The exploration never stops

Summer Explorations program participants travel to the Harvard Ed Portal to pick up their program supply boxes

Online Ed Portal programs allow kids to learn and explore even during a pandemic

By Annie Yuan
Harvard Summer Youth Employment Program participant, and rising Boston Public Schools 12th grader

In the middle of summer vacation local students excitedly hopped onto Zoom ready to explore topics from biodiversity, to the seasons through art, to theatre and acting. The Harvard Ed Portal’s Summer Explorations program for grades 1-8 took place virtually this year. Even at home, kids from all over Allston and Brighton were still curious and excited to explore the world around them. "I have a question ... What are we learning today?" said Josiah, an enthusiastic first grader who participated in "Shapes and Patterns in our World." This year the Ed Portal provided each student a box of supplies to participate in hands-on activities at home. Students got the chance to cut out circles to observe different shapes as well as make paper monsters for theater acting.

Summer Explorations program participants travel to the Harvard Ed Portal to pick up their program supply boxes.The third to fifth graders jumped right into their summer journeys by learning about different heroes and their feats. They first read about heroes in fiction stories and later read about real life heroes around them. From Portuguese firefighters volunteering in their community, to Wilma Rudolph fighting Polio, these kids learned about heroes without capes. When asked to brainstorm everyday heroes, Ellie, a third grader, said, "My parents, because they are super awesome!" Many of the kids said they aspired to be great heroes when they grow up just like the ones they learned about.

A few grades above them, the sixth to eighth grade students questioned how their eyes work and played with optical illusions. The group fostered discussion and learned more about the biological aspects of the human eye. Comparing the workings of the eye to a camera, they developed an understanding on how vision worked. With their supply kits they were able to make intricate cardboard diagrams of the eye.

Many of the Summer Explorations programs allowed students to explore being aware of themselves and their surroundings. "Shapes and Patterns in our World" focused on symmetry in shapes in everyday life. They learned through catchy rhyming songs about symmetry and drew and cut all kinds of shapes. In the "American Repertory Theater's Creative Drama: Ocean Adventures!" younger kids used their imaginations and experimented with changing their expressions and moods when acting.

Summer Explorations gave kids the opportunity to do fun and interesting things after a challenging 18 months. It created an inclusive environment where kids asked questions and were curious. The programs expanded the student's minds and imagination beyond just their home and, instead, ventured into various topics through crafty, insightful, and fun activities.