more. As a concept, Splash is very flexible, and it can fit into each university in a different way.

How do I recruit teachers?

There are a number of ways, and we can provide suggestions. E-mails, reaching out to student groups, postcards in dorm mailboxes, posters across campus, Facebook groups, and alumni of Splash programs now at your university are all potential resources. You may also think about "pitching" classes to individual students based on what you know about them-- if you know that they are fluent in American Sign Language, do chemistry research, or love baseball, these details could be vital in helping you pitch a class to them. (And, if they don't like your idea but suggest another, that's awesome too!) We can also brainstorm with you to come up with new ideas.


How do we prepare teachers to teach well?

Most Splash programs run a teacher training session for their teachers, using this as a time to quickly review program logistics and help prepare their teachers to do a great job in the classroom. They typically talk both about what kinds of students to expect and how to best engage those students through a mixture of discussion, lecture, and activity. If you have a strong teacher on your team, Learning Unlimited has materials prepared that can guide them in running a teacher training session if they would like to make use of them. Programs also sometimes bring in others from teaching groups on campus. Learning Unlimited has also run the sessions, if there is an LU person nearby or if an LU person is visiting your area at the right time.

How do I recruit students?

There are many different ways that will get you different kinds of students. You can engage directly with schools by calling them, making personal connections with guidance counselors, and visiting the schools directly. Connections can also be leveraged with teachers, principals, or others. Some Splash programs have found success with connections allowing them to get into schools, such as other outreach programs, alumni doing Teach for America, etc. Depending on the school and how much the students and parents are used to taking advantage of outside opportunities, you may find that you need to do varying amounts of outreach and assistance in getting students to the program.

It's worth emphasizing that your university's connections within the community can be invaluable. Talking with other outreach projects is likely to find you many contacts that can be used to attract students. You can also advertise directly to faculty and staff at the university who can bring their kids and spread the word. Your school's admissions office will have contacts with many schools in the area.

Other common sources of students are homeschooling networks or networks of students that identify themselves as "gifted" and are often on the lookout for other opportunities. In addition, reaching out to community groups such as boy scouts, girl scouts, and math circles may help draw students in. Many of these groups maintain blogs and e-mail lists and are highly social, so getting in touch with a few in your area will help cover a lot of ground.

You may also be able to reach out through activities in the neighborhood.

Additionally, Learning Unlimited maintains a national mailing list and Facebook presence and can spread the word through contacts of those who subscribe.

How do I interact with the university administration?

The first step is to give yourself an official presence within the university. This might be as a student group, within the community service center, through an academic department, through a dean, or through other departments. Once that is set up, ask around and you will find the right people to talk to; speak to them early, openly, with preparation and professionally. When they understand the program and see that you are capable, they will be excited to have it on their campus. Learning Unlimited can help with your initial approach, providing literature describing successes at other universities and the kind of support we will provide.

They key to a successful relationship is that you must be aware of what concerns your university might have about your program and you should address them proactively. Set up contacts and personal relationships, so that the university administration feels comfortable with your work. Introduce other members of your team and demonstrate your preparation. This will open innumerable doors as you seek to establish yourself on the campus.


How many people does it take to run a Splash?

First Splashes have been run with as few as two dedicated leaders and as many as six. As the program grows, your leadership team is also likely to grow, especially when you recruit after your first program. You will, of course, want many other volunteers on the day-of.

Keep in mind that each program has its own needs. Some programs do a lot of community outreach and student recruitment, while other programs have year-round teacher development. Be mindful of scaling your expectations to the number of committed volunteers you have.


How do I recruit other leaders to work with me?

Some ideas:

  • Recruit your friends.
  • Reach out through community service organizations or education organizations for others who might want to get involved.
  • Reach out to college students who might have attended Splash in high school. (We can help with this.)
  • Advertise through e-mails to the school of education, honors programs, or student government.
  • Hold an information session and e-mail/poster to bring others there.
  • Create small projects that can be "outsourced" to a friend (i.e. graphic design, organizing an event) and use that activity as "bait" for further involvement.


How big is a Splash? How long is a Splash?

A typical first Splash runs about 100 students, but over a few years (as word spreads) they tend to grow and end up drawing anywhere from 500 to 2000 students! The increased size allows for an even greater variety of topics and options for students and teachers, as well as an incredibly broad reach.

Splash typically runs either one or two days; most universities' first programs are one day long.

Can I do something other than a Splash?

Absolutely! Our mission is to support programs that seek to help high school and middle school students find their passion and that enable college or graduate students to explore teaching and educational leadership. Other programs include Cascade or HSSP, which are longer-term and allow students to explore topics in greater depth over several weeks; Delve, which offers AP courses for students whose schools don't offer them; and Junction, an intense summer program meeting four days a week for five weeks. Although most universities start with Splash, you don't have to.


How much time does running a Splash take?

