Field Trip – Chelsea Students Spend the Day at MIT

Tianna Barbosa (left) and Elizabeth Lemos, both 7th graders at Eugene Wright Middle School in Chelsea, admire the DNA double helix they created out of Legos as part of a recent “Fidelity Investments Field Trip” at MIT. More than 100 students from Eugene Wright took part and visited a robotics lab, the Chandra Observatory and the DNA Lego Project. Fidelity Investments and Teach for America recently announced a new national partnership and the launch of the Field Trips program, designed to enhance educational opportunities for students in more than 30 middle schools around the country by providing out-of-classroom learning experiences.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carries a stellar reputation worldwide, but ironically some students in Chelsea at the Eugene Wright Middle School – who live only a few miles away – had never heard of the famed institution until they took a field trip there earlier this month.

The field trip was part of a program for Chelsea students sponsored by Fidelity Investments and the Teach for America program. Several teachers at the Wright (formerly the Williams School) are part of the Teach for America program, and with their employment comes the unique opportunity for Fidelity-sponsored field trips to places Chelsea students don’t usually get to go to.

Last year was the first year that Wright students took the field trips, but everyone agrees that this year’s trip to MIT was much more comprehensive.

Seventh-grade math teacher Andrew Ly – a second-year Teach for America teacher out of the University of Oregon – went on the field trip and said it was very beneficial for his students.

“Frankly it’s great to let them see a real college campus,” he said. “I know a lot of kids don’t know what a college campus is like; they think it’s a building you walk into and go to classes, like the school they go to. When they get there and see all these building spread out, it really opens their eyes. It’s great for kids to get a sense of the college atmosphere. It’s also a good thing for these students to see another part of town. Many students here don’t get out of Chelsea enough.”

Two of those students on the trip were seventh graders Myah Johnston and Jazmin Castellon.

Castellon said that she didn’t know what MIT was until she arrived on campus.

“I didn’t know MIT was that kind of cool college,” she said. “I thought it was one of those institutes you go to if you miss out on college; one of the places you go when you’re an adult.”

Johnston – who is very much prepared for college even at her young age – said the trip made her even more anxious for college.

“For me it was an awesome trip,” she said. “I want to be a robotics engineer or a chemist and I heard MIT was a good school for that. The trip made me want to go there even more. It got me excited to go to college. I went home and told my parents all about it. I’m not a person who doesn’t show my excitement, so they could see I was really excited about this.”

All the 7th graders at the Wright School attended the field trip and were accompanied by several teachers as well. They were the only school participating in the program that day.

Ly said that students were able to spend part of the day studying DNA models made out of Legos, which tied directly into what the students have been studying in class. Many students had been studying the components of DNA, but having seen it visually in the lab at MIT, many left with a much better idea of how those components function and unzip.

“I actually had no idea that DNA could unzip like it does, and they showed us how that happens with the Legos,” said Johnston.

Meanwhile, the other part of the day was spent in the chemistry lab where students separated hemoglobin and Vitamin B12  – something none of them had ever done.

“That’s not something they would ever be able to do here at the school,” Ly said. “It was an invaluable exercise and the kids were very interested because it was hands-on.”

Beyond the experiments and DNA models, both Johnston and Castellon said it helped them to set goals and to think about college.

“I’m thinking about setting a high goal for myself so I can get a shot at getting into a really good college,” said Castellon. “I also want to try out many different things now so when I do go to college, I’ll know what I want to do.”

Johnston also said that it is never too early to set a goal for college, and that she has been thinking of it for many years already.

“You have to set goals,” she said. “I was actually talking to my mom about this and I realized that compared to other kids my age, I am one of the few people who are already super-excited to go to college. The trip just made me more excited. I love to be challenged.”

Johnston is the daughter of Kyvah Johnston, Evelyn Vega Johnston and Kristin Wheeler, all of Chelsea. Castellon is the daughter of Ricardo and Maria Castellon, also of Chelsea.

The Wright School kids will take a second field trip later in the year to the highly-respected Tufts University in Medford.

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