Dr. Ari W. Epstein is Associate Director and Senior Lecturer in the Terrascope program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Terrascope is a learning community in which first-year undergraduates take ownership of their education as they address complex, real-world sustainability issues. In Terrascope, Epstein develops and teaches classes, advises first-year students, mentors Undergraduate Teaching Fellows, represents Terrascope and its work through publications and presentations at conferences, co-plans and co-leads Terrascope’s annual field trip, develops partnerships with other MIT units, develops and maintains relationships with community partners, and supports the program’s alumni community.
Epstein’s scientific background is in oceanography, particularly interactions between physics and biology in the coastal ocean. He also has extensive experience in education and public outreach. He was an editor at Scientific American magazine and later editor-in-chief at Scientific American Explorations; he led exhibit-development teams at the New England Aquarium; he developed video programming for in-service teachers at the Science Media Group of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; and he was founding director of Terrascope Youth Radio, an outreach program in which urban teens developed audio programming on environmental topics.
Epstein is particularly interested in developing ways to integrate free-choice learning (the kind of learning promoted by museums, community-based organizations, media and other outlets) into the academic curriculum, combining formal and informal educational strategies.