Out-of-school resources in and near Cambridge, for students in need of advanced learning. These were compiled by members of the CALA community. Feel free to contact us with edits or additions — cambridgeCALA@gmail.com. Other resources are listed in the Cambridge Public Schools, Massachusetts, and National & International sections.
Breakthrough Cambridge (BTC) is a year-round, tuition-free, out-of-school-time academic program in Cambridge, MA that serves middle and high school students. BTC challenges, prepares and supports diverse, low-income Cambridge middle school students to succeed in rigorous high school programs and go on to college. At BTC small classes, hands-on learning, and enthusiastic teachers create a culture of active learning. Motivated, diverse middle school students take ownership over their education, gaining the skills and confidence they need to excel in school. “At Breakthrough, it’s cool to be smart.”
Scholar Search Educational Forum at Boston University
This free educational forum for intellectually talented children provides a venue where parents and students are exposed to and explore pertinent concepts of the educational process by presenters who deal directly with these issues every day. The forum also offers students a chance to be engaged with kindred spirits in student sessions. The forum is offered annually in October and is hosted at Boston University.
Summer Institute for the Gifted at Boston University Academy
The Summer Institute for the Gifted is a day program open to students ages 4 – 12. In the Boston area it’s hosted at the Boston University Academy. Students can choose from a wide variety of courses taught in humanities, math, science, technology, multi-disciplinary, visual and performing arts, and fitness and recreation. The program also helps gifted students meet others who share common interests, abilities, and goals.
Social and Emotional
SENG – Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted
SENG’s mission is to empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. SENG is a national organization with local support networks. Parent support groups in the Cambridge area are run by facilitators and SENG members Bonnie Zimmer, MSW LICSW, and Julie Rochlin, LMT. You’re welcome to contact them.
The Academy of Physical and Social Development
For students who are twice-exceptional and experiencing physical or social issues this may be a useful resource. The Academy program is based on the belief that a child’s emotional, physical, and social development can be enhanced through cooperative play. A child can learn and grow while playing, having fun, being creative, expressive and spontaneous. By having the freedom to be him or herself, playing positively with peers and receiving support from a caring counselor, a child can gain self-confidence, self-esteem, and improve social skill which enhance the quality of his or her daily life.
The MIT ESP
MIT’s ESP (Educational Studies Program) is a volunteer group of MIT students and community members who create and teach classes for middle school and high school students from the Boston area and beyond. Members volunteer out of a love for teaching, organizing, and service. ESP offers a variety of programs that range in size, scope, and style from the single-weekend Splash and Splark, to the weekly ProveIt, to the year-long Delve. Classes cover every imaginable topic including things like: chocolate-tasting, making street-art-t-shirts, high-level math, and AP exam prep. Check out the website for details about each program.
Science Club for Girls
Science Club for Girls offers free clubs to girls in grades K through 6. Girls in the 7th through 12th grade may work as Junior Mentors in the clubs. The clubs give young girls, especially those from groups traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields, an opportunity to do hands-on experiments and activities in a fun, nurturing, and interactive environment. Girls work with mentors who model leadership, affirm college as an expectation, and encourage careers in science and technology as goals and options. Our clubs take place in public schools, community centers and churches in Cambridge, Boston, Lawrence,Newton, Fitchburg, and Leominster after school and on Saturdays.
Harvard Museum of Natural History – Kids’ Classes, Clubs & Programs
Explore the galleries, examine specimens, and participate in activities led by museum educators in drawing classes and school vacation programs. Discover some of the wonders of the natural world in out-of-school programs including WOW, a free program for community-based youth and after-school groups of all ages. Bring your group to the museum to discover some of the wonders of the natural world and participate in hands-on activities with museum specimens and find out how scientists learn about the natural world. Repeat visits are encouraged; with over 12,000 objects, it’s easy to discover something new every visit!
SEED Academy at MIT
The Saturday Engineering Enrichment and Discovery (SEED) Academy is a tuition-free academic enrichment and career exploration program for 9th and 10th grade public school students from Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence. Our primary mission is to increase the number of traditionally underserved local students in the pipeline to the technical workforce. We provide participants with: an interesting, hands-on curriculum that strengthens their foundational math, science and communication skills; a challenging learning environment with high expectations; and access to positive role models. Over seven semesters, SEED Academy students have the opportunity to see what engineering and technology are, how they are being used in our society, and what industry and educational leaders expect in those fields in the future.
MITES Program at MIT
The Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) Program was launched in 1975 to address the low numbers of minority students pursuing advanced technical degrees. The MITES program offers rigorous enrichment programs for promising high school juniors interested in studying and exploring careers in science and engineering. These national programs stress the value and reward of pursuing advanced technical degrees and careers while developing the skills necessary to achieve success in science and engineering. The programs are rooted in MIT’s belief in the importance of students from diverse populations to pursue higher education and careers in these fields. Selected students build self-confidence in their ability to be successful in a demanding academic atmosphere, and have a chance to work with and befriend individuals of different racial, ethnic and other backgrounds. Although admission to MIT is not the focus of the MITES program, for its graduates, there is a strong record of successful admission to MIT and to other engineering and science universities.
Parts and Crafts
The Parts and Crafts Collective is a group of thinkers, teachers, and tinkerers in the Boston area who are interested in helping people build, think, create, succeed, fail, and learn. We run hands-on creative arts, science, and engineering programs for kids and adults to help people learn and do and make things.where. Our programs run out of our workshop at 577 Somerville Ave near Union Square in Somerville. Most of the young folks and families that we work with live and/or work in the West Somerville area, but we are happy to have visitors from all over the city, state, country, world.
