Dissecting a sea star, working with a scientist to study climate change, and participating in habitat restoration are experiences kids growing up in City Heights have little access to. But a new facility called The Living Lab, run by the nonprofit Ocean Discovery Institute, aims to transform young lives through these kinds of hands-on opportunities.
The Living Lab’s tuition-free programs in ocean science and conservation will benefit more than 20,000 kids each year in a community that faces challenges such as poverty, crime, access to health care, and a dearth of parks and open space.
Shara Fisler, the institute’s executive director, hopes to break the cycle of poverty by shepherding young people toward appreciating science, pursuing higher education, and, ultimately, finding careers in the region’s robust scientific and technological industries.
The lab’s 12,000-square-foot building, designed by renowned architect Rob Quigley, sparks curiosity and sets the tone for learning experiences, Fisler says.
“It is almost impossible to learn scientific concepts if you don’t believe science is a place where you belong. Changing mind-sets to say that science is a place where I belong, science is something I can do, a scientist is someone I can be—that’s what the physical space will create, and the program will foster that as well.”