CAMBRIDGE, MA--Approximately 400 Cambridge elementary school children from grades 4 through 6 visited MIT for a day full of sports, crafts, education and fun with MIT students on Friday, September 1. They participated in the annual CityDays Festival, an effort, sponsored by the MIT Public Service Center (PSC), to strengthen MIT students' ties with the surrounding community by promoting their involvement in community service, early on 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 numerous community service programs. With the Cambridge kids, we hope to show them what MIT has to offer as an educational resource for any age," said Tracy Purinton, CityDays Coordinator.
The program organizers hope that some of the MIT students will take an interest in the particular school group they are hosting and get involved in the PSC's LINKS program which would allow them to go into the schools on a regular basis. Alternatively they may find a natural affinity for being a role model and may get involved in one of the many mentoring programs available in the community.
"The PSC's goal is to build an enlarged sense of community through our collaborative programs. The earlier MIT students incorporate community involvement into their busy lives, the more likely they will continue that involvement here in Cambridge and beyond," said Purinton.
In his remarks during the opening convocation, Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves encouraged the MIT students to get involved in community programs--including the school system.
The kids 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 aerodynamics of a paper airplane, the making of pin-hole cameras, and bridge building contests; 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 to 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 '96, 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," she said. Sehra subsequently volunteered as a Cambridge school tutor through the MIT LINKS program, and then coordinated the LINKS program in her sorority. She is now community service chair for all campus sororities.