MIT Office of Engineering Outreach’s summer program is a 5 week long program that focuses on various STEM fields. Students take specific STEM-content courses, which is dependent on their grade level, and learn through a hands-on, experiential model.

Key Takeaways

  • Instructors do not lecture for more than 15 minute periods at a time.

  • Students learn through an experiential model that uses hands-on learning.

  • By having two meals together, students are able to form a community with others that share their interests in STEM.

  • The program has a speaker series where young professionals in the STEM field talk about their experiences.

  • Undergraduate MIT students are used as instructors for the program.

  • By providing young instructors and speakers in the STEM field, students are able to connect to their instructors better and form role models because of the smaller age gap.

Q: How did your site organize the program day? Were there any specific templates you used during the planning process?


A: The program day is an all-day schedule. We provide bus transportation because our students are coming from Boston, Cambridge, and Lawrence. The program is free including transportation. We choose about five locations around the Boston area to pick up students. We wait to choose the locations until we know where the students are coming from to make it as convenient as possible.


Once we all meet at a central location, where the buses drop off, we all go and have breakfast together, and then to students go to their morning class. After the morning class, the instructors lead them to lunch where we all have lunch together. Last year the students had recess at this time, although we are rethinking this aspect of the schedule for the coming summer. The students then have their afternoon class and a study session with instructors before they go home. At the end of the day we all gather together for the buses to pick the students up.


In regard to templates that we use, instructors arrive for the summer program, two weeks prior to the start date, for training. During which, we go over everything about the program. This includes how to design a curriculum that is hands-on and project based. We cover a lot of the logistics around time and what the day is going to look like. The overall schedule is set, but we will figure out the nitty gritty details, such as who will be in charge of the front of the line. On day one of training, we create a binder for all of the instructors. In the binder there is a section for program logistics, which includes an overall program calendar and a daily schedule. We schedule sessions to go over all of this information during the training.

Q: What different instructional approaches were used throughout the program day?


A: We push our instructors to allot no more than 15 minutes at a time for traditional lecture style learning in the classroom. The program is about gaining hands on experience in STEM. We are trying to see what is more difficult to happen in a traditional school setting. We try to utilize the resources we have here at MIT and be very hands on. Instructors have a lot of flexibility in their curriculum. We do not require that they cover certain topics. This allows them the flexibility to adjust the curriculum to the students’ interests. It is a balance, because you do not want to derail everything you had planned, but not have the pressure of needing to cover certain material.

Q: Can you detail 2-3 activities that youth would participate in throughout the day?


A: We have a Friday speaker series where we bring in young, usually people in their 20’s, professionals who are working in a STEM field. We will gather in a lecture hall where the speaker will talk to all of the students. One person comes in each Friday, and will talk about their work, how they got to where they are, and how they got to be interested in what they do. This is an example of how we try to provide for the kids a lot of role models who are closer in age and more relatable to the students. The Friday speaker series also helps break down stereotypes of who scientists and engineers are.


Also, while this is not a specific activity, we all eat two meals together. That informal interaction during mealtimes helps build relationships between the students and create a sense of community. This is especially true for students whose interests are not necessarily covered at school, but are a part of our curriculum. If there is a student who is really interested in robotics, but other students at his school do not share that interest, he can find people here who are passionate about the same thing. It also gives the students a sense of validation that this is something that they can do.

Q: When putting students into groups, how did you determine the size of each group and where to assign students?


A: There are about 20-25 students per grade level. 3 days of the week we will have the classes together. The other two days of the week we break that group up into half, so it is in a smaller setting. The division of groups can be different each day based on what group of students were struggling in certain areas during class. We also try not to exceed 25 students per grade level to help keep a smaller setting.


MIT Office of Engineering Outreach’s summer program is a 5 week-long program in the summer. The program draws students who go to public schools in Boston, Cambridge, and Lawrence Massachusetts. Every summer the program has about 85-90 students that are rising 6th through 9th graders. Each student takes two classes, which depend on their grade level. Rising 6th graders take algebra and biology, rising 7th graders take chemistry and physics, rising 8th graders take engineering design and physics and probability, and rising 9th graders take robotics and pre-calculus. Each class is about two hours long to allow time for activities and experiments. The program has breakfast together in the morning, then students go to their morning class, then have time to socialize and interact with the instructors, and then go to their afternoon class. The end of the day is reserved for students to work with their instructors and ask questions about the homework. The courses are currently taught by undergraduate students majoring in one of the STEM majors. In addition, every student who has completed the summer program has the option of participating in the mentoring program during the school year.