2021 Grants Challenge

Griffith Observatory Online School Program

The Griffith Observatory Online School Program will take every single fifth grader in Los Angeles County on a stimulating, free, virtual visit to Griffith Observatory! The program’s five space-science modules, all presented live via Zoom, will show students that studying STEM subjects is fun and can be achieved by anyone, no matter what their background is.


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

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

In 2019, only 30% of fifth graders in Los Angeles County met or exceeded the state standards for science learning, and this number was even lower for economically disadvantaged students who were African American (12%) and Hispanic (18%)*. These low proficiency levels are in part due to insufficient STEM educational resources in K-12 schools, especially Title I schools. Unfortunately, this lack of resources leads to more than just low test scores: it also largely contributes to the underrepresentation of minority groups—particularly Hispanics and African Americans—in STEM careers. As long as these underserved populations continue to be deprived of educational opportunities early in life, test scores will remain low, and students will keep believing that STEM subjects and careers are out of their reach. *“Test Results at a Glance.” California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, California Department of Education, https://caaspp-elpac.cde.ca.gov/caaspp/

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

The Griffith Observatory Online School Program will provide free and fun informal STEM education to every single fifth grader in Los Angeles County each school year, starting this fall. This virtual adaptation of the Observatory’s Fifth-Grade School Field Trip Program will consist of five 40-minute modules and will be facilitated live by Museum Guides, Telescope Demonstrators, and Observatory Lecturers. These modules will include a look through the Zeiss telescope; a live demonstration of how to make a “comet,” with students following along at home; a conversion of our popular planetarium show, “Water Is Life,” to a 2-D virtual experience; an interactive lesson on exoplanets; and a tour through Griffith Observatory’s galleries and exhibits. All of the program’s content was specifically designed to meet the State of California’s Next Generation Science Standards and fifth-grade curriculum, and each module will be accompanied by a packet of teacher and student materials that will help reinforce this content in the classroom.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 100,000

Indirect Impact: 300,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The Online School Program will ensure that kids in LA County from all backgrounds, including those most underrepresented in STEM career fields, have access to STEM education at a young age. Our goal is to start leveling the playing field by making students aware of the possibilities of STEM and helping them see that everyone can study and enjoy it. Because the Los Angeles Unified School District contains so many students from underserved populations—73.4% of students are Latinx, and 10% are African American*—we are uniquely positioned to bring STEM education to the populations who are most underrepresented in STEM career fields and. Over time, we will help build a diverse and flourishing STEM workforce in Los Angeles. *“Los Angeles Unified School District.” Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium, https://laraec.net/los-angeles-unified-school-district/.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Once the program is up and running, we will send a follow-up survey to each participating teacher in order to gauge the program’s impact on students’ interest in STEM topics and engagement in the classroom. The Online School Program is based on the long-running School Field Trip program, so we expect it to have similar results. Our 2019 School Field Trip Program surveys revealed the following: ● 90% of respondents said the field trip was in the top 10% of field trips they have ever been on; 80% said their students were “a lot more engaged in the Observatory School Program than other field trips.” ● 82% said their students were more excited about science learning AFTER the Observatory field trip. ● 98% indicated that the program reinforced content or science skills previously emphasized in the classroom.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Proficiency in STEM