Terrascopers Tapped to Help Create Major Exhibit

Ari Epstein, Lecturer, Terrascope

Terascopers setup exhibit at the Aquarium of the PacificLast year, students in Terrascope, one of MIT’s alternative freshman programs, created an interactive museum in Lobby 13, where hundreds of visitors learned about the science of tsunamis and about the devastating effects of a tsunami that struck Valdivia, Chile, in 1960. Now they are taking their work to a much wider audience—the 1.4 million visitors expected to pass through a new exhibit opening this summer at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California.

Over IAP three of last year’s Terrascopers, Susannah Brown, Kristin Uhmeyer and Rodrigo Zeledon, traveled with Terrascope lecturer Dr. Ari Epstein to work with Aquarium staff and independent exhibit designers who are developing the Aquarium’s new “Catch a Wave” exhibit.

The Aquarium had already brought a number of last year’s exhibit components to California, hoping to use them as prototypes. The MIT students were originally expected primarily to work on refining those components, but as the professional designers learned more about the Terrascope exhibit, they came to believe that its broader story—the effects of the Valdivia tsunami, which resulted from the strongest earthquake ever recorded—would be a powerful and effective tool for teaching Aquarium visitors about tsunamis and their human impacts. The designers were particularly moved by the personal stories of tsunami survivors themselves, as recorded and presented by Zeledon and other students in the optional Terrascope Radio class (Subject SP.360). The Terrascopers will continue to work with the
designers over the spring and early summer, as plans for the final exhibit emerge and the exhibit itself is produced and installed.

The Terrascope program, which joined DUE this academic year, is a learning community in which freshmen work in teams to develop solutions to environmental issues and create innovative ways to communicate about those topics. The class in which Terrascopers developed the original exhibits, Subject 1.016 (Communicating Complex Environmental Issues: Designing and Building Interactive Museum Exhibits) is taught by Professor Rafael Bras, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Epstein, of DUE’s Office of Experiential Learning. To learn more about Terrascope, visit http://web.mit.edu/terrascope/www.