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MIT student blogger Anna H. '14

Spontaneous 5-Minute Classes on Whatever You Want by Anna H. '14

These are too good not to share

Over one weekend in the fall (Splash!) and one weekend in the spring (Spark!) 3,000 middle and high school students descend onto MIT campus for a whirlwind of learning. I’ve blogged about teaching at these events before. A few weeks ago, I agreed to teach a class with my friend Davie ’12: it’s called “Spontaneous 5-Minute Classes on Whatever You Want,” and here’s the course description:

“You choose the title, we improvise a 5-minute lesson on it! Bring your wackiest topic suggestions, and watch us embarrass ourselves as we teach you about them on the spur of the moment.”

Every time I re-read that, I wonder what possessed me to agree to do this.

To practice, I e-mailed French House to ask for sample prompts. Every night, I randomly pull up three of these prompts randomly, to practice the process of “WHAT???? HOW DID SOMEONE EVEN COME UP WITH THIS???”–>”I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THIS”–>”Well, I guess I know a LITTLE bit about something tangentially related to this”–>”Okay, I have an idea for how to begin, at least”–>five minutes of improv.

The prompts I received were so good that I can’t resist sharing. If you decide to get up and practice improvising 5-minute classes on these topics, I would love to know what techniques you used / what you said / how you dealt with topics that you really know nothing whatsoever about. Creative responses in the comments section encouraged.

Without further ado, a window into the minds of my friends:

The science of Doctor Who
Probabilistic reasoning during mental disorders
The squid as art form
Introduction to falconry
Everything you ever wanted to know about ytterbium
How to impress your friends with homemade poi
An overview of go playing computers
10 tricks you can do with a hat
How to tell if you have anosognosia
The etymology of entymology
The troll in fiction (and reality?)
Evolution of popular beard styles
Universals of human grammar
Learn to lucid dream
History of the sword
The phantom time hypothesis
Metaphysics of saint thomas aquinas
Is the mind a machine
Kolmogorov complexity
Controversies of the mirror test
Why are man-hole covers round?
Auto-tuning and other editing tricks: What’s really happening?
Animal fur: The Fluffy, the Bald, and the Shaggy
How to build the best marshmallow-roasting fire
Unfortunate feats of mankind: When a good tool caused its user pain
The skeleton in 5 minutes: What’s that knee bone anyway?
The History of French Toast
If Santa came down the chimney, how did the Easter Bunny get in?
Fainting Goats
Nomadic Cultures of the World
How Tea is made
Why Venice was important back in the day
Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere
A Summary of Greek Tragedies
Reasons a chicken might ACTUALLY cross a road
The invention of rain boots
Folk Dances of Europe
The original Olympic sports
Biological mechanisms of the Shangri-la diet
Human-animal hybrids in mythology
Evolutionary psychology of neotany
Material concerns in Traveling-wave reactors
Garabaldi, the man
Works of fiction in which Beetoven is depicted as an alien
Stereo recording techniques
Arranging for a string quartet
Microphone types
The invention of the microphone
All about the periodic table
How to make a perfectly cooked steak
How to make alfredo sauce
Proof that sqrt(2) is irrational
Solfege and sightreading
The history of rome
Sultans of swing- a history of swing dancing in Byzantine.
Caviar or Cadaver-
Evolution of Facial Hair- 1380-1690
Me-eow! – How communication with your pets can predict your love life.
The ethics of plastic surgery for Neanderthals.
Flat Earth Society- Proving the Earth isn’t round.
MIT majors and their course numbers
Organic reactions involving alkenes
What is the particle in a box model?
How to make ice cream at home without a machine
Spherification of juices using sodium alginate and calcium chloride
The secrets of the Polymerase Chain Reaction
The protein purification process
How a size-exclusion column works
Mass Spectrometry!
Popular themes in Romantic period music
The infamous Krebs cycle
Reaction kinetics equations
Intermittent reward and addicition
A brief history of Welsh agriculture 1066-the present
Writings of Miyamoto Musashi
Mint Flavours
Most Common Baby Names in 21st Century
Types of Clouds
Types of Chocolate
Lifecycle of the trifid
Fantastic Beasts and where to find them
Guide to parasites which could live in your eye
Commensalism and you
How to avoid being seen
Guide to successful haggling
Economic factors leading to progressivism
Musical theory of tuvan throat singing
Arabic words which have appeared on Astronotus ocellatus
The color beige, a definition and history
Evolution of whiskers
Treatment and prevention of scurvy through the ages
Rise and fall of the Roman Empire
Battle weapons through the ages
Roman gods
Fruits you have never heard of
Space missions: satellites, robots, and beacons
Female scientists
Unsolved math problems
Lasers (shark mounted and otherwise)
Animals of the deep ocean
Nikola Tesla
Random number generation
The evolution of timekeeping
Kwanza attire
Astrophysical events observable on earth and their influence on history
Evolution of currency
3 Models of how radiation influences morbidity
Wuxia films
Heuristics and biases in human reasoning