Monday, April 16, 2012

Guest Blogger: Stanford Splash

A Splash of Learning 
By Dan Sinnett

Q: How do you get over 1,500 seventh through twelfth grade students excited about a weekend full of non-stop classes?

A: Give them a choice of over 350 different classes taught by enthusiastic teachers at one of the world’s premier universities. Stanford Splash will do just that on April 21-22, just one week away!

Stanford Splash is a Stanford University student-run group that organizes two “Splash” events a year, one in fall and one in spring. The driving force that makes Stanford Splash so successful is our teachers, the vast majority of whom are Stanford undergraduate and graduate students. Our teachers have the freedom to teach their hobbies, passions, and areas of specialty – whatever they may be (within reason – no “How to Brew Beer” classes, for example).  This freedom and unique talent pool produces a wide variety of classes that range from the purely academic (like “An Introduction to Fluid Mechanics”), to hobbies (such as “Cake Decorating”), to the absurdly fun (“Quidditch”). Whatever their chosen topic, we help our volunteer teachers with brainstorming sessions and provide training for new, experienced, and expert teachers.

Students at Stanford Splash craft their own learning experience from an incredible diversity of classes. Students can delve deeply into a topic they have always been interested in, discuss new hobbies and ideas with their friends, and experience classes taught on Stanford’s beautiful campus. Online student registration is currently open, though students can also register on the day of Splash. There is a $40 fee to attend, which can be waived in cases of financial need, that helps cover the cost of running the program.

Running a program for ~2,000 participants (students, teachers, volunteers, and parents) with more than 600 individual class sections that are located on Stanford’s main quad and beyond requires 1,000’s of man-hours of volunteer time. The 20 or so active members of our administrative team meet each week to recruit teachers, students, volunteers, reserve classroom space, and perform a myriad of other tasks. Fortunately, our admin team is a dynamic group composed of undergraduates, graduate students, and Stanford alumni. We come from all backgrounds, but we all share a passion for education and community outreach.

In addition to our teachers, we also need many volunteers to help us run each event. Students and teachers need to be signed in, student waivers need to be collected and names entered into a database, class changes need to be made, lunches served, directions given, and numerous other tasks all need to be handled. It’s a huge undertaking, but the excitement of our students, teachers, and volunteers the day of Splash make the whole endeavor well worth it! We encourage community members to get involved either as teachers or volunteers– we hope you can join us.

Interested in bringing a Splash program to your university/college? Check out Learning Unlimited, a 501(c)-3 non-profit organization which is helping to take Splash national.

Dan Sinnett is a Stanford University graduate student and has been a Stanford Splash teacher, volunteer, and administrator for the past three years.

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