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ExN:LA is a local model that meets the needs of the students, schools and communities served by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Since 1985, CNI has served over 300,000 LAUSD students with our free, outreach Nature Discovery Program and our weekly Community Nature Programs at the Magnolia Place Family Center. We know first-hand the struggles of working within such a large district and the disenfranchisement of our community. ExN:LA is built on the idea that, to improve education, LA-based nonprofit partners, teachers, students and families must work together. Evidence shows the only way to truly affect large-scale reform, whether in education, community or family development is to shift from “program delivery” to participating in a “community of practice.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, “When families learn together and where schools truly become the heart and center of a neighborhood – a community anchor- there are tremendous dividends for children.” ExN:LA is exactly this kind of community anchor. Lesson plans focus on local issues, including nature in LA, the interplay of the city and its waterways, growing food in schoolyards, and changing human behavior to positively impact the world around us. The children we teach are concrete learners – they understand best the things they can see and touch. Project based learning helps children understand their place in the world and develop a connection to its care. ExN:LA helps teachers expose their students to STEM-based thinking that builds future success. Opportunities include modeling of scientific logic; professional development workshops; field trips; and lesson plans aligned with state curricula. ExN:LA benefits Los Angeles by improving the educational framework at large, making STEM subjects more accessible and addressing many of the issues we’ve had teaching STEM subjects to LA’s children. A 2011 RAND study “Preschool Adequacy and Efficiency in California,” found that 40-60% of California’s 2nd and 3rd graders are not proficient in core subjects, including STEM. Larger gaps exist for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, including Latinos, African-Americans and English language learners, the main demographics in our community. These achievement gaps have early roots: the groups who are behind in third grade were behind when they entered kindergarten. A 2012 fact-sheet from Preschool California supports that claim, stating that early experiences –from the time children are born to the first day of kindergarten – shape whether a child’s brain develops a strong foundation for the learning, health and behavior that follow. “Early interventions for disadvantaged children are more economically efficient and produce higher returns than remedial programs to help teenagers and young adults catch up later on,” writes to James Heckman, of the University of Chicago and Nobel Laureate in Economics. ExN:LA focuses on science and nature experiences for LA’s youngest learners.See Idea Details remind me