2023 Grants Challenge

LA Family Night at the Aquarium

We invite families from every district in the City of Los Angeles to enjoy a special (and FREE) night at Cabrillio Marine Aquarium. We show off our four life-sized blowup whales, tour the Aquarium, dance and enjoy food trucks. Later, we hatch grunion eggs and go out to the moonlit beach to watch the silvery fish hurl themselves onto the shore by the thousands. It's a fun way to deliver STEAM education to children and encourage parents (especially those from underserved areas) to explore one of LA's most beloved educational institutions.


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?

City 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 a 2017 study by the University of California, Berkeley, teachers said they spend less than an hour a week on STEM education. Less than half of principals say they believe their schools are adequately prepared to meet state science standards. Meanwhile, the public is inundated with depressing doomsday messages about climate change and the environment. When students come to the Aquarium on field trips, many tell us they've never been to the beach! Low-income parents face many obstacles when it comes to pursuing extracurricular activities that encourage STEM learning--language barriers, lack of transportation, and sometimes, a sense that they do not belong. Our goal is to eliminate those barriers by providing free transportation, a hot meal and an ocean-related toy or gift to bring home. We curate a natural phenomenon (a grunion run), which is a spectacle that visitors will never forget. It is simply not the same to read about this in a book.

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

In 2022, we created LA Family Night at the Aquarium, which we plan to repeat and expand in 2024. We offered every council district in the the City of LA free bus transportation, a hot meal and an action-packed evening of STEAM education that included our four life-sized blowup whales, tours of our award-winning lab and exhibit halls, grunion hatching and a walk out to the moonlit beach to witness thousands of grunion hurl themselves onto the sand to mate. We sent each child home with a free book or ocean-themed toy. Without a doubt, it was an evening these families will never forget. Over two years, we welcomed approximately 6,000 children and their parents.to the Aquarium. Our blowup whales add to the event, allowing visitors to experience the massive size of a gray, humpback and blue whales. At 100 feet long, the blue whale is the largest creature on the planet earth.

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

We believe if parents share informal educational experiences with their children, they are more likely to support their child's interest in STEAM learning. We want everyone to feel welcome at our Aquarium regardless of their ability to pay. We want to embolden them to visit all of the other museums and cultural institutions our area has to offer. In this way, we can support informal STEAM education to supplement the formal curriculum students get at school, and hopefully, encourage them to pursue further studies and careers in STEAM. You can see visitors' eyes light up when they enter our Aquatic Nursery, where we grow our own phyto- and zooplankton and host the white abalone, one of the most endangered species on the planet. We talk to them about the giant sea bass, which can grow as large as a Volkswagen Beetle and live for 70 years. Our long-term goal is to get other institutions to offer a similar night each year.

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

The first LA Family Night, we filled 17 buses from nine of the 15 LA Council districts, with a total of 3,000 participants. The LAUSD Office of Outdoor Education loved the event so much that the second year, they funded the transportation matched the numbers. Aside from attendance and participation how do you quantify success for a program like this? You cannot fully calculate the impact of giving a child a brand-new book or the benefits that derive from their parents reading it to them time and time again. You cannot quantify the memories of standing on a moonlit beach with thousands of fish wiggling at your feet. Imagine the wonder of hatching your own grunion babies or seeing a sea horse for the first time. Imagine how cool it feels to enjoy your first treat from a food truck. Even the bus ride is significant to many families, who seldom get the chance to leave their neighborhoods due to the lack the resources and transportation. Imagine seeing downtown LA for the first time!

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

Direct Impact: 5,000

Indirect Impact: 5,000