The JMZ Science Outreach Program delivers exceptional science programs to elementary school children in the Ravenswood City School District, with the purpose of igniting a love of science and laying the foundation for success in middle- and high-school science and math. It strives to address inequalities in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) between Ravenswood and its wealthier, neighboring public school districts.

Statement of Need

The Ravenswood City School District serves East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park children. In contrast with well-funded public school systems in the neighboring communities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Woodside and Los Altos, Ravenswood serves a population that is 89% low-income (compared to 7% in neighboring school districts), 60% English learners (compared to 7%) and 44% homeless (compared to 0.12%). Funding in the Ravenswood City School District is $3,000 a year less per child than funding in its closest neighbor, the Palo Alto Unified School District ($11,000 compared to $14,000 per student) (source: Ravenswood Education Foundation: Schools and Demographics ).

The importance of STEM education to fuel the US economy is well documented, as are the inequalities  of STEM education between affluent and low-income students (source: US Dept of Education). For example, in the Palo Alto Unified School District, parents donate approximately $150,000 a year to fund additional science programs run by the JMZ in elementary schools within their district. However, this is not the case in the neighboring Ravenswood City School District. Our Science Outreach Program helps address this inequality by funding a similar science education curriculum in Ravenswood schools.

Science Outreach Program
amazed children in chemistry lab

Program Statistics

Currently, the program reaches all six elementary schools in Ravenswood, and will deliver a total of 590 science classes across Kindergarten to fifth grade during the 2019-2020 school year. This includes an educational field trip to the Baylands for third-grade students from all six schools. In total, the program educates 2,100 children every school year.


The Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (Friends) has funded Science Outreach in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park schools since 1999. Until recently, the program was financed by a large five-year grant from a local donor, Carmen Christensen, and by a few smaller donations and grants. Since the passing of our beneficiary, we have drawn on our annual funds to sustain the program.


JMZ Science Outreach Program lessons are facilitated by a team of 12 highly skilled, experienced science teachers, many of whom have been with the JMZ for between eight to 15 years. They have educational backgrounds in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and design, ecology, child development, educational pedagogy, and museum public programming.


The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) specializes in early-science education and hands-on learning experiences and exploration. All of the JMZ Science Outreach lessons reflect the California school curriculum and provide direct experiences with materials, objects, and phenomena to encourage personal understanding. The hands-on nature of the science classes results in the children retaining knowledge, relating science concepts to environments outside the classroom and creating a love of science. The lessons range from a star lab to dissections. Click here for a fuller curriculum.

Summer Camp Scholarships

The JMZ Science Outreach Program also funds scholarships for Junior Museum & Zoo summer camps for low-income, underserved students in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park.  These high-quality camps, beloved by families, children and educators, support students’ learning in important STEM topics like biology, chemistry, geology, physics, zoology, and astronomy. Research shows that high-quality summer programming can be a transformational experience for underserved children and can ameliorate the “summer slide.”  To make attending camp feasible for these families, our camp scholarships include transportation to and from the camp, pre-care, and after-care.

"At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula (BGCP), we believe deeply in the power of high quality summer learning experiences to reduce summer learning loss and narrow the opportunity gap, and we know that the JMZ is providing exactly this type of summer learning. But for many of BGCP’s students, access to these types of experiences is cost-prohibitive. We are thrilled that the JMZ has made the commitment to ensuring low-income students can access their wonderful camps, and grateful they have chosen our students to receive these scholarships."

–Katie McDougall, Director of Program Strategy, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula


A 2017 study of the JMZ Science Outreach Program is available here. We also measure the success of the JMZ Science Outreach Program by increased demand. This program has grown from one school in 1999 to its current breadth of 10 schools across East Palo Alto, eastern Menlo Park, Redwood City, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Three years ago, as a result of a special education grant from the Santa Clara County Board of Education, we expanded the program to  Title I (low income/high percentage of free lunches) schools in Santa Clara County.

children creating with boxes and tape
Club JMZ members

Suggested Gifts and Donations

A gift of $300,000 would go directly to support:

  • 1,630 science classes over three years
  • Three annual field trips for third-grade students
  • 13 out of 15 teacher salaries for three years

A gift of $200,000 would go directly to support:

  • 1,012 science classes over three years
  • Three annual field trips for third-grade students
  • Eight out of 15 teacher salaries for three years

A gift of $100,000 would go directly to support:

  • 617 science classes over three years
  • Four out of 15 teacher salaries for three years

A gift of $50,000 would go directly to support:

  • 72 camp scholarships for low-income, underserved students from East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park
Staff member demonstrating project to 2 children

Acknowledgements and Accountability

Acknowledgements for your Generosity

  • Recognition on the Friends of the JMZ website and in promotional materials
  • Recognition in a prominent space in JMZ lobby.


All donations for the JMZ Science Outreach are restricted and stewarded for the program only. Program spending will be reviewed consistently, reporting back to our donors at least once a year, or at donors' request.

Quotes from Teachers and Education Experts

Kids learn best by having experiences that promote questions. The JMZ could well be the life saver for East Palo Alto children, helping them realize that science is an interesting, engaging, warm experience.
-Vera Michalchik, PhD. Senior Associate Director for Learning Services and Technology, Stanford University

When programs like the JMZ come, they bring access and support that we teachers can’t provide through the regular curriculum. They bring the science and animals to us; they bring experiences the children would normally not get, right to our classroom.
-Laura Ramirez, Teacher, Willow Oaks School, East Palo Alto

The best part about the lessons provided by this program is that it provides more equity of voice as students who usually may feel shy to speak is more empowered to speak. Students who may not feel as though they can learn science start to pay more attention to details and focus for the duration of the lesson. They are given tools to engage with the material more deeply. Students feel as though they can succeed and feel more confident academically.
-Teacher at Vargas Elementary School, Santa Clara

I did notice a lot of focus, participation, and most importantly, CURIOSITY. Students were really making strong connections with some of the materials to the real-life topic.
-Teacher at Vargas Elementary School, Santa Clara

Findings show that this outreach experience has excited and engaged students about science, has provided opportunities for explorations they might not otherwise have, has exposed students to ideas and activities not easily presented in traditional classrooms, and has offered students new ways to learn and develop confidence in themselves as students and as STEM learners.
-Elsa Bailey, Elsa Bailey Consulting

Please Contact Us For More Information Regarding Our Science Outreach Program

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The Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Federal ID #77-0296155).
If you would like to support our Science Outreach program, please visit our donation page.