learn / 2021
Opening New Doors to Nature and Culture
Every day, the Natural History Museum connects eager learners to one of the most significant natural history collections in the world, sparking meaningful, lifelong relationships with science, nature, and culture. Our free field trips, Adventures in Nature camps, and other hands-on programs--both in person and virtually--resonate deeply because they engage youth directly in the work of real scientists. Access to programs like these plays a huge role in igniting student curiosity about science and the pursuit of future careers in STEM fields.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
- LAUSD (select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)
What is the problem that you are seeking to address?
Today, in LA County, half of all students will graduate without having reached proficiency in STEM subjects. While numerous studies suggest exposure to informal STEM learning at an early age is essential for developing a positive view of science, all too frequently extracurricular opportunities in the sciences are rare in low income communities. As a result, people of color continue to be vastly underrepresented in the sciences, both within higher education and the workforce. NHM’s goal is to close that gap. Here’s how an NHM Ocean Experience Mobile Museum residency at a high school in Boyle Heights changed the lives of the teens who participated. Students were so inspired by what they experienced, and shared their phenomenal drive to learn more, that NHM subsequently created a paid Marine Science Teen Internship program especially for them. Fast forward a year and alumni of the program are now attending the University of Hawaii, UC Berkeley, among many others, as Science majors.
Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.
NHM education programs invite students to engage in the work of real scientists. Being able to touch and observe real fossils and historical artifacts has proven to be a powerful learning catalyst, especially for students not actively engaged by traditional classroom settings. Interacting directly with the authentic research being done by museum scientists, and seeing themselves reflected in the diverse faces of those same scientists, can be transformative. In response to the pandemic, NHM is offering a full suite of virtual learning resources to students learning from home and their teachers. Videos cover everything from LA history to mammalogy and mineral science. Large-scale webinars bring objects from “behind the scenes” for students to exclusively access. Museum Educators work one-on-one virtually with individual classrooms focused on developing critical thinking and science literacy. And “Adventures in Nature” day camps provide students in pre-K through 8th grade an opportunity to spark their curiosity and creativity. In this current moment, when the timeline for in-person field trips remains unclear, our challenge (and opportunity) is to deliver our immersive programs wherever our audiences are. We want to continue to expand our reach to students in the “virtual classroom” while also welcoming students and teachers back onsite once it is safe to do so. The only barriers are a budget stretched thin by the pandemic and Museum Educator staff already at capacity.
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
NHM seeks to ensure that all young Angelenos have equitable access to science and cultural learning opportunities. In this critical moment in our region’s (and our country’s) history, and despite tremendous fiscal challenges, NHM is fulfilling a unique and important role in the educational landscape. Our Museum Educators introduce youth to the awe-inspiring wonder of the natural world. Falling in love with nature is often the first step toward a greater understanding of science, opening doors to what we hope is a life-long journey of exploration and discovery. With a grant to hire two additional Museum Educators, NHM will be able to continue to expand access to new audiences and forge connections to the natural world in students of every ethnicity, age, ability, and income level. NHM would be grateful to partner with LA 2050 and the entire Los Angeles community to ignite the next generation of scientists, nature enthusiasts, and innovators.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
NHM uses a number of assessment tools to determine learning outcomes and program effectiveness. Specifically, we track metrics related to the following four broad categories: 1) use and reach; 2) implementation and student participation; 3) outcomes and understanding achieved; and 4) quality of engagement. Outcomes vary from program to program, but these results are typical: students are more actively engaged in their learning, asking questions, raising their hand, and getting involved. Having direct contact with Museum Educators, Collections Managers, and Curators affords students a first-hand look at the fields of science, history, and museum management, awakening minds to new career paths. When students are able to engage with rare artifacts and primary resource materials their sense of awe really makes the learning “stick.” The fact that this “sticky” content delivery is seamlessly integrated with Next Generation Science Standards leads to improvement in academic achievement.
Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.
The museum partners with numerous school districts, community partners, non-profit organizations, and educators at over 1,200 schools across Los Angeles to meet the needs of our learning communities. With the onset of the pandemic, NHM has deepened its collaboration with LAUSD in particular, which distributes the new distance learning resources facilitated by our Museum Educators. These resources are catering to students and teachers across the other 79 school districts as well and to families learning from home across Los Angeles County. This year, NHMLAC also piloted the Teacher Advisory Council, made up of nine teachers who represent schools and districts all over Los Angeles County, to assist in curriculum development and provide direct access and perspectives regarding student needs.
Which of the learn metrics will you impact?
- Enrollment in afterschool programs
- High school graduation rates
- Proficiency in STEM
Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.
- LA is the best place to PLAY