Terrascope is a learning community for first-year students to solve complex, real-world problems starting in their first semester at MIT.

Each year, about 60 students join together in the Terrascope learning community to work on proposing a solution to a real-world environmental problem. Not only a class, Terrascope is a combination of advising, learning, playing, and thriving with freshman mentoring, weekly lunches and activities, and a hub for creating long-lasting friendships. Extending past the scope of the year’s focus problem, past the scope of environmental issues, and past the scope of academics in general, Terrascope is ultimately a place for students to connect with faculty, mentors, and each other on a personal level. Though unconventionally held online rather than in person due to COVID-19, the “Terrafrosh” class of 2024 have undeniably still forged a strong bond through the virtual Terrascope Room with friendship and collaboration.

The fall class—12.000 Solving Complex Problems—presents students with a challenging issue focused on environmental and sustainability crises. The control students have over every aspect of the process makes the class incredibly unique, from pinpointing the issue all the way to structuring and presenting a proposed solution. The unofficial Terrascope tagline of “it’s up to you students” rings true as the entire project is student directed, providing a valuable learning opportunity in leadership, communication, and diligence as well as essential research skills. Final deliverables created by students include a website and a three-hour presentation and Q&A session.

Though hands-off, the wonderful instructors, mentors, and undergraduate teaching fellows are constantly working behind the scenes in case students need help or get stuck, whether it be in class or outside of it. After all, Terrascope is at its core a community—extending far past the doorstep of freshman year and connecting people of all different backgrounds for one cause.

More information about Terrascope can be found on its official website here.