A CSW is a community space where kids and their families can go to create the projects of their imaginations and explore the physical and natural world.

You’ll find:
* Tools of all sorts
* Workbenches
* Piles of interesting scrap materials of all kinds
* Hands-on exhibits
* Animals and plants
* Bones and fossils
* Electronics
* Music and sound instruments
* Art supplies
* Nice people to help you explore and discover

Key elements of the CSW philosophy:

Facilitating and promoting community-based science

Inviting and guiding a personal, direct exploration of nature

Teaching science and engineering through exploration, tinkering and construction

Augmenting science education offered by schools

Facilitating and Promoting Community-Based Science

Science as a social mission

  • CSWs focus on serving low-income and under-represented communities, particularly communities that have been historically oppressed and marginalized.
  • CSWs work in communities to facilitate and promote learning the science that matters to the members of that specific community.
  • CSWs offer an effective, meaningful, holistic education.
  • CSWs offer a safe community space to be and learn in. The nurturing relationship and process of interacting within the community is more important than any product created or information learned.

In Contrast :

  • CSWs only engage with middle and upper class communities to the extent that this work can benefit the priority programing.
  • CSWs do not prioritize the production of future scientists or engineers, but rather promote science and understanding nature as a means to better people’s lives regardless of career choice.

Exploration of Nature

Freedom to inquire and seek understanding

  • CSWs focus on exploring the whole range of natural phenomena, “3D,” meaning beyond the digital realm. This includes traditional nature areas such as animals, plants, ecosystems and earth science, but also the nature of physics, chemistry and astronomy.
  • CSWs encourage curiosity and exploration with a free and open manner that allows maximum self-guided learning and individual discovery.
  • CSWs embrace learning by good books and other written resources to inform the messy complexity of reality that is encountered through direct exploration.
  • CSWs focus on areas of science and technology that are critical to justice and a more inclusive society, eg. climate change and sustainable energy.

In Contrast :

  • CSWs do not consider science to be neutral, but rather a tool to be used to understand nature and make changes.
  • CSWs prioritize wonder-based learning over the delivery of any given skill or set of information.
  • CSW staff are always ready to learn, don’t claim expertise and collect many ideas and insights from participants.  
  • CSWs use digital technology sparingly, when it can augment exploration and creation in the natural realms.

Exploration, Tinkering, and Construction

Unique stance on “STEAM” and “Making”

  • CSWs focus on giving opportunities for exploring and creating with the most basic materials and tools.  Hand tools and simple materials are prioritized above complex. Recycled materials are prioritized over new ones.  Low-tech often offers the best pathway to learning.
  • CSWs prioritize the process of discovery through tinkering over any given product or set of skills.
  • CSWs often engage in activities not generally included in the STEAM canon (costumes, haunted houses, needlework, etc), with the understanding that science and engineering underlie each of these.

In Contrast :

  • While CSWs offer the opportunity to try and master many skills, CSWs do not focus on teaching a given skill or technology.
  • CSWs generally has no prerequisites, and will start with anyone from zero. Every kid and parent is welcome to participate.
  • CSWs prioritize quality interaction – kid to project to mentor – over the acquisition of skills or information.
  • Any digital projects at CSWs will incorporate the above unique elements, i.e. free, creative, focused on justice, getting at real understanding over cut and paste.
  • CSWs generally avoid giving cookbook directions, and strive instead to get kids following a model or a plan, however vague.
  • CSWs provide context for how and why technologies are created, how they evolve, and how they impact us–even in ways we didn’t intend or expect.

Augmenting School Science

A unique approach to helping

  • CSWs work with schools by means of complementing their efforts, offering authentic experiences in science where schools are not able.
  • CSWs share our philosophy and best practices with teachers to increase the effectiveness of their teaching.
  • CSWs encourage academic engagement and success beyond the formal system, helping kids to find their genius and sense of agency regardless of their experience at school.
  • CSWs promote communities in science. Whether the activity is cooperative, competitive, or creative, we leverage what all members have to offer.

In Contrast :

  • CSWs are not restricted by schools’ limitations in the areas of curriculum, schedules, and resources. CSWs support schools’ curriculum to the extent that it is consistent with CSW values.
  • CSW staff support teachers and understand their high-pressure, high limitation reality.
  • CSWs prioritize authentic engagement in the process of science over delivery of content.
  • CSW funding strategy in general requires that schools must pay for services, at least partially.