New class offerings on Haiti Project-based courses focus on providing aid

In response to the Jan. 12 earthquake, MIT has offered classes focusing on Haiti and how students can help. The Martin Luther King Jr. Design Seminar (17.920) over IAP created a Lobby 10 display and this spring, Special Topic: New Media Projects For Haiti (MAS.963) will study some of the issues Haiti is now facing.

New Media Projects For Haiti is a 9-unit, project-based class in which students develop new technologies and educational tools to benefit Haiti. This new course, led by Media Arts and Sciences professor Barry L. Vercoe and visiting scientist Dale Joachim, will guide students as they explore Haiti’s problems, which include low literacy and low civic engagement. In the first half of the course, students will perform background research and learn from discussions and guest lectures. In the second half, participants work together on a solution to a specific problem.

“The idea is that, towards the end of the class, the class will go to Haiti at the end of April and test out their project,” said Dale Joachim, who ran the Haiti IAP Workshop on earthquake relief. “We’ve gotten quite a number of students wanting to add this class.”

Like the MIT International Development Initiative’s D-Lab course, the New Media Projects course will have students implement their project in a foreign country. However, unlike D-Lab’s individualized and small group projects, the final project is specific to Haiti and the whole class will contribute to a single project.

MLK Seminar looked at Haiti over IAP

The MLK Seminar, led by Tobie Weiner from the Department of Political Science and selected student facilitators, is an IAP design seminar following the ideals of equality voiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the past decade, the MLK seminar class has grown from a small group of 10 to a class of 150 students that carries out various projects every January.

This year, several students decided to construct an installation on Haiti after an earthquake had devastated the country. Their display shows pictures of victims after the catastrophe, a model of the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince that had been destroyed in the earthquake, and informative pamphlets on the history and current crises in the country.

“I’m really big on community service,” said Jacob K. Wamala ’12, one of the students who worked on the Haiti installation. “Our visual installation raises awareness for the tragedy and provides background information on Haiti.”

In addition, the group planned a Haiti Relief Diversity Dinner this past Tuesday, February 10 in Walker Memorial to raise funds for the Partners in Health Relief Efforts.

“We want to focus on MIT’s unique capacity to help those in need,” said Joseph Diaz ’09. “We had a high turnout for this event and had raised about $1,000 in just one night.”

The MLK seminar was originally started to create a small art project honoring Dr. King, Wiener said, but it became a whole 12-unit class, and a way for student from diverse backgrounds to meet each other.

Ever since, MIT and Wellesley students have worked together each IAP to create artistic and political installations in Lobby 7 and Lobby 10 to express their thoughts on civil rights, justice, race, and the principles of Dr. King.