Andrea Henricks ’13 (left), a mentor at the Harvard Allston Education Portal, and 10-year-old Nora Lyons made lava lamps, which they presented at a Student Showcase and Open House. The Harvard mentoring program pairs Allston-Brighton children in grades one to 12 with Harvard undergraduates in weekly sessions throughout the semester.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Young minds well matched

4 min read

Harvard mentors help Allston-Brighton youth develop Ed Portal projects

For 8-year-old John Paul Franks, the visit was all about understanding computers and dissecting their parts like a surgeon would.  Fifth-graders Emma Schneider and Nora Lyons made their very own lava lamp with oil, colored water, and Alka-Seltzer, observing the separation of liquids to understand density.

The three were among more than 100 Allston-Brighton children who had a place to bring their interests and curiosities this semester — the Harvard Allston Education Portal.  And it was their projects that were on display Dec. 11 during the eighth installment of the Ed Portal’s Student Showcase and Open House.

The Ed Portal was bursting at the seams with families from the Allston-Brighton community, Harvard students, University administrators, and faculty.

“We have amazing children coming to the program,” said Professor Robert Lue, faculty director of the Harvard Allston Education Portal.  “The wide variety of projects speaks to the breadth of enrichment opportunities we like to provide at the Ed Portal.”

From a math game called the Mathanator to a project comparing the cleaning power of vinegar and salt to taco sauce, a laser fountain, a fortune-telling computer program, football statistics, and a story about one boy’s private Pokeman world, the Ed Portal was alive with a variety of ideas and learning.

The Harvard mentoring program pairs Allston-Brighton children, grades one through 12, with Harvard undergraduates for weekly mentoring throughout the semester.  Twenty-four Harvard students work with the children to find projects and activities that fit their interests and expand their understanding of science, math, and writing.

For Harvard junior Andrea Henricks, who mentors Emma and Nora during science club, it was time well spent.

“I can see I’m really making a difference.  They get really excited, plus it’s a nice break for me, too,” said Henricks, a student of molecular and cellular biology and a great match for two young girls interested in science.

“The fact that you have this structure, where kids meet college students who care about kids … it’s the kind of seed you plant that lasts a lifetime,” said Greg Lyons, Nora’s father.