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

Community Applying Systemic STEAM Education to Schools (C-ASSETS)

The Young Scientists Program (YSP) is an inquiry-based, hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) educational outreach program operated by the USC Joint Educational Project. The program aims to address a critical lack of science education in JEP partner schools by recruiting STEAM undergraduate and graduate students to serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) who bring scientific laboratory experiences directly to low-income students of color and their teachers.


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?

South LA

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?

Research has indicated that when elementary school students are exposed early to STEM education that this will positively impact their perception of the topic. However, there is currently a lack of STEM-based curricula for elementary school teachers and consequently, less access to quality STEM instruction for students around the country. Many elementary school teachers lack the pedagogical expertise in STEM concepts including scientific inquiry and technological design to translate them into tangible hands-on based lessons and therefore tend not to use STEM-heavy curricula with their students. As a result science instructional time is declining in elementary schools and students are less frequently given a spark for science and tend to have lower achievements in science. However, by introducing early grade elementary school students to a STEM-integrated curriculum based on interactive problem solving activities, interest in STEM career fields increases.

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

The YSP science curriculum functions as an effective supplement of current science instruction in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools. It incorporates Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as well as LAUSD and statewide grade-level science learning standards, with the ultimate goal of strengthening science literacy and promoting interest in scientific careers. YSP's primary objectives are to present accessible and engaging science lessons to the neighborhood children around the university, assist in alleviating the fear and stress that is often associated with studying science, and help students apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world and to their own lives. In addition to the myriad positive benefits of YSP for the neighborhood schools and students, YSP teaching assistants receive valuable opportunities and professional training to hone their mentorship skills and gain practical teaching experience, allowing them to be more informed about how to directly respond to the individual needs of the schools, communities and families.

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

The continuing goal of C-ASSETS is to cultivate and nurture students' interest in STEM in order to contribute to a K-12 pipeline of underrepresented & disadvantaged students who pursue STEM as a major in college and embark upon careers in STEM. Currently, the C-ASSETS staff is 70% female & 70% are people of color and would fall under the category of being considered an underrepresented minority (URM) in the STEAM fields. Five of the staff are scholars from the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which means that they are scholars who are from the local community teaching in their own elementary schools, exemplifying the ultimate goal of C-ASSETS.

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

In the average academic year, a total of 2500 2nd-5th grade students received 20 hours of science instruction through the YSP science curriculum, presented at a total of seven schools. The YSP program doubled the number of science lessons typically taught in these LAUSD schools. When students' subjective scientific knowledge was assessed through pre- and post-program science interest surveys, there was a 40% increase in what students believed they knew about science before and after receiving lessons from our STEAM program. Results from the Draw A Scientist Tests (DASTs) showed increases in the number of students who drew themselves as scientists, URMs & women on their post-program DAST, in comparison to pre-program DAST tallies. In addition to the impact YSP has had on the participating elementary school students, nearly 85 teachers received assistance and training in science instruction through professional development workshops and access to YSP curriculum materials.

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

Direct Impact: 2,604

Indirect Impact: 3,000