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MIT students teach hands-on learning abroad

MISTI Global Teaching Labs attracts students looking to share the Institute's unique approach to science and engineering education.
Juan Fuentes
Juan Fuentes
Monica Isava
Monica Isava

“At MIT, I have had the opportunity to study a broad range of topics in chemistry and to conduct cutting-edge research,” senior Tara Mokhtari says. “But what I love most is sharing the chemistry I study, and knowledge of my research projects, with other people. MISTI Global Teaching Labs offered me a unique opportunity to share my love of science and learning, while simultaneously deepening my understanding of another culture and way of life.”

Mokhtari — a chemistry major who taught at Oberschule zum Dom in Lübeck, Germany, over Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January — was one of 55 students who participated in the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) Global Teaching Labs. The Global Teaching Labs, originally launched as a pilot program called Highlights for High School, is an experiential teaching program that attracts top students looking to share the Institute's unique approach to science and engineering education.

After the success of MIT-Italy Highlights for High School program in 2011, three additional MISTI programs began sending students abroad this past IAP to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects at foreign high schools.

Monica Isava, a mechanical engineering major, spent a month teaching at Liceo Da Procida in Italy. “By both teaching students and seeing them outside class, I got to see how different it is to grow up outside the U.S., an invaluable experience for my understanding of world cultures. I’ll keep my time in Salerno in my heart for the rest of my life.”

For three weeks, MIT-Germany, MIT-Israel, MIT-Italy and MIT-Mexico students explored new ways of teaching STEM subjects using MIT’s hands-on approach and OpenCourseWare materials. “The MISTI GTL program in Mexico allowed me to share my love of science with the next generation of students in a country that truly needs scientists and engineers in its future,” says chemical engineering student Juan Fuentes, who taught at Prepa Tec in Mexico.

To prepare students, Senior Lecturer Peter Dourmashkin from the Department of Physics hosts three workshops on effective teaching and classroom techniques. During these sessions, students are strongly encouraged to introduce hands-on learning through group work and digital media. These students also attend country-specific trainings to learn about their host’s culture, politics and society. As IAP is only three weeks long, fluency in the host country’s language is not a participation requirement. However, the experience of living and working overseas often serves as a gateway for returning to the country for the longer MISTI internship program. 

“Every student should participate in MISTI GTL because while MIT may be an unparalleled place to learn, the world teaches far more than any Institute could hope to,” says Kathleen Kraines, a mechanical engineering student who taught at ORT High Schools in Carmiel, Israel.

Each year, MISTI places 600 MIT students in professional internships and research positions around the world. In 2012, MISTI sent 55 of these students abroad through MISTI GTL — 30 to Italy, 15 to Germany, six to Mexico and four to Israel.

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