what’s new


Saturday August 2: CSCL Open House!

Are you currently homeschooling? Interested in homeschooling? Looking for an alternative option for next year? If so, come by our open house next weekend to check out the Center for Semiconducted Learning!

Open House @ Center for Semiconducted Learning
Parts and Crafts, 577 Somerville Ave, Somerville MA
Saturday August 2, 12-2 pm.

CSCL is a year-round immersive program for kids who want to make, build, play, and explore at their own pace and on their own terms. We run a community space with lots of tools, resources and projects, designed to meet a range of homeschooling needs and engage with a variety of traditional academic subjects on non-traditional ways. We’d love to meet you and your family!

RSVP HERE: CSCL Open House + Family Day


“Meet and Greet” Homeschooling Series

Starting in August 2014, we’re offering a series of free community workshops to parents and families who are considering homeschooling / alternative education to network and build relationships with other homeschoolers in the Somerville area. Each workshop will highlight a topic related to some topic in alternative education, with a short presentation and time and shared discussion.

Thursday August 7, 6-8 pm @ Parts and Crafts

Our first workshop will feature Kelly Taylor, who will be sharing her experiences in unschooling her oldest kid, as well as homeschooling parents who’ve opted to go this route with their kids. We’ll also hear from parents who have opted to go this route on how they define it, what they do, and how it’s worked for them. Free and open to the public.

Thursday August 21, 6-8 pm @ Parts and Crafts

For parents who are planning to start homeschooling in the fall and want help writing up their plan for the local school board. We’ll have some samples of different kinds of plans — fully fleshed out, super skeletal — and will hear from some parents on their experiences getting their plans authorized by the local school committee. This is typically a big hurdle for people starting out — our goal is give people some resources and to hear from people who have already gone through it to share their experiences!

Thursday September 25, 6-8 pm @ Parts and Crafts

How much math to you want to be doing? Do you want to be doing math at all to start out? If yes, what curricula do you pick from? (there are so many!) We don’t have the answers, but we do have a reasonable amount of experience helping kids transition from in-school to self-directed math work.In this workshop, we’ll introduce a couple of options we use at Parts and Crafts, share our experiences on the pros and cons of each, and hear from some homeschooling families on what’s worked for them. Especially recommended for CSCL parents interested in signing their kids up for
math tutorials (among other things, we will explain how they work)

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hackerspace survey

Parts and Crafts Membership Survey! 

We had a fantastic turnout for our event last Thursday!   Many thanks to all who came out — a really wonderful discussion and great to see so many new and old faces.    We are moving towards making this a reality for Fall 2014!

hackerspace meeting


Background: A Family Hackerspace @ Parts and Crafts!?

Starting next year, we want to shift to an open membership model, which we hope will help us better serve the community. The goal is to move away from a class-based afterschool model and towards vision of a real family hackerspace, a community center which people can use in a range of different ways.  Specifically we’d like to revamp our afterschool program to better serve the needs of the community by:

  • Shifting away from a “pay-per-day” model to an open membership model

  • Broadening drop-in hours so that more people can use the space for free

  • Structuring program offerings to create a vibrant and diverse afterschool community in our space

The goal is something like the NPR / PBS model:   We’re going to be running the programs either way, but if you like what we do and have the means to support it, please consider buying a membership to keep the space going!    It’s a small transition, but we feel an important one!

How you can help 

To help us figure out the logistics, we’re asking you to help us by filling out this short (OK, medium-length) survey about pricing, preferences, and what you’d like to see offered at Parts and Crafts next year! For a broader description of what we’re thinking about for next year, click here for a full overview.

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upcoming events

Brainstorm a family hackerspace! 

What:  Community Visioning for Fall 2014
When: Thursday July 24, 5:30-7 pm
Who: You and your family!


Hey everybody!   We’re in the process of reimagining our fall afterschool options in a big way and we’d love your input!   Join us for an evening of sharing food and ideas, making plans, and helping make Parts and Crafts awesome for Fall 2014.


