2023 Grants Challenge

Griffith Observatory Fifth-Grade School Programs

The Griffith Observatory Fifth-Grade School Programs, including the In-person School Program and the Online School Program, annually provide tens of thousands of local students with a free STEAM experience using the Observatory's exhibits, planetarium shows, Zeiss telescope, and more. Most students are from Title I schools and underserved populations. Because the programs' content is based on California state science standards, it gives teachers a supplemental resource and helps kids better understand what they're learning in the classroom.


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 Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

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?

In 2022, only 30% of fifth graders in Los Angeles County met or exceeded the state standards for science learning, and this number was even lower for economically disadvantaged students who were African American (13%) and Hispanic (18%). These low proficiency levels are in part due to insufficient STEAM educational resources in K-12 schools, especially Title I schools. Unfortunately, this lack of resources leads to more than just low test scores: it also largely contributes to the underrepresentation of minority groups--particularly Hispanics and African Americans--in STEAM careers. As long as these underserved populations continue to be deprived of educational opportunities early in life, test scores will remain low, and students will keep believing that STEAM subjects and careers are out of their reach.

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

The free Griffith Observatory Fifth-Grade School Programs, funded by Griffith Observatory Foundation, provide tens of thousands of local students annually with a fun, informal STEAM experience that supplements what they're learning in the classroom and shows them that everyone can understand STEAM subjects. Over the years, these programs have sparked curiosity in countless students and influenced the trajectory of many toward careers in STEAM. The long-running In-person School Program welcomes 28,000 students onsite annually for a journey through Griffith Observatory, including activities and discussions in the exhibit galleries, a viewing of the new Samuel Oschin Planetarium show "Signs of Life," and a look through the rooftop Zeiss telescope. The Online School Program, created in 2020, consists of five interactive, 40-minute modules, all facilitated live via Zoom by expert Observatory guides. The modules include a look through the Zeiss telescope, a live demonstration of how to make a "comet," portions of the planetarium show "Water Is Life" converted to a 2-D virtual experience, an interactive lesson on exoplanets, and a tour through the Observatory's galleries. The content for both School Programs is based on California state science standards for fifth grade and has been designed to inspire students to be observers, to encourage them to appreciate their place in and relationship to the universe, and to expose them to the latest astronomical science and technology.

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

If our work is successful, all Los Angeles County fifth graders will have access to the School Programs. Our vision is that these exciting and interactive programs will inspire students to take a deeper interest in space-science topics and will lead them to be more engaged in the classroom and have a more solid understanding of STEAM material. Research has shown that mere interest in STEAM topics plays an important role in students' desire to continue studying STEAM subjects later in life, and that even informal learning environments increase students' interest in STEAM subjects. Therefore, we envision an increase in students pursuing STEAM degrees and careers later in life. And because most participants are from underserved populations who typically have less access to STEAM education and who are underrepresented in STEAM career fields, we hope this experience ultimately leads to a more thriving and diverse STEAM workforce in Los Angeles in the future.

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

We measure the impact of the School Programs by asking all participating teachers to complete a survey afterward. In general, we've received excellent feedback about the programs. For example, according to Online School Program survey results, 84% of teachers reported that their students were definitely more interested in astronomy after the program, 95% reported that they are definitely interested in attending the program with future classes, and 92% said that their students were definitely interested in visiting Griffith Observatory in person. We also gather demographic information to confirm we're successfully reaching youth from families of meager or modest means. Last year, 75% of students attending the School Programs (75%) were from Title I schools, which typically have limited access to STEAM educational resources. In addition, 65% of students were Hispanic, 11% white, 9% Asian, and 3% African American.

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

Direct Impact: 140,000

Indirect Impact: 435,000