There's no easy answer. Certainly in the weeks leading up to the Splash, you can expect to be pretty busy. And you have to be ready to devote significant time to it as you prepare, depending on your ambition and the situation at your college or university. (Factors that impact how much time it takes include how easy it is to recruit students through the community, how teacher recruitment will be set up, how many bureaucratic hurdles there are to establishing a group within the university, as well as your own leadership style.


What kind of students come to a Splash?

First, the basics: Splash programs are either for both middle school and high school students, or for high school students only. They also typically limit the ages of students attending because grade can be difficult to determine for some students (such as homeschooled students); by setting a minimum age, Splash is able to allow students a good amount of freedom on campus.

Beyond the age limits, Splash is suitable for many types of students, and each program is very different depending on where they're situated and where their recruitment efforts go. Some campuses focus heavily on recruiting underserved students who might not have access to these kinds of resources; others emphasize advanced classes for students who aren't getting enough out of their school experiences; others mix the two. Each one creates a different dynamic within the same structure of choice and finding your passion. You will probably want to consider what kind of program you want, in terms of impact, financial sustainability, and ease of administration. We can talk to you about many of the advantages or disadvantages of different choices and show you what other universities have done.

What kind of things are taught at a Splash?

Really everything, from "Quantum Field Theory" to "Shakespearean Sonnets," from "The Art of Invented Languages" to "Urban Design," from "Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream" to "How to Play the Ukelele." You can get a better idea just by browsing class catalogs such as:
http://esp.mit.edu/learn/Splash/2009/catalog
http://www.stanfordesp.org/learn/Splash/2010_Spring/catalog
http://splashchicago.learningu.org/learn/Splash/2009_Fall/catalog

Almost any subject can be taught at Splash, but teachers should put care into the name and description of their class to make it attractive to students.

Who teaches at a Splash?

Most teachers are university students, both undergraduate and graduate; sometimes university faculty and staff will also join into the mix. With no set curriculum and the opportunity to teach what they're most passionate about, everyone can find something interesting to do and something they're ready to teach, be it something from their classes, a project, a hobby, or something else entirely.

Often, you'll find college students who think that they can't teach. However, many of them have a lot of teaching talent that just needs to be brought out! With the right support and encouragement, not just will you get more teachers, you'll introduce people to something they love to do even though they never knew it.

Some Splash programs open up teaching to members of the community as well: alumni or others in the area who are interested in sharing their passions. Although this does bring with it some hassles (ensuring that teachers are qualified and suitable to be with younger students), it can also make a program much more lively and bring in some really fascinating participants.

What are the first steps in setting up a Splash?

The key first step is assembling your leadership team. A good group of leaders will make the program viable and exciting.

Afterwards, you should sketch out some details of the program you want to run, make contact with the university administration about your plans, and find official recognition within the university (as a student group, within the community service center, within an academic department, or within another structure). That will allow you to reserve rooms (and thereby set a date for the program) and it ensures a strong, productive relationship with the university.

We can help you through planning out your program and your first meetings with the administration to make sure they go well.

For a more detailed answer, see the Timeline.

What logistical concerns am I likely to have to deal with?

In this question, we can only list some examples. Important logistics include teachers' audio/visual requirements; managing finances; preparing printouts of student and teacher schedules (which will be generated by our website), setting up check-in for the day of the program, and so forth.

Here is some advice from Ben Shank, a Co-Founder of Stanford's Splash program:

There is no substitute for knowing the rules. It's worth taking the time to read any of your school's rules and procedures that might apply to you. If you figure out early on not only how things are done but who can do them for you, your program will run much more smoothly. If you write these things down, then future Splash leaders won't have to find them again and can get on with improving the program you left them.

If you really want to see every logistical detail we can think of, you can see the checklists that we've developed for leading a Splash. Be warned: these are misleading! A first Splash is nowhere near as complicated as they indicate; they are designed to be comprehensive even for a Splash involving thousands of people that has developed many details it must manage.

Where do I find funding?

Many Splash programs get funding through their student government or other established student group funding; through university grants for community outreach; through a community service center or grants for student community service; through grants given to academic departments (for example, National Science Foundation grants require that a portion be dedicated to outreach); or through deans or other high-profile administrators. Some programs also find additional in-kind donations from community sponsors, such as restaurants that donate food for lunch. Some free programs also have a donations jar set out during the program itself, with a suggested donation for those who attend.

If your program charges for admission, then chances are it will be able to fund itself through those fees. If your program is free, then you will have a strong claim for funding but it will require a large investment of time to maintain a good funding level.


Can I really do this?

It is a lot of work, and you need to know that you really want to make it happen. But yes, you can! We asked other founders of Splash programs:

If you are excited about learning and your school is filled with interesting people and surrounded by communities with high-school-aged children, then yes. Otherwise no. Everything else is just putting those elements together to best serve your specific community.
—Ben Shank, Co-Founder, Stanford Splash
If you have the passion to make Splash happen, you bet you can.  Getting others excited about the values Splash stands for and finding the right guidance and support is just the beginning.  By getting a feel for your own community's needs, I encourage you to be creative.  Use the already established Splash programs as a framework to build and grow upon.
—Alice Yen, Founder, Duke Splash

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