Los Angeles High School Students Conduct Environmental Research Alongside Scientists

Fifty high school students from Los Angeles County schools have been awarded an Ignite LA Student Science Award, a fellowship program sponsored by the LA-based Durfee Foundation, in partnership with Earthwatch.

Earthwatch is an international environmental organization whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.

The winning 50 students were selected from a highly competitive pool of 230 creative high school students from Los Angeles County who might not self-identify as science-tracked, but who are well rounded and excel in the arts and humanities.

The program aims to ignite curiosity and interest in STEAM education through participation in a scientific field research expedition this summer. Participation in this experience encourages students to think differently about what science looks like as a career (i.e. not just a chemist in a lab coat) and empower the notion that STEAM careers are attainable, accessible and alluring.


This summer, 50 Ignite LA Student Science Awards recipients will travel to one of five different locations across the United States to help conduct hands-on scientific field research:

” Schoodic Education and Research Center, Acadia National Park, Maine
” Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland
” Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Austwell, Texas
” Eglin Air Force Base (formerly Choctawhatchee National Forest), Florida
” Sagehen Creek Research Station (near Lake Tahoe), California and Nevada

Each expedition provides students the opportunity to work alongside world-class scientists, collect scientific data, exercise the scientific process, and explore a unique natural environment with a diverse group of peers.

In addition to the cohort of 50 students, the Ignite program will also send 10 high school science teachers from schools in Los Angeles County on a teacher expedition to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Manitoba, Canada. The program recognizes the importance for teachers to get out of the classroom to engage in field work and collegial exchange around best practices in science education.


Over the 22 year partnership, Earthwatch and the Durfee Foundation have provided over 1,000 high school students with this exciting and impactful educational opportunity.

A 2010 evaluation of the Ignite LA Student Science Awards showed that 78% of prior participants reported becoming more interested in science outside of the classroom, and more than 50% went on to major in science, and an additional 32% reported pursuing science courses in college.

In the words of one student:

“The Ignite program entirely changed my life. It completely inspired me to become a scientist and without any exaggeration just made me excited to be alive. I am now majoring in molecular and cellular biology and am not at all intimidated by anything I encounter in the classroom or lab.”


In total, 230 students from 52 schools across Los Angeles County applied for the LA Student Science Awards, with the 50 awarded students representing 35 schools, including:

” Alliance Environmental Science and Technology High School
” Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School
” Animo Leadership Charter High School
” Bell High School
” Benjamin Franklin High School
” California Academy of Mathematics and Science
” Cerritos High School
” Crescenta Valley High School
” Culver City High School
” Diego Rivera Learning Complex – Green Design
” Eagle Rock High School
” Fairfax High School
” Granada Hills Charter High School
” Grover Cleveland High School Humanities Magnet
” Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy
” John Muir High School
” Long Beach Polytechnic High School
” Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies
” Louisville High School
” Marshall Fundamental High School
” Mira Costa High School

” Narbonne High School
” North Hollywood High School
” Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School
” Pacific Palisades Charter High School
” Palos Verdes High School
” Paramount High School
” Santa Monica High School
” Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies-Artlab
” South Gate High School
” Sylmar Biotech Health Academy
” Synergy Quantum Academy
” Vaughn International Studies Academy
” West High School
” Whittier High School

Interested students are urged to keep an eye out for Earthwatch’s LA Outreach Coordinator in their school this upcoming fall or online at to participate in the 2015 Ignite LA Student Science Awards.

About Earthwatch Institute
Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. We believe that achieving a sustainable environment requires objective scientific data from the field, but also that the scientific process must engage the general public if it is to change the world. Earthwatch has more than 50 expeditions, all over the world, and partners with the world’s top scientists in their field, to answer critical research questions.

About Durfee Foundation
The Durfee Foundation is a family foundation supporting extraordinary individuals and organizations in Los Angeles County. Founded in 1960 by the late R. Stanton Avery and his wife Dorothy Durfee Avery, the Foundation has awarded more than $30 million in grants, primarily in the Los Angeles region. The partnership that the Foundation enjoys with Earthwatch in support of the Ignite Program is the longest-standing in the Foundation’s history.

June 13, 2014

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