A Splash Heard Around Campus

BN Duke Program has Duke students getting high school kids passionate about research and learning 

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The "Comedy Improv" class takes a group shot with Duke students Hunter Douglas and Thomas Kavanagh.

Motown music played when students walked into David Oberst's
class, "Bachify Yourself." Oberst, a Benjamin N. Duke scholar with a
major in computer engineering and a minor in music, wanted to show high school
students how the tonal sounds of J.S. Bach's classical music carry the same
underpinnings as today's pop music.

In another classroom computer keys clicked while Duke
freshman Gavin Ovsak, Angier B. Duke scholar, taught "What Else Can Google
Do for Me." Nearby, Duke student Elysia Su tutored students in
"Forensics on TV," a class that explored the reality behind
"CSI" and other popular forensics shows. 
And in "Comedy Improv," peals of laughter spilled from the
classroom as Duke students Hunter Douglas and Thomas Kavanagh led the class in
improv techniques.

The classes were part of Duke Splash, a Feb. 18 program in
which Durham, Wake and Orange high school students visited Duke for innovative
classes taught by Duke students.

Other topics taught in Duke Splash classrooms this year included "Dog Training," "Learning Neuroscience through the
Arts" and "Game Theory."

Tenth grader Helen Rogalski, from Carver High School in
Orange County, took the comedy improv class. She's a returning Duke Splash
student.

"My mom signed me up for Splash last year,"
Rogalski said. "I didn't expect for it to be as cool as it was. This year
I signed up myself, because it was so much fun."

The Duke Splash teachers say it's rewarding for them too. "I
want to teach improv in some capacity one day," Kavanagh said. "It
teaches some of the most important life skills, mitigation and sharing."

Hosted by the Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship program, Duke
Splash is in its third year. B.N. Duke scholar Alice Yen brought the national
program to the Duke campus because, she said, it satisfies two very different,
but equally important, needs.

"With Splash, Duke students can essentially satisfy any
passion they have, in the classroom," said Yen, a public policy major. "It
can be neuroscience, history of economics or cooking. At the same time Splash gives
high school students from different socio-economic and educational backgrounds
opportunities to explore new perspectives, and to be exposed to classroom
topics which are not usually available to them."

Some of the students had never visited any college campus
before. Yen said she believes the event leaves a lasting and inspiring
impression. "The high school students have asked us, 'Why don't you do
this every week?'"

B.N. Duke scholar and sophomore Rebekah Johnston led
this year's efforts, working with Michael Shaw of Learning Unlimited, the national
organizing arm for Splash. "Duke has one of the youngest Splash leadership
teams," Shaw said. "Duke students are wonderful leaders."

In the future, Duke
Splash organizers hope to expand the program beyond the Triangle and include high
school students from other counties in North and South Carolina.