Over 450 Cambridge elementary school children from grades three through six will spend August 30 with an estimated 600 MIT student volunteers--mostly freshmen--in a fun-filled day of sports, crafts, and hands-on learning. CityDays, sponsored by the MIT Public Service Center (PSC) in collaboration with Cambridge's School Department, is part of an effort to provide these young school children with the opportunity to visit the MIT campus, spend the day with MIT undergraduates, and explore some science and technology. In addition, the festival serves to strengthen MIT students' ties with the community by promoting their involvement in community service early on in their college experience.
"By getting the MIT students to interact with Cambridge during Residence/Orientation week we are hoping that the students will see that their new community extends beyond MIT and will recognize the importance of their involvement in that community," commented Tracy Purinton, a PSC staff member. "We also feel that the earlier they incorporate service into their busy lives, the more likely they are to continue their involvement both at MIT and in the future." During the opening convocation, Cambridge Vice-Mayor Kathleen Born and MIT President Charles Vest will speak of the need for student involvement in the community, and will emphasize the importance of the continuing collaboration between the Cambridge Public Schools and MIT.
The program organizers hope that the festival will encourage MIT students to take an interest in working with the Cambridge school children and become involved in the PSC's year-long LINKS program, where they would volunteer in local public schools on a regular basis.
The children will be hosted by over 600 incoming MIT freshmen and upperclassmen and will participate in a range of different activities. Educational activities include the making of pin-hole cameras, a bridge building contest, and helicopter building. The children will also be involved in numerous sports and arts and crafts activities including a mini-Olympics, basketball, origami, and button-making. "By hosting the Cambridge students at MIT, we provide them with the opportunity to experience a college setting and show them that learning science can be fun! It is a learning experience for everyone involved," said Purinton.
The Festival also plays an important role for MIT students, particularly for incoming freshmen. "Participating in the CityDays Festival during my freshman year showed me how essential it is to volunteer in the community. It has led me to become more involved in service throughout my years at MIT," commented Shonna Yin '97. Yin has participated in the Festival since her freshman year and is now the intern at the Public Service Center who coordinates the program. Yin also coordinates the PSC Fellowship Program, which allows MIT undergraduates to receive paid internships for work in Cambridge Public Schools and local agencies.