Looking for adventure at the Harvard Ed Portal

The attention being given to Harvard's new "Education Portal" in Allston hasn't been as breathless as the coverage of Obama's trip to Europe, but I was surprised to see that the opening of the portal was the lead story in the current edition of the Allston/Brighton TAB.

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.


  1. Anonymous7:36 PM

    I didn't get to go to the Science Fair, but I did go to the Library design night. It was great. Each of us had a computer with a person to walk around the park that we designed. It's unfortunate that so many people turned out for the cookout and only 10 of us turned out to design the park. If the park doesn't turn out the way you envisioned it, that is unfortunate. I certainly hope everyone enjoys the park. I was very dissappointed in the turnout.
    Especially that not one of the task force members showed up as well as all the people who complained about how the park should be. Not even the Tab covered it. I think someone from Harvard did. there was one guy with a camera and little notebook taking notes.

  2. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Harry, I have been to the ed portal, but only to register for my Harvard Pool pass. I was unimpressed with the space, but the staff was quite forthcoming with things they are planning. Hopefully as they get established there will be much more to offer in the space itself. However, I was quite disappointed to only get one swim in before Harvard closed the pool for 3.5 weeks. It seems a bit backhanded that they've given us the privilege to use the pool for 3 weeks in July and all of August, only to close it for 1/2 that time. I was told they would consider extending the rights beyond Labor Day and I will certainly express my interest in that.