Citizen Science Lab moves to new space and grows online presence through its Field Trip in a Box

Moving a few blocks might not seem that big a deal. But when the Citizen Science Lab relocates in January from its current location to Centre Avenue in the Hill District, Dr. Andre Samuel envisions many benefits, not the least of which is increased visibility.

“That’s exactly what we’re hoping for,” says Samuel, Citizen Science Lab’s founder, president and CEO. “Not just from students, but from parents, educators and community leaders. The idea is that now that we are centrally located and right in the Hill District corridor on Centre Avenue, that traffic will be able to see us, be curious and, hopefully, come in through the doors and see what’s going on.”

Dr. Andre Samuel

The mission of the non-profit organization, which also has a location in Upper St. Clair, is to promote hands-on and discovery-based STEM education and enrichment.

The new facility will replace the current site in the Energy Innovation Center.

Citizen Science Lab also will likely benefit from proximity to ACH Clear Pathways, the Miller African-Centered Academy and Pittsburgh Weil Early Childhood Center.

With 4,200 square feet, approximately 1,700 square feet larger than the old facility, the Lab will be able to increase class size from 16 to approximately 24.

When the pandemic halted in-person classes on March 12, both Citizen Science Lab locations saw declines in registrations and revenue. Samuel and the staff responded by offering free cyber classes and creating Field Trip in a Box kits that include materials and a private Zoom link so that schools, organizations and community groups could help kids stay engaged in science online.

That program has attracted interest from New York, California, Washington D.C., Tennessee, and other locations throughout the U.S., and enabled Citizen Science Lab to grow its national footprint.

But nothing replaces in-person instruction. Samuel and his staff plan to reopen as soon as conditions are deemed safe. He’s not only eager to open the new facility but keen on letting kids know how much fun science can be.

“We know that it works,” Samuel says. “And we know that it is really just a matter of getting them through the door and changing their minds and letting them see this beautiful laboratory that doesn’t look like an institute of learning. It feels more like a place where we can be ourselves and have fun.”

From left, Cynthia Thomas, Jade Payne and Dr. Candice Johnson.

Citizen Science Lab also shows children of color that there are scientists who look like they do. When Samuel started his education, he says, “I don’t recall a single textbook where I saw a Black scientist highlighted. And I went to HBCUs (historically black college or university).”

In addition to Samuel, the organization employs three Black full-time staffers: Cynthia Thomas, Jade Payne and Dr. Candice Johnson.