Project Ideas | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

“The arts provide a universal and engaging medium with which to explore natural and cultural history, and students all over L.A. have benefitted from this exceptional, award-winning program.”

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Now on View in Inter/Act!

"Bridge Over Time: How Do People Use Public Spaces?"
June 26 - September 12, 2010

Visit the Roundtable program's latest exhibition in Inter/Act, featuring an after-school project in which students from Parras Middle School discovered the history of their Redondo Beach neighborhood through History, Language Arts, and Theatre.

See Project Ideas for downloads of full project summary, photos gallery, and project video.

The Inter/Act gallery space is located on Level 1 of the Museum.

Teachers Share Out!

"This was a genuine coming together of ideas, which I had never experienced before."

Annie Lefkowitz, Teacher, Cienega Elementary School

What Artists Say

"The arts have this ability to capture the imagination, and I think if you can give that gift to students — [by embracing] creativity, innovation, and exploration — they can take their learning to amazing heights, because it's not just something on a page, it's something they've experienced."

Lee Arvinger, California Dance Institute

Project Spotlight

Let photos tell the story!

Browse the photo galleries of past and present Roundtable projects.

Claiming Our Space
How Do I Observe My World?
Our L.A. Basin: A World of Wonder
Backyards & Front Porches
How Is Identity Influenced By Nature?

Photography by Don Farber

Voices from the Community

"The Education & Arts Roundtable is the most remarkable educational program that I have ever photographed.  The joy and wonderment I see in the children as they are awakening to the natural world is an inspiration.  I believe that this program is so important that it should be implemented in schools and museums everywhere." 
Don Farber, Photographer and Fulbright Scholar


Project Ideas for Richer Learning

Explore the diverse and imaginative learning projects produced by the collaborations of the Education & Arts Roundtable.  These projects — often organic in their development — are project-based activities that are multilayered and offer deep and rewarding experiences in interdisciplinary learning.  Where noted, projects include the California State Content Standards for Science, History, Social Science, Language Arts, and the Performing and Visual Arts.  In addition, find helpful educational and community resources in our roster of ideas and inspiration!

We invite you to browse through the projects below and download activities, which can be adapted to your own teaching styles and classroom needs.  Projects are grouped in elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Short on time? 
Visit photo galleries or watch a quick video of selected projects below!


Grade 1

English Language Arts, Visual Arts, Dance
Moffett Elementary School (Lennox SD)
Buford Elementary School (Lennox SD)
Project:  How Do I Describe My World?  (201

View photo gallery >
View short project video (Part 1) >
View short project video (Part 2) >
View PDF of project summary >

View PDF of project description in Spanish >

This project brought together first grade English Language Learners from Lennox School District, teaching artist Libby Gerber and the Natural History Museum staff to help students integrate their world through Language Arts, Visual Arts and Dance. Using observation skills, descriptive language, adobe brick-making, and fossil casting, students discovered “how to describe their world” in a fun, interdisciplinary learning environment.

Grade 1

Science, Theatre Arts, Dance
Kenneth L. Moffett Elementary School (Lennox School District)
ProjectSTUCK 2 (2009)

View photo gallery >
View short project video >

STUCK 2 improves on Moffett Elementary School's 2008 project, STUCK.  This project again follows the activities of first-grade students as they learned about Ice Age mammals and the La Brea Tar Pits, this time through both theatre and dance.  STUCK 2 produced a three-act play about Ice Age mammals, written by the students themselves and performed on March 13, 2009.  Learning activities included informative field trips, classroom research, and dance and theatre workshops. STUCK 2 introduced stage backdrops that the students painted themselves, as well as handmade costumes made from recycled materials. Project collaborators included 24th Street Theatre and California Dance Institute, along with Education and Research & Collections staff from the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits and Natural History Museum.

Grade 1
Science, Theatre Arts
Kenneth L. Moffett Elementary School (Lennox School District)

ProjectSTUCK (2008)

View PDF of project summary >

STUCK, created by Moffett Elementary School, 24th Street Theatre, and the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, is a 1st grade, interdisciplinary project that uses Theatre Arts as a way to learn about the time during Earth's Ice Age and about Prehistoric Mammals.  Through Museum and theatre field trips, supplemented with teaching artists in the classroom, students were able to perform what they learned through the project.  STUCK integrates Science and Theatre Arts, and the culminating project is a play that tells the story of these early mammals.

Grade 1
Language Arts/Writing, Social Studies
Kenneth L. Moffett Elementary School (Lennox School District)

Project: Collapse? Examining Environmental and Cultural Choices (2005)

View PDF of project summary >

Moffett Elementary School responded to a changing exhibition at the Museum called Collapse? in which students responded to the question:  How do our choices effect our world?  Using literature, such as The Lorax, by Dr. Suess, visiting the Museum, and working with a guest artist, the children created artwork and written reflections about their learning experience. 

Grade 4
Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts
Cienega Elementary School (Los Angeles Unified School District)

ProjectClaiming Our Space (2009)

View photo gallery >
View short project video >
View PDF of project summary >

This multilayered collaboration asks the question, "How is space claimed?"  Students at Cienega elementary school explore this question through the study of land area in Los Angeles, through historical maps of the region, and through the discovery of their own spaces in Los Angeles.  Field trips to the Natural History Museum, the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, and the Los Angeles Public Library enhanced their learning.  Classroom visits from Museum curatorial and interpretative staff and from writers from nonprofit group 826LA and from teaching artist Jacqueline Dreager helped them to create a final project that held personal, civic, and historical resonance.  Teacher Annie Lefkowitz revealed, “I wanted to talk about turf and hoods and why kids sometimes have a hard time mixing with each other.” 

