TreePeople among L.A. area organizations offering free STEM education courses to youth

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Task Force on Out-of-School Enrichment Time this month announced a city-wide partnership, with the support of the Broad Foundation, bringing together 26 of Los Angeles’s STEM organizations to offer free STEM courses for LAUSD students.

TreePeople is joining organizations that range from major museums to universities to work together with classroom teachers to coordinate lessons on topics such as oceans, space exploration, paleontology, robotics, and environmental sustainability — just to name a few. The courses are making use of the incredible resources each partner offers, including specialists who are meeting students in their virtual classrooms to offer thematic core instructional activities and enrichment experiences.

“As a leader in environmental education, TreePeople is proud to join this incredible coalition so that we can ensure our students thrive in these all-important STEM topics,” said Cindy Montañez, TreePeople CEO. “A strong STEM curriculum is essential in a 21st century education, and a strong grasp of environmental issues should be key to our students’ understanding of the world around them.

The program was offered to 5th grade classes in Local District Central and includes multi-week lessons with live instruction through the rest of the calendar year. Additionally, afternoon enrichment courses are being offered to students K-8 through the Fall semester.

“Every child deserves the chance to explore the fields of tomorrow, regardless of means, background, or zip code — and even this unprecedented pandemic should not stand as a barrier between our brightest young minds and the opportunity to study the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “With the leadership of the Task Force on Out-of-School Enrichment Time, we are putting the possibilities of a STEM education into the hands of our young people, tapping into our city’s deep well of talent to bring enrichment, equity, and encouragement to LAUSD students.”

“The Broad Foundation is proud to support the expansion of STEM education in L.A. so our youth can further develop skills and gain experiences that will help prepare them to beneficially participate in a new and rapidly shifting economy,” said Gerun Riley, President of The Broad Foundation.

“The Summer of STEM pilot enhanced our summer school offerings by providing access to real-life scientists and experts representing a diversity of backgrounds and bringing authentic, hands-on experiences directly to our students,” said Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, Los Angeles Unified’s Chief Academic Officer. “For that, and continued programming this fall, we are incredibly grateful.”

The fall program is a continuation of the Task Force’s pilot learning initiative launched in June with the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, called Summer of STEM, which offered enrichment for roughly 70,000 of LAUSD students. The pilot came together in a matter of weeks with eight of this city’s STEM organizations to offer online learning activities, including live instruction, free of charge, as part of the District’s summer school program.

LAUSD district administrators reported that the pilot enhanced their summer school offerings by providing access to scientists and experts representing a diversity of background, bringing a higher level of authenticity to the science experiences provided, and providing engaging hands-on experiences to students who would not otherwise be occupied during the summer. Students were also able to participate through community-based organizations such as the YMCA and Heart of LA.

Why STEM Education?

Los Angeles is a region of remarkable racial and ethnic diversity, but unfortunately diversity and opportunity rarely intersect, including access to robust out-of-school STEM learning experiences that expand their awareness of STEM fields of study and careers. This exposure can meaningfully equip children with the skills and connections they need to participate in and benefit from a rapidly shifting economy increasingly driven by the tech industry.

A study by WestEd, the Lawrence Hall of Science and SRI International showed that 40% of elementary teachers say they spend 60 minutes or less teaching science each week and only one third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science. The study was done before the pandemic hit, and the crisis surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on the lives and education of L.A.’s youth has created an even more urgent need to support the learning and well-being of students from marginalized communities.

Mayor Garcetti’s Task Force on STEM Out-of-School Time Enrichment

This initiative arose out of the Mayor’s Task Force on STEM Out-of-School Time Enrichment which was formed in January 2020 in response to a landscape study conducted by the Lawrence Hall of Science and STEM Next Opportunity Fund. The study showed that while there are many compelling STEM OST assets in the city, groups felt siloed and desired a vibrant community where they could coalesce around a shared vision for youth anda desire to increase access to meaningful enrichment opportunities across Los Angeles, especially for students from historically marginalized communities.

The Broad Foundation funded the strategic planning activities of the Task Force in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, which consists of youth-serving organizations and out-of-school time (OST) organizations providing STEM programming and represents individuals with geographic and subject matter diversity in L.A. County, including representatives from the Columbia Memorial Space Center, DIY Girls, Heart of L.A., L.A.’s BEST, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, UCLA and USC. Their mission and strategies were further informed by a city-wide survey of OST providers to better understand the gaps in STEM learning experiences.

With the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Task Force turned its attention to providing equitable access to STEM summer learning enrichment opportunities, particularly for students most in need of learning support, launching the Summer of STEM within just a few weeks.

Season of STEM Partner Organizations

5 Gyres Institute
AltaSea
Aquarium of the Pacific
California Science Center
Columbia Memorial Space Center
Descanso Gardens
Discovery Cube Los Angeles
Emerald Bay Outdoor Academy
Friends of LA River (FOLAR)
Heal the Bay Aquarium
ICCA/Straight A/Tinkers Corner
Kidspace Children’s Museum
LA Audubon
The Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI)
LA Zoo
Madrona Marsh
Mountain and Sea Educational Adventures
National Park Service and Santa Monica Mountains Fund
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Resource Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains
The Roundhouse Aquarium (managed by Oceanographic Teaching Stations, Inc.)
TreePeople
TXT: Teens Exploring Technology
USC Sea Grant Program and Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies
USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center
The Wildwoods Foundation

The Summer of STEM pilot was supported by The Broad Foundation and California Community Foundation and was one of the largest partnerships of its kind in the country this past summer. The Season of STEM and fall programming enjoy continued support from The Broad Foundation.

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TreePeople is Los Angeles’ largest environmental nonprofit movement. We inspire, engage and support people to take responsibility for the urban environment.

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