Mt. Wilson Observatory Program (FAQ)

The Vision

Friends Asking Questions (FAQ) is a partnership between Polytechnic School, Partnership for Success!, and the Los Angeles Service Academy that empowers communities to ask big questions together. Through curiosity-driven dialogue, student-led research, and behind-the-scenes access, FAQ seeks to open up the human and institutional resources of our community. In doing so, it hopes to remove barriers to curiosity so that students can keep asking questions, and in that asking create new knowledge about their community and new ways of knowing each other.

The Focus

In this inaugural session of the program, we are turning our attention to the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the mountains above Pasadena. Mt. Wilson, a hub for astronomical research and home to the telescopes that “discovered” the galaxy and the universe, is known as the “birthplace of astrophysics.” However, the observatory—and the communities and technologies that gathered there—changed more than what we see; it changed how we see. In addition to its scientific significance, the observatory also tells stories about a century of people who came –and continue to come–to California to look up to the heavens, out to their world, and in to themselves.

The Project

Beginning in March, students will work in teams to explore their scientific, historical, cultural, and artistic curiosities about Mt. Wilson. Topics may be as diverse as the gendering of physics, the class politics of astronomy, or how new ways of seeing the sky influence art—wherever our questions lead us. Each group will have access to resources at The Huntington, USC, and Polytechnic and will work with the support of teachers, academics, and scientists who will help them access the resources they need in order to answer—and continue asking—their questions. In April, students will share what they have learned by leading interactive workshops open to the community. Following these workshops, the group will drive up to Mt. Wilson where we will join an astrophysicist-guide for a private viewing of the night sky through the telescope that “discovered the galaxy.”

The Commitment

FAQ is free and open to LASA, PFS!, and Poly students in grades 9-12. Students should plan on three three-hour group meetings from the beginning of March through mid-April (likely weekends, but days and times are flexible), as well as time for the independent research and planning necessary for the project. Between meetings, teams will be expected to remain in regular contact via Slack (or some other sharing platform) to share ideas and findings as their projects develop.

Dates: March 17, April 8, TBD

The Students

Any LASA, PFS!, or Poly student interested in removing the obstacles to their curiosity.


If you are interested in joining this pilot program, please complete this form by February 25. And if you have any questions, please reach out to your contact at LASA, PFS!, or Poly or email Nathan Stogdill at