Community-Driven Education Makes a Splash on Campus

As a consortium situated within the Los Angeles area, the Claremont Colleges have the unique opportunity to forge connections between local communities and college students. Claremont Splash!, which took place last Saturday, Feb. 27, is a student-run program focused bringing the community forward through education.

Claremont Splash! is an annual event through which 5C students are given the chance to teach a class on whatever they are passionate about to local high school students. This academic outreach program, which originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009, has spread across dozens of college campuses. The goal is to connect college students to their larger surrounding community and provide educational opportunities to high school students. 

Splash! programs have invited students from all across the country to take one or two days of classes taught by college students. Claremont Splash!, which is a one-day program, began in 2013. This year, the program offered around 80 classes and received around 350 student registrations.

Splash! is unique in its short duration and variety of options. Vanessa Hayes SC '18, a first-time student teacher, taught an improvisation class this year. 

“I like it that it is kind of a one-time thing, so at least from the student perspective it is not a huge investment of a time, but it feels like you are doing something that is meaningful and worthwhile,” Hayes said.

In the course catalog, there are classes with eccentric titles such as Ugly Animals: Why Do They Look Like That? and Whale Sounds—these offerings often capture high school students’ desire for exploration and adventure. Hayes noted that the class offerings make Splash! unique and fun for both students and volunteers.

“I really enjoyed that you get to learn things you wouldn’t get to learn otherwise. You can really teach eclectic and small unique things that you wouldn’t be able to teach in a normal teaching setting,” she said.

More standard options like computer programing and dance are offered as well, but regardless of discipline, every course was designed to be fun. Most volunteers did not teach skills they learned in academic classes. Rather, they chose to instruct on topics that interested them outside of their areas of expertise. Gail Gallaher PO '17, who was one of the first students to get involved in Claremont Splash! and now president of the program, smiled as she briefly described some of her lesson plans.

“My first year, I taught a class called Tinkering: Taking Things Apart that was combining some random electronics from a thrift store with some screwdrivers that Harvey Mudd lent me,” she said. “I just told the high school students that they could take things apart because I found that a lot of students don’t have that experience of just playing with tools and electronics.”  

Splash! is not a weekend of tutoring, but many lessons are indeed practical applications of volunteers’ college experiences. An important component of Splash! is the positive portrayal of campus life and the university setting to younger students. “

I just think that it is such an awesome way to show to students that learning is fun—that you get to meet amazing people who are interested in amazing things when you go to college and generally have a positive experience,” Gallaher said.

Claremont Splash! has received an increasing number of interested high school students and more class offerings from volunteers in recent years.

“I really like that everyone is choosing to be here and everyone is choosing to be part of this bonding relationship,” Gallaher said.

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