Science Outreach Program

The Friends funds the JMZ’s Science Outreach Program which delivers exceptional science programs to elementary school children in the Ravenswood City School District and East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS), with the purpose of igniting a love of science among and laying the foundation for success in middle- and high-school science and math. The program helps to address inequalities in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) between Ravenswood and EPACS and its wealthier, neighboring public school districts.

The Friends has funded the JMZ’s Science Outreach Program 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 raised funds from individual donors and through foundation grants.

Statement of Need

A young student smiles with a pair of clear science goggles over his eyes.

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 schools and EPACS serve a high number of families who have been historically economically disenfranchised, as indicated by the following benchmarks:

  • 44% of students are homeless (higher than the national average of 2.7%)
  • 78% of students are free-lunch eligible (significantly higher than the state average of 58.6%)
  • 54% of students are English Language Learners (higher than the state average of 22.1%)
  • 94% of students are Socioeconomically Disadvantaged according to the California Department of Education

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 and EPACS. Our Science Outreach Program helps address this inequality by funding a similar science education curriculum in Ravenswood and EPACS.

Our Approach

The 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.

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

Currently, the Friends brings the Science Outreach Program to all of the elementary schools in Ravenswood and EPACS, delivering on average approximately 500 STEM lessons per school year. This includes an educational field trip to the Baylands for third-grade students from all of the schools.