What types of things does a preschooler want to know about the president of MIT? How about: what time she goes to bed (“too late”), where her office is located (“under the great dome”), whether she has children (“a daughter”) and the color of her favorite shoes (“blue”). These were some of the questions asked of Susan Hockfield by preschoolers at the Technology Children’s Center Stata during a recent visit.
Hockfield, who last visited TCC Stata in January, returned to the center on March 18, to talk with the preschoolers about MIT’s 150th birthday celebration.
Hockfield, a noted neuroscientist, was also asked what she liked about studying the brain, to which she responded that what she loved most was that “it is beautiful.” The children agreed, saying the brain was “squiggly” and “so soft.”
In preparation for her visit, the children engaged in activities to explore the number 150. One exercise involved counting out 150 of various objects including acorns, pennies, paper clips and cotton balls and placing them in containers on a shelf in their classroom. They also learned about how different the world and MIT were 150 years ago by looking at transportation and the ways children got to school.
Hockfield told the children about MIT’s first president, William Barton Rogers, who recorded his life and ideas in wonderful letters to his brother and whose portrait hangs on a wall in her office. She explained that in those days, people had to sit very still to have their photograph taken, which often made their pictures look a bit scary. She invited the children to hold their faces in a pose for 10 seconds and look around the room to see the results — the children agreed, they all looked pretty scary.
TCC students explore MIT during walks with their classes and other activities as a regular part of their school day. Two classrooms drew pictures of their favorite places at MIT — including “the swimming pool,” “my school” and “my mom’s office” — and then turned those pictures into books as a gift for the president.
TCC Stata, which opened in 2004, is one of four child-care centers that serve the MIT community. Approximately 75 MIT faculty, staff and graduate student families have children enrolled at TCC Stata. The other centers are located on campus in Eastgate and Westgate, and in Lexington, Mass., near the Lincoln Laboratory. Combined, the four centers serve 244 children from families representing more than 20 different countries.
The MIT Center for Work, Family and Personal Life oversees the Technology Children’s Centers. The programs are professionally managed by Bright Horizons Family Solutions.