2022 Grants Challenge

Library STEAM learning for sustainable communities

Full STEAM Ahead at the Los Angeles Public Library promotes science, technology, engineering and math literacy as well as creativity through the arts. The core component of Full STEAM Ahead is Neighborhood Science, which encourages youth of all ages to explore their real-world surroundings to build science literacy, STEM skills and awareness about how global sustainability challenges impact their environment and health outcomes locally.


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?

Central LA

East LA

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

City 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?

Our world faces significant challenges today, including a rapidly warming climate, diminishing natural resources, and emerging contagions. According to NASA and NOAA, the last eight years were the hottest in global records since 1880. As the world warms, its impact is being felt locally—L.A. has the worst air quality in the U.S.—exacerbated by climate-related extreme heat and wildfires. And we are possibly in the worst drought the Southwest has seen in 1,200 years while going into year three of the COVID pandemic. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But, there are actions to take collectively and individually to improve outcomes long-term. The Los Angeles Public Library has a 150-year history of offering free and easy access to information and ideas. It has now made STEAM literacy a priority to increase public understanding of climate-related issues and sustainable practices to address the urgent ecological challenges and opportunities we face.

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

With your support, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) will expand its Full STEAM Ahead Neighborhood Science program. Next year, LAPL will put 200+ STEAM and environmental literacy activities within reach of 4,000+ children and teens across 45 neighborhood libraries citywide. LAPL will train librarians to deliver programs using educational kits on air and bio-diversity, water quality, and light pollution. The kits will meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and California Department of Education content standards, so they can also circulate to teachers to use in classrooms. LAPL programs and services are always free to the public. Full STEAM’s activities promote collective work and responsibility and cultivate STEAM literacies, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. For example, an “Ozone Garden” workshop using ozone-sensitive beans helps youth see the effects of air quality on plant life. LAPL’s geographic footprint covers the city’s 502 square miles—making libraries uniquely positioned to reach people throughout our city’s diverse communities. Neighborhood Science is the best way to raise awareness about global sustainability issues because it enables youth to see the impact of these challenges up close while gaining hands-on STEAM skills. We expect that children will not only build on what they learn in the future but also go on to raise awareness about sustainability challenges to prompt interest and action among their families and communities.

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

We expect that Neighborhood Science programs will bring thousands of ordinary Angelenos deeper into the scientific research and discovery process. People from all walks of life with no formal scientific training will have the foundational skills to generate and capture data to advance research and understanding of sustainability issues among science professionals and the public. Long-term, we hope youth ages 10 and older in L.A. can knowledgeably converse about sustainability issues affecting our city, nation, and planet. They will know how to describe the science behind environmental issues in their communities and the opportunities and solutions that can address those challenges. We see that knowledge translating into greater awareness and a sense of urgency for action on sustainability in all L.A. communities. We also see many youth building on what they learn to better prepare for careers across STEAM.

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

LAPL piloted Full STEAM Ahead in 2013. Since 2015, LAPL scaled the program to 73 sites and produced the annual DTLA Maker Faire, delivering thousands of STEAM activities to people of all ages each year. In 2018, we contracted an evaluator who gathered data from 91 librarians and 5,418 participants. Key takeaways were that LAPL’s training enabled librarians to present STEAM-related programs at their branches—90% of librarians reported it increased their confidence in offering STEAM programs and 86% gained the technical knowledge to produce STEAM activities. Librarians’ preparedness meant better learning experiences for youth. 91% of youth surveyed reported enjoying the experience of feeling like a STEM professional, 92% reported wanting to attend more STEAM library activities and 85% reported wanting to learn more technical STEM skills. As we expand the Neighborhood Science component, we will use what we learned and assess new strategies to measure impact on staff and youth.

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

Direct Impact: 100

Indirect Impact: 4,000