By Daniel Diner '14
Amherst is accustomed to playing host to all sorts of scholars. But recently, the college entertained a collection of students rarely seen on campus grounds: preteens. On Saturday, Dec. 1, members of student group The EDU hosted the second “Amherst Splash,” an all-day event in which Amherst undergrads teach hour-long courses to local middle and high school kids. For a $10 registration fee, the local schoolchildren were invited to courses on topics ranging from Harry Potter to “How People Make Money,” from beat boxing to “Masks of the World” to “Instant Chinese,” all taught by Amherst students enthusiastic about public education.
Students in "Faces," a session taught by Alex Hettwer '13
Setting up headquarters in a lounge, the EDU volunteers labored from 8 a.m. to turn Chapin Hall into a temporary secondary school. In between sessions, the halls would fill with students rushing to such lessons as “The Art of Fanfiction: Creativity and Plot,” taught by David Desrosiers ’14, and “Let There be Light!,” a flashlight-making session led by Sabrina Song ’13. Volunteers decided on the lesson topics in advance and then posted a list to the event’s website, from which the 131 attendees decided their day’s schedule.
Some parents reported that their schoolchildren were far more excited and receptive on Saturday than they normally are in class, perhaps because they had the agency to choose what they studied. ‘ “Splash is all about exposing kids to new fields of knowledge and making that exposure a very positive one,” says Nifemi Mabayoje ’13, co-head of student recruitment for the event, “so that learning new things becomes less threatening and daunting. It becomes something exciting.” She hopes that attendees will now be more inclined to explore and research hobbies and topics that they find interesting.
Lizzy Austad '16 taught a class on the Rubik's Cube.
he event was also rewarding to the teachers. “When you teach a one-time, 50-minute course, it’s important to be as versed in your topic as possible,” says Eirene Wang ’13, another of the volunteers. “I always wanted to get some teaching practice, since I am considering several teaching programs for after I graduate.” Daniela Fragoso ’13, one of the event’s organizers, says she was especially pleased with the diversity of Amherst students that stepped up to teach. “We have freshmen, sophomores, who are teaching and organizing for the first time. It introduces them leadership.”
Julia Kim ’13, another organizer, says she was taken aback by the level of support the program received from Amherst volunteers. “We had friends waiting out in the snow all morning to guide the students,” she says. “We had peers teaching back-to-back courses. We had students willing to come and just clean up.”
Organizational support for Saturday’s Splash came from Learning Unlimited, a nonprofit devoted to bringing together college and pre-college students for Splash-like instruction. Started by MIT students, it oversees similar events at schools all over the country.