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Aurelia D'Amore Photography
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Nathan Alexander
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Enjoy the latest feature story from The Nucleus

Community Youth Programs Embark on 30 Years of Serving Our Local Communities in 2023

Community teens

The California Science Center’s Community Youth Programs are celebrating 30 years of providing science learning opportunities to youth in our local under-resourced communities and beyond in 2023. We are immensely proud of the accomplishments of our Community Youth Programs and their ability to inspire a love for science in thousands of participating students during the three decades the programs have been in operation.

The Community Youth Programs launched in 1993, when the California Science Center joined more than 70 museums and science centers across the country in an initiative with the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) called YouthALIVE! (Youth Achievement through Learning, Involvement, Volunteering and Employment). The initiative provided participating organizations with a network of programs to share best practices, learn from youth development specialists, and implement a shared curriculum to train their youngest employees. YouthALIVE! focused on increasing long-term participation in science opportunities, particularly for youth of color and those from low-income neighborhoods.

Through a partnership with the Avalon Gardens public housing community, Young Curators (formerly Curator Kids Club) was formed, serving youth ages 4 to 13. Students were transported from Avalon Gardens to the California Science Center for an entire summer-long camp experience. In 1997, the program expanded to offer programming every other weekend during the school year. Young Curators incorporated family involvement and field trips for students, which are still present in today's current program model. The 1990s saw over 400 youth engaged in Young Curators, all from Avalon Gardens and in the 2000s the program expanded to include additional middle school students from neighborhoods surrounding the California Science Center in Exposition Park, Los Angeles.

Young guests conducting experiment

As Young Curators grew into experienced teenagers, the Community Teen Program (formerly Learn-to-Earn) was established to provide youth with paid, science-based work experiences while they supported Young Curators students as teaching assistants and demonstrators. As students grew their skills and experience, so did their duties.  Like the Young Curators Program, the Community Teen Program expanded beyond Avalon Gardens to include students from throughout South Los Angeles.

Today, the California Science Center’s Community Youth Programs continue to flourish and engage youth in fun experiences with science learning, even during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Young Curators has remained true to its community-based roots and focus on family involvement. The program still serves local youth and their families from neighborhoods surrounding the Science Center and has expanded to reach additional students enrolled in programs with partner organizations including: Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), Para Los Niños, LACER (Literacy, Arts, Culture, Education, and Recreation) Afterschool Programs, Brotherhood Crusade, Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles, and Korean American Family Services (KFAM). The California Science Center has brought science back into the places where youth spend most of their time — in their community and schools.

Young Curators delivers two ten-week sessions of programming during the school year, with instructors and middle school students meeting once a week to explore a concept related to a specific theme. Recent themes include food webs, chemistry, space science, and urban ecology. During the summer, Young Curators attend Hands-On Science Camp where they select a schedule of courses that matches their interests and needs. Family and friends are invited to accompany their Young Curator to the California Science Center for a Community Open House for exciting activities, behind-the-scenes experiences, and exhibit explorations.  

Young curators

The Community Teen Program provides a year-round science-based internship to high school students, where they support Young Curators and engage our guests and young children in learning science. They facilitate science activities in the Science Center’s permanent exhibit galleries, such as the Rocky Shore Touch Tank in Ecosystems and the Fire! Science & Safety exhibition. During the summer, interns support Hands-On Science Camp, ensuring that learning experiences for campers are high-quality and assisting camp staff with projects like rocket launches, animal encounters, and dissections. The interns have also begun to support their community through events, like the Young Curators’ Community Open House and at offsite events, such as CicLAvia.

Community Teen intern alum Eddy B. reminisces, “My favorite memory of being a Community Teen Program intern is working with the visitors, but especially watching the kids fall in love with science and finding the information we give them to be entertaining. I also remember all the hands-on activities we had when my mother took me to the Science Center. I'm just happy to be able to share knowledge with young people and hope that they will remember it as well as I did.”

Community Youth Programs provide meaningful educational enrichment opportunities and encourage sustained, long-term engagement. Some participants begin as Young Curators, are later accepted into the Community Teen Program and may move into other Science Center staff positions, such as Guest Services or Educators. The opportunity for students to continue to build upon their skills and knowledge during their time in the programs is a key feature of the Community Youth Programs’ success to continue to inspire interest in science among youth, year after year.

Young guests visit touch tank at Rocky Shore

In the years since the Community Youth Programs began providing science learning opportunities to youth, we have witnessed the impact on students through in-house assessments of the programs, and most importantly, in the success of our alumni.

Young Curator and Community Teen Program intern alum Aaron W. says, “The involvement in these programs did so much for me. As a minority coming out of South Central, I really did not have that much on the table for me but working with mentors/bosses at the Science Center exposed me to a different side of life my peers were not exposed to. I am forever grateful that I grew up through the Science Center, and I do plan on coming back eventually when the time is right. Keeping these programs alive is vital for the community and the youth that are coming up. There is so much opportunity and love at the Science Center. I wish everyone could have experienced and done all that I have through this organization.”

The California Science Center Foundation is grateful for the support of our generous donors, which allows us to stay true to our core values of accessibility and inclusiveness by making life-enhancing opportunities available to youth in our diverse communities free-of-charge. We especially thank THE MUSES of the California Science Center Foundation for its invaluable partnership with the California Science Center, devoting volunteer service and essential funding for the Community Youth Programs among other educational programming for more than 60 years!

The Community Youth Programs are core programs of the California Science Center that have become instrumental in advancing our mission to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone. Here’s to three decades — and counting — of Community Youth Programs providing vital science learning opportunities to Los Angeles youth in under-resourced communities!

California Science Center
Parking at the Science Center is now automated!

Valued Members of the Science Center are eligible to receive a limited number of complimentary parking validations based on your Membership contribution level. Parking benefits are stored electronically in your Member record along with your IMAX and Attractions benefits. After parking your car, please stop by the Membership Services Window at the Box Office, where staff will confirm your available allotment before validating your parking ticket. Please be sure to validate your parking before the Membership Services Window closes at 4:30 p.m.

Parking validations are not valid on Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Banc of California Stadium major event days. If you arrive on a non-major event day when the gate arms are up and the parking operations staff is taking payment at the kiosk you can show them your Membership card to identify yourself as a Member of the Science Center and enjoy your parking benefit.     

See the Exposition Park events calendar here to consider when planning your visit to the Science Center.

(Please note that parking validations are not valid on Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Banc of California Stadium event days.)