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Senior organizes public-service spring break

Twenty-five students from MIT are skipping the traditional college student pilgrimage to southern beaches to spend their spring break teaching in Washington, DC, schools.

The students have organized a tour of elementary and middle schools where they will teach lessons they've prepared-primarily in science and math-in two-person teams. The tour was arranged in conjunction with the national Teach for America program.

The students will teach in some 40 classrooms, hosted by Teach for America teachers. Each team has developed several lessons ranging from the biosystems of fish to the physics of toys in space. In the evenings the MIT students will participate in educational programs including talks with community organizers and reflections on the work they did that day.

Some of the students will get academic credit for their participation in a political science course "Community Service: Experience and Reflection." Those students will do additional reading and reflection papers, and they will keep a journal of their experiences, according to Tobie Weiner, administrative assistant in political science.

The project developed when Anthony Ives, a senior in urban studies and planning, encountered Teach for America at a conference organized by Break Away, which acts as a resource for alternative breaks for college students. Mr. Ives, who had been involved in several teaching-related volunteer activities, was looking for a project to run himself. He'd been inspired by a leadership conference last summer run by LeaderShape that was attended by 60 MIT students.

"When I got back to campus, I e-mailed a few friends about the idea of teaching on spring break. My friends passed the message to their friends and the next thing I knew, I had 40 responses," said Mr. Ives, who is coordinating the teaching week.

MIT's Public Service Center, which coordinates campus-related volunteer activities, is underwriting the cost of the students' transportation. Most of the students will stay with MIT alumni who volunteered their homes in the Washington area. "We had a great response when we sought lodging through the DC alumni club newsletter," Mr. Ives said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 20, 1996.

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