Since its founding in the late 1960s, ESG has been committed to discovery in learning through innovation. ESG was created at a time of great change in American society, when the counterculture of the time was in full swing, and students and staff alike were searching for new educational paradigms. ESG was an experiment designed to answer a basic question: Given a minimal amount of structure and an opportunity for self-governance, what would a really intelligent, science-focused group of students do with their educational experience?
Although more structured today, ESG continues to encourage students to take charge of their own education. Studying the core first-year subjects is always done with an eye towards self-discovery, as students explore their academic passions and contextualize their learning. They are encouraged to ask questions, both in and out of the classroom, and to collaborate with their fellow ESGers. Since staff offices are in the ESG space, instructors and advisors are easily accessible to help students pursue their academic interests and consider their choices of major. In a fast-paced, information-intensive environment like MIT, ESG students take the time to consider not just what they are learning, but why and how they are learning.
Throughout its history, ESG has piloted new and innovative teaching and learning within MIT’s core first-year curriculum. Most recently, ESG piloted a first-year experimentation project, in which we replaced final exams with hands-on, final projects, allowing students to apply theoretical learning to real-world projects of their own interest and design. We are also piloting a project that combines the teaching of MIT’s introductory computing classes with the physics core curriculum. Students develop the thought processes needed to go from disciplinary knowledge in physics to the posing of appropriate questions that can be addressed computationally. ESG plans to expand this pilot into the other core first-year disciplines.