What is a Splash

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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!


Getting Started

Congratulations, you've decided to start a Splash! You've already contacted LU (obviously) and you've got mentors; you are also growing your leadership team, and probably dreaming up awesome classes to teach. What now?

Before jumping right into preparing for your first Splash, it's often a good idea to do some scouting. Essentially, you want to research university policies and resources so you can hit the ground running after you pick a date. Most of the items on this page are things that can be done remotely and/or independently--in other words, you can do these during the summer or a break before hitting campus and starting actual preparations.

  • Collect information on university policies relevant to Splash:
    • How do room reservations work? (all centralized, building by building, only for university appendages, etc.)
    • How does liability work? Is there already a template for groups at your university to use, or will you need your own?
    • Do teachers and volunteers need to be screened, background checked, etc. before interacting with students?
    • How does the university brand itself? Can you be "X University Splash" or are there restrictions on use of the name/seal/logo?
    • Who, if anyone, will have to inspect classes for safety?
  • Find storage space on campus somewhere; materials can live in someone's room, but it's better to have a cabinet in someone's office, a locker with student activities, or similar.
  • Determine how to rent or borrow stuff: tables, chairs, easels, projectors, adaptors, extension cords, power strips, ...
  • Establish a web presence: create yoursplash.learningu.org and fill in enough generic text to make it look occupied; at a minimum, you should include a description of Splash and an email address for questions.

What is a Splash?

Splash is a one-day or one-weekend event where high school and/or middle school students come to a college campus to learn anything and discover that learning is fun. It is:

  • Run and taught primarily by college student volunteers on a college campus.
  • Has anywhere from 10 to 2500 high school students learning together.
  • Affordable or free.

What unites the Splash programs is a love for learning that is communicated from teacher to student in non-competitive, non-evaluative classes. Beyond that, we believe that creativity and diversity yields awesome programs. Indeed, your campus's Splash could be completely different from another campus's Splash. Some Splash programs invite community members to teach; some Splash programs focus on one topic; some Splash programs focus on attracting students from underserved backgrounds who don't typically have access to enrichment programs.

In the summer of 2016, a committee of various Chapter and LU volunteers created a document setting forth the so-called Defining Principles of a Splash to replace the previous "About" Section (still available here on GitHub) on the Learning Unlimited website (https://learningu.org/about/).


The Classes

The college student teachers decide what to teach and create their own materials. The best way to understand a program is to see a few of the thousands of classes that have been taught at Splashes previous:


Theoretical Cryomania

Liquid nitrogen is awesome. Engineering is awesome. And since Splash! is awesome, we can bring both of them together. In this class, our dedicated team of cryomaniacs will be putting on our engineer’s hats and using liquid nitrogen as a tool to teach and demonstrate core scientific concepts in chemical and mechanical engineering. Topics covered will include: elasticity, non-ideal gas laws, phase equilibrium, heat transfer, and distillation.

From MIT Splash, Fall 2009


Boom Boom Pow: An Introduction to Street Drumming

You’re wandering around downtown one day, just hanging out, you know, when…hark! You hear some glorious rhythm and sound from around the corner. Street drummers! This class will provide you with a knowledge of basic street drumming technique, rhythms, posture, history and philosophy. By the end of the class, you and your classmates will be able to complete a basic, but impressive, street drumming performance. And you’ll feel really cool, I promise.

From Northwestern Splash, Spring 2010


Poetry: Approaching the Avant-Garde

This course is designed to be a crash-course in avant-garde poetry. In particular, flarf, non-intentionality, conceptual, visual, sound, and performance poetry. The course will try to introduce poets and poetic practices usually not taught to high-schoolers to give them a much deeper background into poetics, and specifically modern ideas of poetry.

From Splash! Chicago, Fall 2010


Giving Nothing Away: Zero-Knowledge Proofs

Suppose that you’ve just solved one of the biggest problems in mathematics. Naturally, you’ll want to jealously guard your secrets…except that you don’t want to give anything away until your work is accepted for publication. How can you prove to your friends that your proof is valid…without giving anything away?

With the tools of complexity theory, it’s known that you can keep your secrets *and* prove your brilliance. Learn how.

From MIT Splash, Fall 2009


Chicago: Imagining the City

You all live in, or at least in the vicinity of the city of Chicago. But each of you know your city from a different perspective, and in a different way. This class will be about the city of Chicago, and also more broadly about cities, how they're designed, how they work, and how they change. It'll be a mix of history, art, architecture and design, drawing, telling stories, and conversation. Some topics we may discuss are: Daniel Burnham's original plan for the city of Chicago, the Chicago grid system, neighborhoods/wards of the city and how they're defined, architecture of the city, especially recent architecture, and the potential Chicago 2016 Olympics. We only have two hours, though, so we probably won't cover everything on this list, but we'll try our best and talk about what seems most interesting to everyone. Be ready to talk a lot in this class, especially about your own experience of Chicago, and feel free to come with questions or ideas. Also be ready to draw; pens and paper will be provided.

From Splash! Chicago, Fall 2008


Oreo-ases: The rate of cookie catalysis and how it relates to disease

Enzymes, life’s chemists, can accelerate the rates of biological processes by up to 20 orders of magnitude over the uncatalyzed reaction. In this exploration, students will become enzymes (oreo-ases), and experiment with how mutations affect the rates of reaction, to gain an intuitive understanding of enzyme kinetics. Also, using HIV protease as the case study, students will explore the atomic level details of how mutations affect the structure of the enzyme, which, in turn, affects the rate at which it can carry out reactions. We will use a molecular viewer (SwissPDB) in this part of the exploration.

From Stanford Splash, Fall 2009


The Coolest Sports- Ice Sports 101

Did watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games inspire you to learn more about the world of ice sports? Were you intrigued by speed skating, curling, figure skating and hockey? Then come learn about these sports in this fun, interactive class. On ice or off, we will be using equipment that ice athletes train with to increase their knowledge of their sport as well as gain more strength, speed and stamina. Learn about the different career options that these sports offer as well as the Paralympics side to the world of ice sports. Comfortable clothing is required because we will be doing some “floor curling” and slide board skating. This will be a cool class!

From Northwestern Splash, Spring 2010

So what?

If you are in college, you can start a Splash and create this learning environment for hundreds of kids. Interested? Keep reading these documents and we'll tell you more, or get in touch with us: info@learningu.org.

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