Ann Street Elementary School pupils pointed their borrowed telescopes skyward, hoping to see Saturn. But all they saw were clouds on that rainy night last week.
Despite the letdown, the school inaugurated a new afterschool program that seeks to steer minority students toward science.
About 50 students will spend the next 18 weeks building their own 8-inch telescope and working on other science projects for up to 12 hours a week, said fourth-grade teacher Mario Garcielita.
The program, L.A.'s BEST (Better Educated Students for Tomorrow), provides speakers, a teachers' workshop, videos, activities and field trips. The program targets more than 4,000 children from 22 schools.
The students will create science projects for the program's fourth annual Celebrate Science competition in June, with winners going to the U. S. Parent/Child Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., this summer. Diana Hernandez from Utah Street Elementary School in Boyle Heights and Terrie Lavann from 68th Street School in South-Central Los Angeles, won trips to the space camp last year.
"The goal of this program is to involve more minorities and girls, which are underrepresented populations in science, to motivate the children to use their imaginations," said Francine Harcum, L.A's BEST science coordinator.
Four of the schools will be growing trees from seedlings, while Ann Street and Selma Avenue Elementary School in Hollywood will be working on 7-foot-tall telescopes.
"We do a lot of hands-on experiments, so . . . students who can't read or write can participate," Garcielita said. "It's hands-on. It doesn't exclude anybody."