LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Bright Futures- STEAM Education

The Museum of Neon Art's three-part school engagement program serves high school and middle school students in Los Angeles County. In 2020, the program started via Zoom. In 2022, the program was piloted in person. The program includes a specialized neon professional development for the partnering classroom teachers, a pre-visit classroom workshop for their students, and an in-depth field trip to the museum. In the pilot, teachers reported renewed interest in teaching as well as positive behavioral and learning outcomes in students.


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?

Even before the pandemic, there were large STEAM achievement gaps especially for BIPOC, low-income and female individuals.Visitros commonly remark, "I wish I visited this museum when I was learning science. I would have paid more attention." STEM can be intimidating, but our galleries bring the secrets of the cosmos to visitors' finger-tips through plasma-based artworks. Neon can excite, engage, and educate in a way that connects with a range of learners. In 2020, the museum hired a seasoned museum educator as Executive Director with the aim of expanding the reach of the museum to all ages and backgrounds. K-12 students report feeling empowered when they learn our museum was co-founded by a high school student. Our program has been shown to improve student retention and engagement with STEAM education across their coursework. We have a diverse team that demonstrates to students STEAM and the museum is for everyone.

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

MONA will continue its three-part school engagement program that serves high school and middle school students from schools in Los Angeles County. The program includes a specialized neon professional development for the partnering classroom teachers, a pre-visit classroom workshop for their students, and an in-depth field trip to the museum. Studies show that programs are more effective if students have multiple points of contact with museums. In the pilot of this program at MONA, we witnessed substantial changes in students. Feedback from teachers mentioned the transformative power of the program in their students' lives, noting how this training and collaboration reinvigorated teacher learning. Due to neon's presence outside of museum spaces, this experience infuses student learning outside the museum. The program consists of a teacher pre-visit professional development where approximately 12 teachers and administrators get a tour of the museum and take a neon bending workshop. They receive reading materials, lesson guides, and create a neon artwork to hang in their classroom. Following this, MONA staff visit the teachers' classrooms to facilitate an art making activity, introduce MONA, and provide hands-on demonstrations to frame their future visit to the museum. On field trip day, classes bussed to MONA are split into 3 small groups to cycle through: interactive tour of the museum's collection, hands-on art making activity, and demonstration of neon bending.

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

During the pilot, we witnessed an increase in student retention, strengthened relationships between teachers, and students reported deepened interest in their communities, science, art, and museums. Students deepened their interest in STEM and improved their observational skills. Single museum visits improve critical thinking skills (Kisida 2016). Other measurable increases include historical empathy, tolerance, and interest in art museums for students from high-poverty schools. A multi-visit program builds student and teacher relationships to the museum (Witmer 2000). Students in multi-visit programs had more positive attitudes toward art and art museums and demonstrated a greater ability to respond to and discuss works of art than comparison students who did not participate in the program. In addition, multi-part museum education programs consistently improve behavioral outcomes, and at-risk students receive the largest benefits from such programming (Lacoe 2020).

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

At the end of the 3-part program, students and teachers learn that all neon is handmade, and that they can discover historic and artistic treasures in their neighborhoods. Students will articulate what they see through guided tours, how to interpret an artwork, and how to speak about their artistic intentions. Students practice two art-making methods, sculpture and drawing. Students are made aware of job opportunities in the museum space and cultural sector. The program will be evaluated by qualitative and quantitative data: counting the number of individuals served, noting their demographic information, administering formal and informal surveys, determining how much information was retained by the teachers and students, and documenting the students' art-making projects. The museum will track how many students from the program return to visit the museum, and encourage family visits to the museum through free days and school partnerships to encourage cross-generational learning.

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

Direct Impact: 1,000

Indirect Impact: 10,000