Grade 4-5
After-School Natural Science Program
Cienega Elementary School (Los Angeles Unified School District)

Project:  How Do I Observe My World? (2009)

View photo gallery >
View project video >
View PDF of Project Summary>

In this eight-week project-based-learning assignment, 4th and 5th graders at Cienega Elementary School learned to observe and question the natural world through the lens of both scientist and artist.  They wrote, sketched, and documented their observations, as they explored the grounds in their neighborhood.  Using photography as a medium, the students deepened their awareness of the natural world by studying with both Museum scientists and an artist/photographer.  The students participating in this after-school club produced a series of photographs, poetry and journal descriptions aimed at answering the essential question:  How do I observe my world?



Grade 6-7-8

History, Visual Arts, English Language Arts, Theatre
Parras Middle School (Redondo Beach USD)
Project:  Bridge Over Time: How Do People Use Public Spaces?  (2010)

View photo gallery >
View artist reflection >
View short project video >
View PDF of project summary > 

Bridge Over Time” is a collaborative after-school project with students from Parras Middle School, the Natural History Museum, and the Redondo Beach, CA, community.  Students explored the history of Redondo Beach, and reflected on “place” and “change,” and the past, present, and future contributions to their community.  Posed with the question, “How and why do public places change over the course of time and who is responsible for those changes?” their discoveries resulted in a student-written play, including period costumes, backdrops, and digital storytelling, that conveyed the life and times of Redondo Beach’s Veterans Park through the eyes of historic and fictional characters.


Grade 6

English/Language Arts, Visual Art, Music, World History
Stella Middle Charter Academy (Los Angeles Unified School District)
Project:  Stella Academy's Sonic Scenery: Music for Collections (2005)

View PDF of project summary > 
View project attachments >

Stella Middle Charter Academy partnered with California Dance Institute, Poets and Writers, artist Judy Marcus, and Natural History Museum staff to create artwork, poetry and movement around their impressions of the music in the Sonic Scenery exhibition.  This project invites students to engage with an exhibition's content on a personal level and explore its History content on a creative level.  As expressed by Stella teacher Calte Samson, "My goal was to expose my students to meaningful music and provide a variety of ways for them to express their reaction to it.”

Grade 7

Visual Arts, History, English/Language Arts
Barnhart School (Arcadia, CA)

Project: How Is Identity Influenced by Nature?  (2010)

View photo gallery >

View short project video >
View PDF of project summary >
View PDF of "Open Chest Figurine" >
View PDF of Visible Vault student worksheet >

Together with Museum staff and artist Libby Gerber, 7th grade students from Barnhart School explored the influence of nature on ancient civilizations. By studying Aztecan, Incan, and Mayan cultures and by exploring ancient Latin American artifacts in the Museum's Visible Vault, students discovered the importance of nature, both in ancient and modern times.  Their learning was made visible through a student-designed, hand-painted mural, and also through personalized collages and poetry that expressed the relationship between nature and their own identities. 

Grade 8
English/Language Arts, Performing Arts
Stella Middle Charter Academy (Los Angeles Unified School District)

Project: Tar Babies Unchained (2008)

View short project video >
View PDF of project summary >

In this poetry project by Stella Middle Charter Academy, the La Brea Tar Pits served as inspiration for an examination of physical and metaphorical "entrapment" and "freedom."  In this collaboration with Poets & Writers, Inc. and the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits, students participated in a four-week poetry seminar with hip-hop poet A.K. Toney, created and performed their own poetry, and published a book of their poems called Tar Babies Unchained.  


Grade 11
Visual Arts
Pasadena High School's Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA), (Pasadena Unified School District)

Project: Our L.A. Basin: A World of Wonder (2009)

View photo gallery >
View short project video >
View PDF of project summary >

In this collaboration with the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits and environmentalist Jessica Hall, high school students from Pasadena High School's Visual Arts and Design Academy explored the ecological history of the Los Angeles Basin and created a site-specific sculptural installation for the Museum's Inter/Act gallery space.  The 16 sculptures address themes of water conservation, land use, and environmental responsibility. 

Grade 12
Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Government
Pasadena High School's Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA), (Pasadena Unified School District)

Project:  Pasadena High School's Collapse? (2006)

View PDF of project summary >

Students with the Visual Arts & Design Academy (VADA) at Pasadena High School explored a changing exhibition at the Museum called Collapse? and responded by illustrating themes from the exhibition in both a large-scale mural and individual posters created in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  They gathered information by reading selections of Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse? which explores reasons why societies may fail based on their choices, as well as visiting the exhibition based on the book, and discussing the issues in several interdisciplinary classes at school.  

Grades 10-12
Visual Arts, Urban Ecology
The HeArt Project Schools

Project: Backyards & Front Porches

The HeArt Project schools were included in a series of three Museum visits:
View photo gallery from December 3, 2009 visit >
View photo gallery from March 25, 2010 visit >
View photo gallery from June 10, 2010 visit >

Under The HeArt Project’s 2009-10 program theme, Backyards & Front Porches, students in 25 alternative high schools explored ideas of public/private space and urban/suburban transitions through photography, journalism, urban planning, and conceptual art, and questioned the role of these spaces in their own lives.  Collaborators in these projects were HeArt Project teaching artists and the staff of the Natural History Museum.