Transforming STEAM Education and Social-Justice Learning
STEM to the Future (STTF) realizes the untapped power of Black and brown elementary and middle school youth, and redefines what education looks like, by creating STEAM programs grounded in social justice. We put education in youth's hands, so they can build the futures they want and deserve. Through our in-school and afterschool program, Planting the Seed, we will expose over 2,500 youth to various STEAM pathways as they conduct community-centered projects they are passionate about such as using data analysis to create sustainable lunchrooms.
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?
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?
Persistent systemic issues have caused Black and brown students to have difficulty envisioning themselves as successful in traditional STEM subjects and in careers that lead to higher earning power and better quality of life. Students in high-poverty areas are less likely than peers to participate in hands-on science activities, and their teachers are less likely to have the materials needed to implement engaging science lessons. This disparity means Black and brown youth depend on outside programs to provide STEAM learning experiences. The complex reasons go significantly unaddressed by current education and nonprofit programming. The most pressing needs of social justice reform around equity and access along with the grand challenges of our time such as having clean water, controlling carbon emissions, and creating new patient-informed, culturally-mindful medicine and medical solutions all require STEAM-based solutions and all disproportionately affect Black and brown communities.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Our social justice and STEAM-based learning experiences set us apart. Our program, Planting the Seed (PTS), equips Black and brown elementary and middle school-age students with the insight to solve issues of equity within their communities. With support from LA2050, we will strengthen this program to continue to address issues of Black and brown student achievement in STEAM. PTS provides schools and youth-serving organizations with our innovative curriculum, exposing students to education pathways that can be used to uplift themselves and their communities. Students complete community-based projects such as using data analysis to create a more sustainable lunchroom or using coding to develop literacy games for kindergarten and first graders. Additionally, youth host family engagement nights where they lead workshops that expose their school community to culturally relevant STEAM. For example, students use VR to create a simulation of a social justice issue that they are passionate about. They design the simulation to educate their families and to inspire them to take action. Students learn how to take what they are learning and use it to uplift their school community. We currently serve 1,500 youth weekly through PTS. As a product of our programming, youth see an increase in their sense of belonging, agency, and identity. With support from LA2050, we will impact over 2,500 Black and brown youth and families who attend schools within LAUSD's Black Student Achievement Plan.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
When our work is successful, Black and brown youth in Los Angeles will create the pathways to liberating their communities in South, Central, and East LA. Not only will thousands more students gain confidence and think imaginatively when it comes to STEAM education in the short term, but we envision more educators holding spaces where students dream up the world they want and deserve. Youth will have discovered the strength of their community and that they have the power and ability to create the world they want and deserve. In the long term, we envision a Los Angeles County where young people take an active role in this community development. Our youth must have the confidence and access to resources to not only recognize but also to address their communities' needs. We can solve the myriad issues facing LA County and ensure youth reach their fullest potential by placing Black and brown students' voices in the center of age-appropriate problem-solving and community change.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Currently, we track the success of our project both quantitatively and qualitatively. We use this data collected from the program teachers, students, and families throughout the program to measure students' attitudes and dispositions. We are most curious about if this program is strengthening students' creativity, agency, their ability to use STEAM skills to address social justice issues and if they feel inspired and motivated to continue learning about and solving the unmet needs in their communities. Pre and post program surveys allow us to measure the growth that takes place during a student or educator's time in one of our programs with nearly 80% of our student respondents reporting feeling confident in using STEAM to build power and 91% seeing themselves in STEAM. Additionally, of the educators, 90% leave our trainings feeling excited to teach their students our curriculum and 92% feel confident they can help their students make connections to our curriculum.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 2,512
Indirect Impact: 33,175
Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.
Though we are not submitting a collaborative proposal, we wanted to highlight our partnership with the Black Student Achievement Plan. BSAP will provide supplemental support for black students, providing secondary counselors and administering Student Success Plans, coordinating resources to support and address the need for culturally responsive curriculum and instruction. For our Planting the Seed program, BSAP will provide auxiliary support to the Black students and parents in our program as well as share their established metrics and goals for success across Los Angeles County. This additional support will exponentially increase the success rate of our Black students.