Campus & Community

Harvard Allston Education Portal opens doors to neighbors

4 min read

The Harvard Allston Education Portal, a new resource center designed to be a bridge between North Allston/North Brighton residents and Harvard teaching and learning, opened its doors last week (July 14) with mentoring for area children and a science movie night for families.

Located at 175 North Harvard St., the education portal is a space, open to the public, that will host a variety of educational programming for Allston/Brighton residents – beginning with a pilot program of math and science mentoring for school-aged children Monday through Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m., and science activities for families this summer. Additional programming will be added in the fall.

“The education portal is a one-stop shop for North Allston/North Brighton residents to make it easier for neighborhood residents to access Harvard,” said Maile Takahashi, senior community planner with the Allston Development Group, the University organization overseeing the portal’s development. “There, our neighbors will be able to directly tap Harvard’s core mission of teaching and learning.”

The education portal is benefiting enormously from Robert Lue, professor in molecular and cellular biology and director of Life Sciences Education, who is an advocate for bridging the gap between cutting-edge science and undergraduate and high school science curricula. Lue selected six Harvard undergraduates talented in science and math as education portal mentors under his supervision and has led this first phase of programming and curriculum development.

These summer mentors have tutored previously through Harvard-affiliated programs such as ExperiMentors, a service organization that links Harvard students with local schoolchildren to enrich science education. The mentors are also developing science enrichment activities tailored for individual school-aged children based on their needs and interests.

“The education portal is a way for Allston and Harvard to move forward together as we jointly explore better ways to teach and learn,” said Lue.

For education portal mentor Jennifer DeCoste, a former director of ExperiMentors, her Allston tutoring post allows her to continue to work on a mission to which she’s deeply committed: teaching people that science can be both exciting and accessible.

“One important thing I believe the education portal can offer the Allston-Brighton community is the resources to develop a way of understanding science that can enrich their understanding of things we encounter on a daily basis in the world,” said DeCoste.

“The fact that science can be fundamental to understanding everyday things is something I always try to emphasize when teaching science to young children and older students alike,” she added.

Summer mentors will provide science enrichment activities and science help for interested students, and when the school year begins, tutoring at the education portal will extend school-time learning.

“Through the education portal we can respond to experiences students have in the classroom and add to them and enrich them,” said Lue.

The range of programming will grow as Harvard learns more about the neighborhood’s interests. Beginning this fall, Harvard anticipates adding public exhibits, lectures, mentoring in writing, study skills enhancement, and workforce development programs. In the meantime, in addition to summer mentoring, education portal mentors will coordinate science events, such as the upcoming (July 26) family science adventure, offering hands-on science activities.

While still in its pilot phase, the education portal already has regular visitors. Allston residents Margaret Kelly and her children have visited the education portal periodically as it has gotten under way and plan to continue their visits this summer and into the fall. Kelly recently learned more about human genetics at the discussion following the viewing of the movie “Gattaca,” and her two children will soon be involved in the science mentoring program.

“At school it’s with the teachers, but at the education portal it’s something different. I don’t know where else you would get this kind of one-on-one attention in our community,” said Kelly, who hopes to tap more mentoring for herself this fall.

The education portal is part of a $25 million investment in community programs and initiatives identified in collaboration with the Allston community and city of Boston during the public review process for the Harvard Allston Science Complex and planning for the future campus. The four-building complex is currently under construction on Western Avenue in Allston.