JMZ Science Outreach Program Spotlight

August 10, 2022

Hello Friends,

As we approach the start of a new school year, for this newsletter we profile a Friends' initiative to expand access to the Junior Museum & Zoo's Science Outreach Program—a long-standing priority for our organization.

Since 1999, the Friends has funded the JMZ's Science Outreach Program in the Ravenswood City School District and in East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS), serving elementary school children in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park. Funding this program helps to address inequalities in STEM education between Ravenswood and wealthier, neighboring public school districts. Looking ahead, the Friends hopes to expand the reach of this exceptional program to additional, underserved communities in surrounding areas.

In other news, the Friends is hosting a Halloween event for families at the Junior Museum & Zoo on October 28 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Proceeds from the event will help support JMZ educational programs, like Science Outreach, for youth in our community. If your company is interested in sponsoring this event, please contact Marie Ivich, our development manager, at marie@friendsjmz.org.

Enjoy the rest of the summer! 

Lauren Angelo

President, Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

Program Spotlight: JMZ Science Outreach

Interview with Alex Hamilton, JMZ Director of Education


What is the Junior Museum & Zoo’s Science Outreach Program?

The JMZ’s Science Outreach Program offers high-quality science lessons to local schools. Aligned with current science standards, these lessons are hands-on, interactive experiences designed for children from preschool through fifth grade. This program supplements traditional classroom instruction by bringing in activities and animals for children to learn about. We even take field trips with third-graders to the Baylands Nature Preserve.

How has the JMZ’s Science Outreach Program evolved since its inception? 


In 1955, the Junior Museum & Zoo commissioned a mobile science vehicle to visit schools, parks and playgrounds. This trailer operated into the 1970s until it was replaced by the Science Outreach Program. We have grown from two schools in the early 90s (Walter Hays and Addison) to all Palo Alto Unified School District schools and, with the support of the Friends, all elementary schools in the Ravenswood City School District. We also work with 60 other local schools on ad hoc interpretive programs.

A young learner looks closely at a piece of paper under a magiscope.

What new approaches do you take in order to keep lessons engaging and relevant? 

In 2017, we overhauled all of our lessons to support the new California State Science Content Standards (known as Next Generation Science Standards). The former collection of lessons supports Common Core Science Standards. 


Our teachers are also all “science nerds” so they are constantly reading about the latest developments in what we know about our world – advances in medicine and the like. We share our discoveries during our weekly department meetings and try to incorporate new science content and developments in the field into our lessons. For example, there have been a lot of new developments in our knowledge about dinosaurs, how they lived and died, and how they evolved into modern birds (rather than all of them going extinct as was previously thought).

Students watch excitedly as they launch Alka-Seltzer rockets.

Do you find children tend to be most excited or engaged with specific lessons or topics? Can you share those with us?


They seem to get most excited about lessons that present beautiful, fascinating or unusual objects or animals (our geology programs and animal programs, and dissections, for example), and lessons that include an experiment with measurable results that reveal truths about their world (for example, our Camouflage lesson, White Powder Lab, Endo/Exo). They also love lessons that let them use real scientific tools and equipment (microscopes; telescopes; measuring devices for volume, temperature, density, salinity).   

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

info@friendsjmz.org | www.friendsjmz.org


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