Harvard has made the portal the centerpiece of an attention-grabbing marketing campaign via email, direct mail, meeting announcements, on the http://www.harvard.edu/ homepage, and a Harvard News Office press release. Even Harvard President Drew Faust made a visit to the portal last week.
After all this effort by Harvard to draw attention to the portal, and knowing about the wonderful resources of Harvard's many world-class museums, I was expecting something more than what I found on Saturday at the "Harvard Allston Education Portal Science Adventure". What I did find was a half-dozen folding tables set up in an otherwise empty room where kids could spend a few minutes at each of four different stations.
The Alka-Seltzer film canister rocket (put water and Alka-Seltzer and water in a film canister and watch it hit the ceiling) seemed like one of the more popular activities. Click here to learn more about this experiment from Science Bob. There were crushed cookies representing different types of soil, some balloons, and a table where different liquids (water, vinegar, iodine) and powders (cornstarch, baking powder, and more Alka-Seltzer) were mixed together.
I agree with the TAB editorial that hopes that the portal will grow "into something that will have a significant impact on the lives of A-B families". There is a tremendous need for better science education, to inspire children and excite them about the scientific world, to educate people of all ages as we live in a world touched by scientific issues in almost every facet of our lives, to help our students excel in school, and more. Last year at Brighton High, only 2% of students passed the MCAS Biology test and only 5% passed the Into Physics MCAS.
It is great if there are kids learning something from the Harvard students who are working as tutors at the portal this summer. The Harvard students and many others at Harvard definitely have a lot to offer and the Portal could one day become a valued institution.
If people reading this have been to the portal, it would be great to hear about your experiences there.