Mission & History

The Community Science Workshop is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides member sites, educators, and makerspaces with the training resources and community of support they need to facilitate engaging learning experiences for undeserved youth.

The MISSION of the Community Science Workshop Network is to serve as a powerful advocate and resource for Community Science Workshops, providing opportunities for youth to tinker, make, and explore their world through science in under-served communities across California.

Our VISION is for all youth to be inspired by, and engaged in, the everyday wonder of science in the world around them; to identify themselves as scientists, engineers, problem-solvers, and builders; and to be empowered to be the producers (not consumers) of their own education.

The first Community Science Workshop (CSW) was founded in 1991, in the garage of Dan Sudran, in the Mission District of San Francisco. Dan was working at the time as a physics educator and technician, and after witnessing the negative influences children were exposed to in the neighborhood and the lack of after-school programs, he decided to open the first workshop as a neighborhood resource. The workshop was modeled after exhibits Dan had seen at the Exploratorium, and included real-life objects and materials such as fossils, geological specimens, animal bones, oscilliscopes, musical instruments, magnets. Dan added power tools, wood, and electronics components to the mix, giving kids the ability to build their own projects and science experiments.  The project was an instant success, quickly attracting large numbers of local children who lined-up and waited outside the garage every day after school, and eventually expanding to a more public location in the neighborhood and beginning to work with low-income schools around San Francisco.

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Then, in 1995, with support from the National Science Foundation, the successful CSW model was expanded to new workshops in Fresno and Watsonville. Further NSF funding in 2000 also led to the establishment of sister sites across the country, some of which are still active affiliated sites today. However, without a network of support, many of those sites were unable to stay open after the initial wave of funding.  In 2010, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation supported the founding of the CSW Network to address this trend, and to provide a support infrastructure for new and long-established CSW programs. The CSW Network has helped to strengthen CSW programs across the state, through staff professional development as well as ongoing research and evaluation of programs.  Technical assistance is offered to member sites by the Network to develop key back-end administrative systems that promote sustainability.