Some 400 Cambridge elementary school children from grades 4 through 6 visited MIT for a day full of sports, crafts, education and fun with MIT freshmen on Friday, Sept. 1.
They participated in the annual CityDays Festival, an effort to strengthen MIT students' ties with the community by promoting their involvement in community service early in their life at the Institute.
"By getting the MIT students to interact with the Cambridge kids through CityDays, we are hoping to interest MIT students in getting involved in MIT's many community service programs. We also want to show Cambridge youngsters what MIT has to offer as an educational resource," said Tracy Purinton, CityDays coordinator for MIT's Public Service Center (PSC).
The program organizers hope that some of the MIT students will take an interest in the particular school group they hosted and join PSC's LINKS program which will allow them to go into the schools on a regular basis. Alternatively, some may find a natural affinity for being a role model and join one of the mentoring programs available in the community.
"The PSC's goal is to enhance a sense of community through collaborative programs. The earlier MIT students incorporate community involvement into their lives, the more likely they will continue that involvement here in Cambridge and beyond," Ms. Purinton said. In his remarks during the opening ceremonies, Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves also encouraged the MIT students to get involved in community programs-including the school system.
The children were hosted by incoming MIT freshmen with the help of some upperclassmen-around 600 volunteers in all. The kids participated in educational activities such as discovering the aerodynamics of a paper airplane, making pinhole cameras and building model bridges, team-building games, sports and arts-and-crafts activities. They also were exposed to some of the Institute's research through a variety of lab tours and demonstrations.
At the Center for Space Research, for example, students gained an understanding of what astronauts experience in space by being suspended at one-sixth of their actual body weight-the equivalent of their weight on the moon. They also learned how the body adapts to motion and how vision can fool the brain.
"As a freshman you're going to have to pick and choose what kind of activities you get involved in during school. You just don't have the time that you did in high school," said Shruti Sehra, a senior in chemistry, who participated in CityDays as a freshmen and who is now an intern for the program. "What you get involved in during the first few weeks makes a big difference." Ms. Sehra has been a Cambridge school tutor through LINKS and has coordinated the LINKS program in her sorority. She is now community service chair for all campus sororities.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 1995.