News | Student Life

Columbia chapter of Splash offers academic enrichment to high-school students

  • MAKING A SPLASH | Shrey Chandra, CC ’15, taught two classes on competitive impromptu speaking, a speaking event in which he competed throughout high school.

High school students from the New York City area visited campus to dabble in the philosophy of free will, computer science, and literature as part of an educational outreach event on Saturday.

Columbia’s chapter of Splash, a group that organizes events for college students to teach their academic interests to high school students, hosted its second-ever event last weekend.

High school students register online for courses created by the volunteer teachers after browsing through a course catalogue, similar to the college experience.

“The goal of Splash is to host a day of unlimited learning,” Naureen Ghani, SEAS ’15 and a chapter co-founder, said. “We want to encourage people to learn. There are no grades, no exams, no homework—we just want them to sample a wide array of classes and get a taste of something you won’t find in high school.”

“What makes Splash different is that anyone can do it,” Gladys Velez-Caicedo, BC ’15 and another chapter co-founder, said in an email, noting that any interested high school student can attend the event, with financial aid available to those unable to meet the event’s $20 cost.

The group of 43 volunteer teachers included undergraduate and graduate students from Columbia, as well as members of other Splash chapters from across the country. Teachers were encouraged to teach one- to two-hour courses in their areas of research or interest. Course offerings ranged from “the illusion of free will” to the computer science behind Twitter.

Shrey Chandra, CC ’15, taught two classes on competitive impromptu speaking, a speaking event in which he competed throughout high school. While Chandra said that competitive impromptu speaking isn’t a very widespread high school event, he said that he believes that the skills developed through the competition would prove useful to his students.

“A lot of the techniques we use might be specific to the event, but a lot of it is about improvised speaking and presentation, which, frankly, in today’s world, everybody needs to a certain extent if they want to get to where they want to be,” he said.

Elizabeth Berg, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, taught a class to 10 students who used geometry and trigonometry to determine the size of the moon based on proportions and measurements.

Berg first became involved with Splash as a first-year at MIT, and has taught at several Splash events.

Students from MIT started the Splash program, which has since expanded to campuses across the nation.

Columbia’s inaugural Splash was held last October, and the founding members said that they hope to keep it a biannual event. Isabel Baransky, SEAS ’15, was also a chapter co-founder.

“Our ultimate goal is to make it a part of the fabric of this University. At other member universities, namely MIT, Splash is something that everyone does,” Velez-Caicedo said. “We would like our university to know about it and it be something that everyone does, just because they want to.”

But it’s not just the teachers who return. Several high-school students on Saturday returned to participate in Splash after experiencing the event at other schools in the past.

“I went to the one in the fall, and I enjoyed it, so I thought I would come back,” Max Hamilton, a high school student from New Jersey, said.

Leah Martins-Krasner, a high school junior at McNair Academic High School who attended NYU’s math-centric Splash event last year, said that she appreciated the greater diversity of Columbia Splash’s course selections.

“I like Columbia Splash because there’s more than just math,” she said. She took two Russian history classes and an SAT Math class at Saturday’s event.

Rumman Karim, a high school sophomore at Flushing High School who attended his first Splash event on Saturday, said that it was a great experience after attending classes that taught subjects ranging from Russian history to health science.

“It was so cool learning something new,” he said. “If this was a weekly thing, I would totally do it.”

news@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

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Matthew Sheridan posted on

Ah! I want to do this!

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rick131 posted on

This is an amazing program.

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Anonymous posted on

If anyone is interested in our program, please visit our website: columbia.learningu.org OR shoot us an email at esp.columbia@gmail.com

We're currently looking to fill leadership positions, so don't be shy!

-Isabel Baransky

PS: The student quotes made me squeal. So happy they had a fantastic time!

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