The Math Circle
The Math Circle is a program of courses founded in 1994, designed for students ages 5-17 who enjoy math and want the added challenge of exciting topics that are normally outside the school curriculum. Courses are offered at the Harvard Science Center, and Kariotis Hall at Northeastern University. Math Circle teachers are experienced, committed, and enthusiastic. Our classes encourage a free discussion of ideas; while the courses are mathematically rigorous, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.
Girls’ Angle, based in Cambridge, MA, is a math club for girls, and a supportive community for all girls and women engaged in the study, use and creation of mathematics. Our primary mission is to foster and nurture girls’ interest and ability in mathematics and empower them to be able to tackle any field, no matter the level of mathematical sophistication required. We offer a comprehensive approach to math education and use a four component strategy to achieve our mission: Girls’ Angle mentors, the Girls’ Angle Support Network, the Girls’ Angle Bulletin and Community Outreach. Membership is open to all girls.
The Mathemagics Workshop
Mathemagics Workshop courses, based in Cambridge, MA, are offered to kids in small groups. In the workshops, students get exposure to a variety of mathematical concepts through puzzles, games and problem solving activities. Topics include, among others, simple combinatorics, number bases and sequences and famous unsolved problems in mathematics. Students can, for example, invent their own number system and build their own counting machine, and explore unsolved problems with pentominoes. Beth O’Sullivan is the Mathemagics Workshop founder and instructor. Beth studied undergraduate and graduate mathematics at MIT, and is published as a mathematician and as a writer. She has been teaching mathematics privately to children for over thirty years. She is also the co-founder of the Science Club for Girls. To register, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russian School of Mathematics
The Russian School of Mathematics gives children a solid math foundation via a gradual and thorough teaching process. RSM offers an academic year program, with weekly classes and homework, based on their belief that this is the most effective and the least stressful way for students to learn math. One of the program’s features is the early introduction of algebra. In addition to being a school, RSM offers community to both students and families, many of whom remain close friends after finishing in the program. The RSM locations closest to Cambridge are in Newton and Lexington.
Kumon is a franchise which offers an after-school math and reading academic enrichment program. Their approach helps children learn math and reading concepts based on ability rather than age or grade. The program can be tailored for advanced students who need to be challenged and for students who need help catching up. The goal is for all students to study above their grade level. Since the curriculum is individualized for each child, it allows students to comprehend the new material fully before moving ahead. With an emphasis on self-learning, preschool through high school students become self-reliant and gain confidence to learn new materials at their own pace. The closest Kumon branch to Cambridge is in Arlington.
Cambridge Public Library/Cambridge Tree Project Poetry Competition
For Cambridge poets in grades K-8 who want to share their original work with a larger audience, the Children’s staff manages the city-wide Cambridge Public Library/Cambridge Tree Project Poetry Competition. Every year, to celebrate National Poetry Month, which takes place in April, hundreds of students all over the city send in their poems to the competition. The Friends of the Cambridge Public Library are proud to sponsor the prizes which are given to first through third place winners in every grade (k-8), as well as to those receiving honorable mention. The contest is announced on the Cambridge Public Library website, and the deadline to send in poems is at the end of April.
MMEA Eastern District Junior & Senior Music Festivals
The Eastern District of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association hosts annual music festivals for middle and high schoolers. Students start in “Junior” grades (7th-9th), and then move as qualified to “Senior” grades (9th-12th). Students audition for band, chorus or orchestra, and then work with local conductors for a few intensive rehearsals. The music festivals are offered a few months after auditions. Students report having a wonderful experience.
HSSP Summer Program at MIT
The HSSP Summer program at MIT is for 7th-13th graders. It’s produced by the Educational Studies Program, which also produces Splash and Spark during the school year. HSSP takes place over 7 weeks in the summer on Sundays. Students have a lot of fun in a wide range of classes. Everything from “Cryptography and Cryptanalysis” to “Engineering Lecture Series” to “The Matrix” to “Dreams, Dreaming, and the Subconscious”, and beyond. No tests or homework, just fun science and math taught by enthusiastic undergraduate students. Visit the website to register in advance.
Summer STEM Program at MIT
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Program at MIT is a tuition-free five-week summer program for promising 6th-9th grade students from the Boston, Cambridge, and Lawrence public schools. Students work with college students to expand their knowledge about math, science, and how things work. Students can challenge themselves with rigorous college prep courses in Geometry, Physics, Robotics, or a host of other classes; learn a racquet sport; and meet other bright and talented young people from local communities. The learning doesn’t end with the summer. The STEM Program offers students one-on-one mentoring during the school year, as well as workshops for parents on insuring their teen’s continued academic achievement.
Camp Kaleidoscope, on Magazine Street in Cambridge, is geared towards kids who like to create, invent, explore, and do so in a hands on, non-coercive setting. Each day begins with a morning meeting where counselors and kids discuss what they’d like to do (both that day and later in the week if extra materials might be needed). At camp there is staff that both has projects planned each day as well as staff who’s sole purpose is to support whatever projects the campers might be interested in. At camp “stations” campers can work freely on their own projects. We have a wide variety of art supplies, robotics and electronics equipment, computers for creating and programming, artwork and games, and quite a bit more. Camp runs from 9am-3pm, M-F throughout the summer.
Mass Audobon Habitat Summer Day Camp
Summer camp programs at Habitat are designed to meet the needs of children who are fascinated by the natural world. The programs emphasize environmental education and natural history study through a multidisciplinary approach. We seek to create an atmosphere that stimulates each child’s individual sense of awareness and provides a sense of community. A small camper-to-staff ratio is maintained so that each child has individual guidance. Habitat’s summer camp programs are staffed by experienced environmental education professionals and are directed by Habitat Teacher/Naturalist and Camp Director, Jane Higgins. Camp runs in two-week sessions throughout the summer.