2023 Grants Challenge

Cultivating Curiosity in Classrooms and Beyond

An LA2050 grant would enable UCLA's Center X to pilot Design Based Learning (DBL) in UCLA Partner Schools. DBL is a multi-disciplinary methodology in which students design cities of the future, addressing issues such as resource-sharing, green space, political structures, and transit, as they work in groups to model innovative public spaces using classroom art supplies and math/science tools. DBL-trained teachers can use this approach to engage students in any subject matter, cultivating curiosity and a culture of cooperation among 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?

South LA

West 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?

For decades, achievement levels for L.A. County students have been markedly below the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It is well-established that "lesser-than" educational opportunities correlate with lower earnings, poorer physical and mental health, and the hobbling of neighborhoods in cycles that can repeat for generations. On an immediate level, this largely affects neighborhoods of majority lower-income BIPOC residents (Black, indigenous, and people of color) and immigrants; over time, it degrades the entire region. Un-equal quality of education has been the case in too many L.A. County schools and communities for too long. In light of California's new focus on civics and arts education and learning loss brought on by the pandemic, the present moment is opportune to empower teachers with enhanced training, support, and new approaches - such as DBL - to provide a better education and brighter futures for their students.

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

In this partnership with UCLA Partner Schools and the UCLA Community Schooling Center, 90 teachers will receive 40 hours of professional development in Design-Based Learning, an interdisciplinary methodology promoting 21st century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration while teaching required content standards. Ten hours will be devoted to community outreach programs including a Community STEAM Night event. A series of interactive professional development sessions will take place once per month from Oct 2023 - Oct 2024, presented by UCLA instructors. Sessions will introduce teachers to instructional strategies that engage diverse learners in higher- level thinking through hands-on design challenges including the design and building of a City of the Future. Additional sessions will be offered focused on curriculum and lesson planning with support from UCLA Instructors. Sessions will focus on introducing best practices and example projects from UCLA DBL Teacher Leaders. The culmination of the project will be a Community STEAM Night event to feature designs created by students and a celebration of the Cities of the Future they have imagined, developed, and governed for the school year. Invitees will include LA2050 funders, community members, and K-12 LA education leaders. Long-term goals are to build an archive of projects and increased leadership capacity of UCLA Partner School teachers to share DBL with new colleagues and at UCLA.

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

We believe that wide adoption of DBL could be a sea change in the education of L.A. County public-school students. In an immediate sense, the county would benefit by having approximately 2,700 students with greater understanding of their city and county, through the exercise of designing a "City of the Future" iteratively, in multiple subject environments. Through creative envisioning of a City of the Future (how resources might be shared, transportation) and through the practice of cooperation and inclusion that are built in to DBL, students will be better equipped to be positive citizens of the county. Success of DBL in UCLA Partner Schools would benefit students at other schools by encouraging school leaders to train their teachers in DBL. In the meantime, Center X is seeking funding to open as many as six new community school campuses. The research collected from schools would benefit DBL at those sites, and teachers trained in DBL could provide training at the new campuses.

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

This project represents a new phase of an existing initiative to test DBL and introduce it widely. Since 2018, teachers at the San Gabriel Unified School District, under the guidance of Center X, have been employing DBL in K-12 classrooms. Qualitative feedback gathered in monthly sessions has been highly positive, with teachers reporting fewer classroom disturbances and improved engagement among students. The UCLA "Cultivating Curiosity" project will be our first introduction of DBL at UCLA Partner Schools and our first in South L.A. Because Mann UCLA Community School already has a research apparatus connected to the UCLA School of Education's Center for Community Schooling, we will be able to measure success both quantitatively and qualitatively in terms of student engagement, testing achievement, and teacher/school leader satisfaction. Given the participatory nature of community schools, research will include input from the community, including how success will be measured.

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

Direct Impact: 90

Indirect Impact: 2,700

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

This is a project of Center X and UCLA Partner Schools in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Community Schooling. Center X will provide professional development/training for teachers including monthly guidance sessions. We will also hold a Family/Community STEAM Night event and will work with the Center for Community Schooling to collect data. UCLA Partner Schools will support teachers in their use of DBL and will open a dialogue with the community about the program. The Center for Community Schooling will conduct research and share findings as described in question #10.