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At MIT, coursework is an experience

The School of Architecture and Planning's new course on "cities at risk" is part of an Institute-wide initiative designed to make MIT's freshman year as meaningful as possible.

The course, called CityScope, encourages students to learn to solve problems through projects. Freshmen are exposed to a range of methods, technologies and measurement skills; interdisciplinary teamwork; and communication skills such as writing and speaking.

Over the years, MIT has continually worked to allow freshmen to take advantage of the intellectual and cultural diversity of the Institute as a whole while still working in small groups. Previous courses have challenged students to develop such innovations as viable deep-sea stations and workable mission plans for exploring Mars.

In 2002, a course called Terrascope introduced fieldwork to the agenda, an idea that has caught on. Students explored ways to monitor the ecological systems of the Amazon rainforest, then traveled there on spring break. The next year the course centered on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and included a week in Alaska. In 2004-2005, protecting the delicate ecology of the Galapagos Islands was the focus, including a week in the islands under the sponsorship of the Luce Foundation.

Following in this tradition, CityScope this year will take students to New Orleans to learn about the complex challenges that city faces as it struggles to re-emerge from the devastation of last year's hurricanes.

Upon return to MIT, students will develop and analyze a variety of urban problem-solving techniques. Ultimately, teams of students will present their strategies for improving the city.

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