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Community Science Lab

Our Community Science Lab works with students to develop materials and methods that help improve their schools and communities through elevating student voice and reflection on scientific understandings of the human condition. 

What is Community Science?

Community science is a broad term for community-based approaches to research, often including a range of practices including citizen science and service-learning.

Building on our educational design concept, and Theory of School Improvement, our department is supporting the development of a novel Community Science Lab Model, where we focus on the collaborative use of scientific methods to better understand and inform the cultural evolution of cooperation in our own communities. It is an approach to youth empowerment that works to bridge our evolutionary past with our preferred futures on issues that matter to students and their communities.

Schools as Field Sites for Community-Based Cultural Evolution

Part of our Community Science Lab model involves the active development of conceptualizing schools as field sites for community-based cultural evolution.

This means supporting school communities in thinking about their own freely chosen identity as a field site for creating the conditions for valued human development and sustainable development outcomes. 

This emerging model is being developed across several of our research and innovation partners. The video to the right is a recent presentation we made as part of the Cultural Evolution Society 2021 Conference. 

Community-Based Research in Education

Students are in a unique position within their own communities to be able to learn about and advocate for valued changes to the world they are inheriting . By grounding community science investigations within cultural evolutionary perspectives on human cooperation, students can engage a powerful set of theoretical and methodological tools to investigate and communicate the sustainability issues that directly impact their lives.

YPAR Hub - Youth-Led Participatory Action Research - a research toolkit for students to lead investigations into the issues that impact their lives

The Cultural Evolution of Cooperation

Humans are a uniquely cooperative species, having evolved capacities to work together at scales of time and social organization unparalleled in the natural world. Despite these abilities, the challenges of cooperation seem to be at the heart of nearly every sustainability dilemma that modern communities must face. The science of cultural evolution provides a theoretical framework for understanding the complex conditions that favor or hinder our capacities for cooperation.

Prosocial Schools is a global network of scientists, psychologists, educators and students. The aim is to use the science of human evolution, behavior, and cooperation to help schools evolve a healthy school culture and promote well-being. Our Community Science Lab is part of the Prosocial Schools network. 


Evolving Schools

What are the origins of teaching and learning? How can we think about the cultural diversity of schools and how schools influence our socio-cognitive development?

How do human conceptions of school and school improvement develop across cultures and over our lifetimes?

The Evolving Schools project is a collaboration emergent from across the many education networks of which we are a part. We distill the leading edge of evolutionary anthropology in teaching and learning to engage students around the world in reflecting on the big questions about schools and education in the 21st century. Using participatory community science methods, we don't simply study student conceptions of schooling, but work with students as researcher-practioner partners in school improvement research. That is, we work with students in secondary and higher education to develop innovative classroom activitities that make intuitive theories of schooling, explicit and visible. In this way, we are developing a foundational scientific understanding of the cultural and cognitive development of student thinking, while also providing a new platform for empowering student and whole-school community participation in driving educational innovation and improvements. 

Learn more on our OpenEvo project page:

or contact Dustin Eirdosh for more information and to connect your classroom into this project.