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Splash! at MIT - review

Splash! Is a weekend of eclectic classes aimed at students in grades seven through twelve. The idea is that kids can “get their feet wet” with a variety of challenging courses in a two day time span. Splash is run by MIT's ESP, or Educational Studies Program. There are a few mature adults involved in planning and implementation, but for the most part, Splash is a creation of students at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The vast majority of courses are taught by undergrads, graduate students, and alumni of MIT. A few talented “ringers” also volunteer their time even if they have no close connection to MIT. The word gifted doesn't come up in advertising for Splash, but many families who are active in the gifted world make an annual pilgrimage to Cambridge for the event. Courses are definitely geared toward kids who enjoy learning. I've talked to people who have flown in from California and Florida for Splash weekend.

Splash is an incredible bargain. Kids pay about $30 to register, and may take classes all day Saturday and Sunday on a designated weekend in November. As far as I know, this has always been the weekend before Thanksgiving. I have been taking my kids to Splash since 2001, and they've taken all kinds of courses. There's a nice blend of academic and just-for-fun courses, and many that you'll never see anywhere else. Of course this is MIT, so there are plenty of courses in mathematics, science, computer science, and engineering. Other disciplines are also represented, such as humanities, arts, and the undefinable oddballs that end up categorized as miscellaneous.

Here are a few of this year's mathematical offerings:

Theory of Stochastic Processes
Build Your Own Stellated Polyhedra
This Ain't Yo' Gramma's Geometry

Topics to explore in science include:

Introduction to Interstellar Empires
Cancer: Is It Really Curable?
Relativity in Electricity and Magnetism
Coral Reef Conservation and Ecology

These are just a small representation of the myriad courses available. Other classes involve exploring the MIT campus, playing games, cooking, and arts and crafts. My son is signed up for a class called Cheescakeology this year! Kids can also take courses in orchid care, balloon animals, timeloop genetics, and the physics of Harry Potter. One of my favorites from the latest catalog is titled, “The Five Cupcakes You'll Meet in Heaven”. Yum!

I highly recommend Splash for motivated learners in grades 7-12. Aside from the benefit of taking lots of cool classes, kids also get exposure to a top notch college. Visiting college campuses before junior year in high school gives students a good look at a school's environment before the pressure is high. Returning splashers really get to know the campus, as classes are held all over the place.

Something to be aware of: Splash has formed strict rules in the last few years due to problems with kids who really were not ready to participate. Children who are younger than 11 are not permitted, and those who are over 11 and not interested or capable of sitting through the classes without becoming a distraction should not be there. Splash requests that students choose their own courses, so that the kids will be engaged and participate appropriately. Those who are not mature enough to use a campus map and get to classes on their own might be better off waiting until next year. Almost every class is accessible from the central “infinite corridor” so it's not as difficult to navigate as one might imagine.

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