A World Class Educational Facility Created in Partnership with the
San Diego Unified School District.
You’re invited to see the Living Lab and our programs in action. Every Wednesday, Ocean Discovery welcomes you to the Living Lab with an all-access tour of this state-of-the-art science education facility. While our tours on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to the time when we’ll host our visitor tours once again. Stay tuned for more updates!
Ocean Discovery Institute now operates from our state-of-the-art Living Lab, in the heart of City Heights. Founded in 1999, Ocean Discovery Institute uses ocean science to empower young people from urban, underserved communities to transform their lives, community, and our world as scientific and environmental leaders. Today, we reach 6,000 young people each year through classroom and out-of-school programming, resulting in higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and many graduates obtaining careers in biotech, environmental consulting, technology, and engineering. Because of our students’ accomplishments, Ocean Discovery was recognized by The White House, through the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.
Built in partnership with the San Diego Unified School District, the Living Lab will enable Ocean Discovery to reach all 10,000 children in this community, increase quality and frequency of programming, and expand the roles of families, teachers, and mentors. Most importantly, the Living Lab encourages City Heights students to further explore science and conservation as they grow their educational and career goals.
The Living Lab, designed by Rob Wellington Quigley, is a 12,000 square foot, state-of-the-art science facility that will achieve Platinum LEED certification and net-zero energy. Quigley describes the architectural structure as two arms, welcoming the community into the embrace of the adjacent Manzanita Canyon. Every element of the facility, including spaces created for community interactions and indoor-outdoor features, reiterates this concept and enables connectivity with nature.
Every phase of design and planning for the Living Lab was intentional, integrating over 40 community input forums and dozens of expert volunteer advisors. This has resulted in a space where form and function work in harmony, participants are immersed in robust scientific discovery, and students and families know that their commitment and achievements make this possible.
The Living Lab is built on the premise “If I know how the world works, I can make a difference.” Features in support of this include:
- Two premier science labs that will integrate the tools to build skills for our fastest growing industries including gel electrophoresis systems, aquaria designed for scientific inquiry, and technology.
- A Scientist in Residence studio that will house a series of science and conservation leaders from around the world, who reflect the diversity of our students, and who will dedicate themselves to mentoring and expanding STEM experiences.
- The David C. Copley Ocean Alcove with wall-to-wall screens that will live stream the view of our coastline, just 10 miles away, but rarely accessed by this community.
- A kitchen that is perched above the canyon and across from the Living Roof garden where students and families will learn the science of health and how integrating this knowledge enables us to be our best selves.
- The Leadership Pathway that will showcase images of student graduates doing important work in the fields of science and conservation.
Collectively, these features create an environment where students believe that science is something they can do and a scientist is someone they can be.
The Living Lab is strategically located in City Heights, within easy walking distance for thousands of students. At a time when schools, particularly those in high-poverty communities, continue to cut back on field trips due to transportation expenses, this proximity to so many schools is essential. In addition, its location adjacent to a 30-acre urban canyon provides an outdoor laboratory for research and stewardship experiences.
The Living Lab has been funded through a unique group of stakeholders. A significant investment in the Living Lab came through the San Diego Unified School District, which contributed $10,000,000 of Proposition Z funding to the construction of the Living Lab. This investment followed an existing 16-year partnership to bring standards-based science education, mentoring, and services to San Diego Unified students in underserved communities. In addition, Ocean Discovery Institute secured private support from donors like the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation, Price Philanthropies, and many individuals; government support from agencies like California State Parks, California Coastal Conservancy, and the City of San Diego; and corporate support from Cox Communications and Cisco Systems, Inc. The total cost of the project is $17 million.
The programs at the Living Lab include in-school and out-of-school initiatives. For in-school, standards-based science programming, we serve grades 3-7, and will expand to serve K-8. For out-of-school programs designed to engage children of various ages and their families, we offer numerous opportunities each week. Our leadership programs will expand to serve more students. Outcomes include increased participation in science and conservation, college attendance, diversity in the science and environmental workforce, and economic vitality.