Terrascope Youth Radio: Engaging urban teens in a unique university-community partnership

Ari Epstein, Beverly Mire, Trent Ramsey, Karen Gareis, Emily Davidson, Elizabeth Jones, Michelle Slosberg, Rafael Bras

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Terrascope Youth Radio (TYR) is an NSF-funded program in which undergraduate engineering and science students at MIT mentor local urban teens as the teens produce radio/audio programming on environmental topics. The interaction has been remarkably fruitful, both for the teens and for the undergraduates. The undergraduates play strong roles in shaping the program, developing curriculum, and day-to-day operations, along with their mentoring work. They acquire teaching experience in an intensive but collegial setting, and they have the opportunity to relate their own developing skills and outlook to high-school students who may come from very different backgrounds. The teens relate easily to the MIT students, and through them develop a sense of comfort working regularly in the technically-oriented MIT setting. They also develop strong skills in understanding and reporting scientific/technical stories, and in relating those stories to their own lives. The program consists of a six-week summer intensive session and an academic-year program that meets twice per week. Some teen interns participate in both components, and some in just one component. Over time, interns who remain in the program develop leadership and teaching skills of their own, as they help to bring more junior interns up to speed. The teens are responsible for all aspects of production, from story development and script writing, through interviewing and sound gathering, to final audio editing. Their work has been featured regularly on Northeast Public Radio, and an hour-long special that they produced ("Fresh Greens: Teens and the Environment") has been licensed and broadcast by public-radio stations across the country. In addition, TYR teen interns produced an audio tour of green elements in Boston Children's Museum's newly-renovated building; the tour is now the museum's official green tour, available both at the museum (installed in portable audio players) and on the museum's website. TYR is a collaboration between MIT and the City of Cambridge Youth Programs, and it operates with some support from the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program. Its development has required close collaboration between two institutions that normally operate in very different ways, with different constituencies and institutional objectives. In this paper we present this collaboration as one example of a university-community partnership that has overcome those obstacles and others, and we describe both the program's successes and the lessons learned along the way. We also discuss results of an ongoing assessment conducted by independent evaluators, and the role that assessment has played in shaping the program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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