Spotlight of the week
LINKSBy Aaron Mihalik
The MIT Public Service Center offers a collection of programs for students interested in volunteering and can cater to almost any community service interest a student might want to pursue. One of the PSC’s programs is LINKS, designed specifically for students who are interested in teaching science to children.
LINKS puts MIT students into Cambridge school classrooms to teach children about science. Volunteers participate in activities ranging from accompanying students on field trips to becoming a teacher’s aide or teaching a lesson to the students. The students’ grade level ranges from kindergarten to 8th grade.
Mark G. Duggan ’92 started links in 1992. “His vision was for LINKS to be a spin-off of City Days,” said Zhelinrentice L. Scott ’01, program coordinator for LINKS. “[He wanted] a way to maintain a long term relationship with the Cambridge teachers and students.”
When the program was first established, there were somewhere between 150-300 volunteers. Since then, the program slowly lost membership. However, Scott is optimistic about this semester.
“This term the program is being revitalized,” said Scott “We are adding a training component.” This training involves a Cambridge school teacher coming in to discuss the elementary school science curriculum and to prepare students for the classroom.
“Often times volunteers have complained about not knowing what was expected of them and doing things that were not really science related,” said Scott. “This year we are emphasizing the science focus”
Also, the head of science curriculum for the Cambridge schools is actively participating in LINKS. “She has been helping us with the training sessions and contacting the teachers in the Cambridge schools,” said Scott. “Basically, making sure that the teachers and the students are connected.”
The students and volunteers who participate in LINKS find it to be a rewarding experience.
“The students were great. They really appreciate the time you take out of your schedule to teach them something they didn’t know before,” said Scott. “And they’re really receptive.”
“Some of them like to put you on the spot,” admonished Scott. “But you have to show them who’s boss.”
Volunteers spend one to three hours a week in the classroom. The commitment spans over one term. LINKS has sign-ups in the fall and spring semester. Students interested in volunteering can e-mail LINKS at firstname.lastname@example.org.