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

Heal the Bay Aquarium: Promoting Equity, Marine Science Education, and Workforce Development

Idea by Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay will leverage its high-impact marine science programming for youth through a partnership with LA Conservation Corps (LACC), a non-profit providing individuals with job skills training with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community. LACC members trained by the Heal the Bay Aquarium, the organization's marine science education facility, will educate hundreds of Los Angeles County-based students (K-12) at local schools to further promote success in STEAM.


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?

According to the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley and SRI International, 40% of elementary school teachers surveyed in their study responded that their students received 60 minutes or less of science instruction per week. This reality impacts low-income communities of color, formal school settings and is exasperated by a lack of access to informal learning institutions. To help address this trend, Heal the Aquarium seeks to educate hundreds of Los Angeles County-based students (K-12) in the marine sciences in partnership with LA Conservation Corps. While the facility hosts thousands of students annually through its year-round field trip program, the Aquarium is focused on removing barriers for participation by meeting youth "where they are" (school sites) to better advance science proficiency and inspire further interest in STEAM.

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

During the grant period, Heal the Bay Aquarium will train a minimum of 10 new LA Conservation Corps members in aquarium science, experiential education, and environmental conservation. Qualified trainees will be tasked with delivering grade-appropriate marine science curriculum that supports Next Generation Science Standards for a minimum of 1,500 K-12 students attending Title 1 schools during outreach events. Using a mobile aquarium touch tank as a portable classroom, outreach events will run for a duration of 1.5 to 2 hours onsite at a designated school. Groups of 10-15 students will receive hands-on learning at a time allowing them to connect with ocean animals and engage in lessons about ocean habitats, animal adaptations, food webs, watersheds, and conservation. Groups will rotate every 15-30 minutes, resulting in a total average of 60-100 students per outreach event.

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

Heal the Bay Aquarium's program fosters equity and promotes success in K-12 STEAM among underserved students in Los Angeles County. The program's outreach model removes barriers to accessing high-impact marine science education for youth and young adults though its partnership with LA Conservation Corps. Students participate in memorable hands-on activities not available in the classroom setting by bringing Heal the Bay Aquarium to them. As they explore the mobile aquarium touch tank, they develop a better understanding of marine life and respect for nature - the foundation of environmental stewardship. The vision for the program is to dispatch a full team to provide outreach experiences on a regular basis, reaching more schools and students, and increasing student connection through repeat experiences. The Aquarium intends to provide additional science curriculum support and training for classroom teachers to maximize engagement during school-based outreach events.

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

Heal the Bay Aquarium measures success at the individual and community level. During the pilot period, staff trained two LACC members through onsite workforce training, with a focus on animal welfare, ocean pedagogy, and curriculum delivery. The training required LACC members to participate in sessions twice a week. LACC members engaged hundreds of LA County-based students at 10 LA County-based elementary schools with the assistance of the mobile aquarium touch tank. In September 2022, core members also visited schools within the Mission Science Program in collaboration with USC. During its extended phase, the program proved even more successful with the onboarding of four additional LACC members who provided 20 outreach programs to 17 schools, resulting in approximately 600 students receiving STEAM curriculum programming. The workforce development component of the program has been so successful, some LACC members are seeking long-term positions at the Heal the Bay Aquarium.

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

Direct Impact: 10

Indirect Impact: 1,500

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

Not applicable