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City Days Festival Promotes Outreach

By Stacey E. Blau

MIT's third annual City Days Festival kicks off today.

Approximately 450 Cambridge-area fourth, fifth, and sixth graders will visit the MIT campus for a day of educational and fun activities run by students, said City Days Coordinator Tracy F. Purinton. In addition, about 150 MIT students will be trekking into other parts of the city to take part in helping Cambridge-area organizations, she said.

Today's program, entitled City Days: A Two-Way Street, is the first part of the Public Service Center's year-long effort to get students involved in service to the Cambridge community, Purinton said. "The City Days Festival is really just the beginning of City Days. It's a way for us generate interest in public service programs right at the start, especially for freshmen," she said.

Freshmen and some upperclassmen will be hosting the City Days program on-campus. Activities for the visiting children will range from kitchen chemistry to jello-snarfing to a mini-carnival at East Campus; in addition, laboratories will be offering tours as well as some demonstrations, Purinton said. The Media Laboratory will be conducting a virtual reality game, while the Laboratory for Electronic and Electromagnetic Systems will run its "MITEE Mouse" demonstration, in which a microprocessor-controlled mechanical mouse escapes from a maze, she said.

Freshmen in independent living groups had the choice of whether they would take part in the on-campus program or the off-campus program, Purinton said. It worked out this way because only a limited number of students could be in the off-campus program, she said.

The approximately 150 MIT students heading into Cambridge for the day will be visiting several public service agencies in the local area, Purinton said. The participating organizations will be hosting brief tours providing information on the services that they provide to the Cambridge community, and students will be able to see which organizations they might be interested in working with regularly. The YMCA, the Cambridge Furniture Bank, and the Cambridge Youth Project are some of the agencies that are planning to take part in the City Days Festival, she said.

Cambridge parents are enthusiastic about the City Days Festival, according to Purinton. Parent JoAnne Ackman called the program "a wonderful gesture to the community and a great way to break the end-of-summer boredom."

In previous years, the City Days Festival was a two-day event, with the Cambridge and MIT students' events on different days, Purinton said. This year's City Days Festival has been condensed into a one-day event "because of where Labor Day fell on the calendar this year," she said.