2022 Grants Challenge

Catalyst Innovation Edusystem

The Catalyst Innovation Edusystem is an innovative learning system that challenges teachers in Los Angeles to bring a critical equity lens to their work to address historical and systemic oppression affecting underserved students. It provides teachers, with resources to bring to their students, dynamic learning experiences that build opportunities for success in STEM fields. Students build real-world skills, entrepreneurial mindsets, industry connections, and document their intelligence that is not measured by traditional education metrics.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

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

County of Los Angeles

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

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The current education system measures outdated symbols of intelligence and capabilities. This 200-year-old system sees successful students as those that can follow orders and instructions and are not those with innovative mindsets. In contrast, the current world of work needs innovative thinkers that are capable of traversing the ever rapidly changing demands of an unknown future. STEM fields are struggling to employ young people that are equipped with the skills to adopt new technologies, access opportunities for human growth and to meet future challenges with passion. Young people who are identified with learning disabilities or are marginalized by society due to their race, social economic status or systemic oppression are identified as incapable of sustaining the intelligence required of STEM fields. Rather than seen for their strengths, they are pushed aside, made invisible blocked from accessing the opportunities of STEM fields.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The Catalyst Innovation Edusystem is a system for learning that empowers young people to develop agency and dynamic skills to access the ever-increasing opportunities in STEM fields. It consists of 3 components - a) Monthly working cohort workshops for educators to bring authentic, real-world, hands-on, innovator mindset skills into their classrooms. b) a database of pre-vetted local and virtual community mentors and companies who hire for STEM jobs. c) a mobile technology innovation lab equipped with the latest in tools and equipment. The Catalyst Deeper Learning Cohort is a professional development monthly workshop for teachers to develop Project Based Learning and Student-Centered Learning strategies in their classrooms. Teachers will develop standards-connected learning opportunities, bring data from their classroom, collaboratively provide feedback to each other, and document their progress. Projects will require students to have real-world expert mentorship and to have their learning impact their community for maximum engagement. The Catalyst Community Co-Learning Database will consist of pre-vetted industry experts who will work with the students and offer mentorship and internships- in-person and virtually. The Catalyst Innovation Lab is a mobile maker space with the latest in rapid prototyping, robotics, electronics, textiles, and other tools for students to bring their creativity alive as evidence of their STEM skills for post-high school endeavors.

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

Los Angeles continues to attract companies in a variety of STEM fields. These innovative technologies and research companies need young people who are capable of learning independently, able to challenge themselves to solve problems and have the analytical skills of coding, research, and invention. The Catalyst Innovation Edusystem will connect these innovative companies with students and teachers to produce community impact products and services. It seeks to light fires under teachers to provide more meaningful, real-world, deeper learning experiences for their students and for students to demand more of their own education. It will attract visitors from other national and international schools to visit LA schools and put LA on the map as a hub of innovative education. As the workforce for STEM jobs increase in LA, it will further attract more STEM industry companies.

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

The Exploratory has implemented portions of the Catalyst Innovation Edusystem for over 10 years. Its maker space in Culver City demonstrated high levels of engagement and learning retention with young people. It learned that the lack of public transportation limited the public's access to its programming so it brought its STEM programming into schools throughout LA. We learned that 1 hr per week was not enough for students to develop lifelong passions for learning and the grit, STEM subjects ask of students. The Exploratory then started training educators to integrate programming into their subject and saw an increase in efficacy. However, without real-world community and technology tools, the learning was limited and the demands of STEM fields continued to rise rapidly. It has since piloted the Catalyst Innovation Edusystem in HTH Explorer in San Diego and Santa Monica High School PBL Pathway. Teachers have reported increased writing and speaking skills, engagement, and confidence.

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

Direct Impact: 600

Indirect Impact: 12,000