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learn / 2019

Rocketeer Club

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Housing Corporation of America

The Rocketeer Club is a free onsite after-school educational program for the residents of affordable housing complexes in LA County. The program offers high-quality experiences to transform young people’s engagement, interest, and understanding of STEM. The year-long program engages resident youth in two-hour hands-on STEM activities, twice per week. Through activities ranging from robotics to 3-D printing and rocketry, youth explore the world of STEM in an inquiry-based learning environment.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • The Columbia Memorial Space Center

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

At a small property in Van Nuys, there was a community room that was being frequented by six tweens afterschool. Initially we wanted to offer homework help followed by a photography program but the tweens at this property had a hard time following a structured curriculum. Like most 12 year olds, they usually wanted to purchase the occasional snow cone and plow through our art supplies-doodling and painting quickly with no commitment to a long term art piece. So we were not sure the Rocketeer Club would be a huge success at this site. At first these same six kids-three boys and three girls-showed interest. Especially the boys when we started to teach robotics with LEGOs. Still as time progressed we noticed the boys were more prone to speed through a project and leave to go skateboard outside. The girls however stayed behind. The three of them eagerly sat through two-hour science days three times a week. They ultimately became friends and they held each other accountable. If someone didn’t show up for class, then one would go knock on their door and remind them. They started to ask for even more chemistry experiments outside of the regular curriculum. The three girls formed a team, each taking on a different STEM persona- Genesis the doctor, Lotara the engineer, and Angel the biologist. In the end this trio were the only three to attend the field trip from their property. They stuck together on the bus, at lunch, and smoothly worked together in the Mission Control simulation at the Space Center. It would be endearing enough to say that this program created friends within an apartment community, but the true value of the Rocketeer Club was that it influenced the career possibilities for these girls. Together they empowered one another to role play what a life in a STEM profession would be. They imagined a world in which working with other females in a laboratory would be the norm. This program reminded them that together and with our facilitation they could create a safe supportive environment just a few feet from their front doors.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Proficiency in English and Language Arts and Math
  • Students’ immersion in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math content
  • Student education pipeline

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to learn?

A growing body of research is illustrating the positive impact that informal science education (ISE) opportunities, such as museums and science clubs, have on young people as well as the importance of ISE as a conduit of science knowledge to learners of all ages. Additionally, research in education has shown that relationships built in informal educational programs have a very powerful influence on young people’s envisioning of their future, in some ways more than the activities of formal schooling. The primary goal of our nonprofit is establishing solid, ongoing, and consistent connections between the adult facilitators and mentors and the children within each community, using STEM activities as an anchor to gather youth together. The programs located at key HCA sites will leverage the rich, learner-centered curriculum developed by the Columbia Memorial Space Center, as well as our expertise in delivering this programming in affordable housing communities. The mission is to create a continual presence in the community and the young people’s lives, providing different career paths in some of the fastest growing fields in the United States. Using science as a springboard, this project will make measurable progress towards making Los Angeles communities the best place to LEARN.

Our key goals aim to broaden the reach and scope of advanced, enriching courses which are not otherwise attainable to under-resourced people outside of their homes. Goal 1: To increase weekly class size in programs at our 25 sites with current ongoing programs. Goal 2: To increase the number of properties in our portfolio participating in the Rocketeer Club program in partnership with Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) from six in the 2017 program up to 10 for the following. Goal 3: To

establish evaluation systems which measure program effectiveness and impact of increased promotion across HCA’s portfolio.

Timeline of Program:

Jul.: Recruitment and hiring of instructors

Aug.: Training at Space Center and supply purchases/community room organization

Sept.: Open House events in each community room to sign up residents, promotion of club, and classroom set up by instructors. Early evaluation of student’s self-esteem and comfort with STEM.

Oct.-Dec.: Curriculum focuses on 3D printing, Rocketry, and Robotics.

Jan.-April: Curriculum focuses on Aerospace, Biology, and Career pathways. May: Field Trip to Space Center and final evaluations. Jun.-Jul: Evaluation reports and budget finalization. The population being served in with this program are A). Economically disadvantaged, B.) Historically disenfranchised, C.) Los Angeles County residents. An approximate demographic breakdown of residents served in this program previously: Men/Boys (%): 40% Women/Girls (%): 60% African American (%): 45% Asian American (%): 5% Hispanic (%): 45% Native American (%): 1% No Distinction (%): 4%

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

Our main metric of success for this program is participation rates of youth and their parents, informal evaluation of emotional and self-esteem growth within STEM as carried out by our AEA certified evaluator Kate Cavijo who previously evaluated our program under a Disney Foundation grant. In our pilot program we conducted “mid-season” surveys with follow up from the evaluation team at the end of the program which utilized surveys, in person interviews, and phone calls to the parents of participants. In synthesizing this information, we discovered that parental involvement was paramount in success rates as well as insight into the growth of self-esteem among participants. Are focus in the following program will be to interview community members including property managers, parents, and participants both at the beginning, middle, and end of the program through phone calls in person interviews and town hall events that will serve as focus groups.