Learning Communities News - All Years

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  • Students in Terrascope, one of MIT's learning communities for first-year students, spent their spring break in South Africa, getting a first-hand look at problems related to clean-water access there.

  • Concourse: A Community

    As one of the four freshman learning communities at MIT, Concourse provides a guiding environment for first year students: highly sought after one-on-one guidance, small classroom sizes, and a strong sense of community. It is often referred to as a “school within a school,” built on a foundation of peers, advisors, and professors.

    The 40-year old program focuses on the integration of humanities into MIT’s traditional science- and technology-based curriculum, teaching students that most technical courses have a mutually beneficial interaction with the humanities and social sciences. While still fulfilling their MIT core requirements, students have the opportunity to reflect and search for deeper meanings as they shape their futures. Anne McCants, Director of Concourse, emphasizes the importance of this approach, “I think that to be truly educated, and to fulfill our real potential as scholars, it is not enough to know many things, or to be able to do many things, valuable as that may be.  We actually have to know what those things are good for (how they nourish life and well-being), and it is the humanistic disciplines that school us for those questions.”

    Why do students choose Concourse?

    Concourse Friday SeminarEach year, Concourse selects 40-50 students to participate in the program. “With limited space it is important to select freshman who will thrive in the learning community’s environment,” says Concourse advisor Paula Cogliano. Students are incoming freshman with an interest in incorporating a humanities framework to their MIT education. They are also students who prefer the benefits of smaller class sizes and building relationships with others in the Concourse community.

  • Editor's note: Bennett Cyphers is a freshman from Plattsburgh, N.Y. who has taken two Terrascope classes, 12.000 and 1.016. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and enjoys ruminating on the problems of the world.

    Sixty people sit in a room. They come from a variety of backgrounds, and few of them know each other. As they watch in silence, a professor in the front of the room lays out their task for the next three months: it will require intense research, a myriad of disciplines, creativity, effective teamwork — and if they are to be successful — a staggering amount of effort. This is no strategic meeting of industry experts, nor is it a graduate or post-graduate seminar. This is 12.000, Solving Complex Problems, and every student seated in the auditorium is a first-semester freshman at MIT.

  • Prof. Anne McCantsThe single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was "exploring ideas ravenously." It was like being in a candy store for four years," she says.

  • The Experimental Study Group is developing a new spring 2013 seminar designed to teach undergraduates the skills required to devise, teach, and create video content for problems taken from the MIT GIR curriculum. This seminar will teach students to create short 5-9 minute videos that concisely explain and contextualize specific problems in physics, math, chemistry and biology. The resulting videos will be dynamic in their use of illustrations, demonstrations, animations, and commentary that help present these problems in compelling ways—all from the student’s perspective.

    In the spring of 2012, ESG ran a pilot project with a small group of ESG students to create educational videos based on their GIRs. The goal of this pilot project was to demonstrate a long held belief at ESG that when students engage the process of teaching, they gain insight and command over the subject matter in ways beyond the experience of those students who do not go through this teaching process.

    Watch videos created by ESG students:

    Lorentz Transformation video thumbnail  How the Body Used Energy: Cellular Respiration video thumbnail  Gradients and Vector-valued Functions video thumbnail

    ESG has a tradition of training students to teach and runs a teaching seminar each fall that prepares first-time TAs for their peer teaching experiences. This process challenges students beyond the standard boundaries of the sciences, introducing communication-intensive elements into their learning experience. By encouraging our students to create video content as a method of teaching, we believe that we are taking our students to a new level of understanding and communication.

  • Terrascope Student on Bridge in Costa RicaThis blog records the experiences of Terrascope students during their spring break field trip to Costa Rica. This year’s trip has been developed in partnership with the Earthwatch Institute, who specialize in field-based scientific learning programs. During our week away from MIT, we will visit La Selva, a biological reserve in Costa Rica’s lowlands, where we’ll work in the field with a team of scientists whose research focuses on the diversity of caterpillars in hopes of better understanding their impact on the rain forest’s ecosystem. In addition to fieldwork, we’ll be exploring Costa Rica’s tourism, agriculture, and energy production sectors.

    Click to View Blog

  • I teach Physics, but I am not only a physicist. Like many at MIT, I have a polyhedric personality- among other things, I love to eat, cook, and speak different languages. I have always dreamed of melting some of my diverse interests into a unifying project, however I never had a chance to do it until now. In Europe, where I come from, academia tends to be compartmentalized. At MIT, I have finally had a chance to explore and grow in different directions.

    As a staff member at MIT's Experimental Study Group (ESG), I am continuously encouraged to develop creative approaches to learning and to experiment with interactive and interdisciplinary curricula. ESG experiments not only with freshmen GIRs, but also sponsors innovative seminars every spring, open to all MIT students, on a variety of subjects that are not covered in the regular curriculum.

    I am thrilled to teach, for the first time, a seminar on my language (I am a native Italian), culture, and food all woven together: Speak Italian.. With Your Mouth Full. Each class is based on the preparation of a delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture.

    Paola Rebusco

  • [On July 1, 2010, ESG joined DUE as part of the Office of Experiential Learning]

    If you travel to the 6th floor of Building 24, you will find a unique freshman learning community. Instead of lecture halls, you will find small, informal classrooms. The common space, which includes couches, a hammock and a kitchen, encourages students to gather and discuss ideas, work through challenges, and connect as a community. The environment fosters frequent interaction between students, faculty and staff both inside and outside the classroom. This is the home of the Experimental Study Group (ESG).

    ESG classroomEscher inspired rainbow

  • Terracope student spell out "RADIO" in Abu DhabiStudents in this year’s Terrascope Radio class created and broadcast an original program called “The Heated Future: A Timely Tale.” An innovative combination of radio-drama and documentary formats, “The Heated Future” tells the story of three teens who begin their lives in a dystopian future a century or two from now, when human society is suffering under the influence of global warming.

  • This spring marked the debut of a new, completely revamped Subject 1.016, the core spring-semester offering of the Terrascope freshman learning community. The new version of the class, now called “Communicating Complex Environmental Issues: Building Solutions and Communicating Ideas,” empowers freshmen to conduct effective small-group research and engages them directly with faculty early in their MIT careers, while fostering the strong sense of community and the emphasis on hands-on work that are hallmarks of the Terrascope program.