Starting next year, we want to shift to an open membership model, which we hope will help us better serve the community. The goal is to move away from a class-based afterschool model and towards vision of a real family hackerspace, a community center which people can use in a range of different ways.  Specifically we’d like to revamp our afterschool program to better serve the needs of the community by:

  • Shifting away from a “pay-per-day” model to an open membership model

  • Broadening drop-in hours so that more people can use the space for free

  • Structuring program offerings to create a vibrant and diverse afterschool community in our space

We hope to enlist your help in building up a mixed-age community of hackers, makers, and tinkerers, and we’d love your feedback in helping us figure out how to make this important transition!

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What does this look like in practice?

Our vision has a couple of key components:

  • Free drop-in afterschool four days a week  (vs. pay at the door)

  • A rotating set of intro classes — electronics, woodworking, computer programming, and games — that we run every week, for free, for anyone in the space

  • A structured volunteer program to help build capacity and train new people

  • Extended drop-in hours five days a week where families can come *with* their kids, use our tools, get trained, and use staff resources for their own projects

The idea is that if you like these things, want to support them, and have the resources to do so, you can!   By becoming a member and supporting *all* of the programs that we run, rather than the specific workshop or afterschool program you would otherwise sign up for, we can make big strides in terms of widening access to the programs we offer.

In the process, we can bring more kids into the space, open up a lot of exciting new possibilities in terms of who we serve and what programs we offer, pay our staff a living wage, and start to build a volunteer base from the deep well of grown-up knowledge in the Somerville maker community.   It’s a small shift, but (we feel) an important one!

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What would membership get you?

  • The ability to come in anytime we’re open (excluding school hours) to use our space, our tools, and our resources.

  • Reduced rate for guest workshops + other perks  (the ability to host a birthday party?  a free lightsaber kit?   one-off workshops on topics of your choosing?)

  • A way to support these things that you would otherwise pay for!

Membership would not be required for participating — but it’s a way of helping to build a community, reach more people, and bring more people into the space. Think of the NPR or PBS membership model — they’re going to air the programs either way, but wouldn’t be able to do it without sustaining members who help to pay for them.

13886989067_b84367889a_z   IMG_1217

Where you come in!

We have lots of ideas, and lots of questions!    About cost and feasibility:   How much would it cost?    Is this more convenient than just charging people for classes?   Is sliding scale working?  and about  program offerings:  Would people actually use it?   What workshops do people want to see?   What pieces are we missing?  How do we make it great?!

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No open shop or kids band this weekend

Sorry about the inconvenience! We’ll be back in force at the end of February, look forward to seeing you then!

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The Riffle Effect Public Lab’s New Pilot Water Monitoring Sensor Tool   By definition, a riffle is a “short, relatively shallow and coarse-bedded length of stream over which the stream flows at

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higher velocity and higher turbulence than it normally does in comparison to a pool.” Similarly, Public Lab is making waves in the DIY and hacker community when it comes to creating tools for environmental exploration and investigation. Last weekend, I attended a Public Lab “toolshed raising” event in Somerville, MA, wherein local community members come to learn more about the organization, get a demo of their current tools, and work together

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on projects. There, the Public Lab team announced RIFFLE (Remote Independent Friendly Field-Logger Electronics) (support it here), a new pilot program and tool to monitor the water quality in Mystic River. I’m constantly impressed by the tools they develop (including a DIY spectrometry kit, balloon mapping kit, and modified infrared camera), which all follow the same credo: they are low cost, open source, and easy to build/maintain. At the

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event, Ben Gamari, one of the RIFFLE developers, expressed the core philosophy of making these tools accessible:

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“It has to just work.” Read the full post at www.scistarter.com

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PLOTS Toolshed Raising was great! Thanks to everyone who came out! We had a headcount of 25+, with the day covering tool intros, a presentation on Riffle, and open work periods with several working groups forming around water

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our new Makerbots, etc. Check it out! Riffle Presentation The Riffle, presented by donface.gif: A big crowd: The Riffle team making plans: Mary Martin, UNH researcher making visualizations for Riffle: Thermal Mapping brainstorming: members of Sara’s Northeastern Research Group From left: Sara, Devra, Max From left: Liz, Lauren Parts and Crafts! From left: Will MacFarlane, Patrick Herron (of Mystic River Watershed Association), Denise Provost (our district’s state representative), and Katie Gradowski. ***************************************************************************** Kieran and Ethan on Design Squad

    Showing us how it’s done! ***************************************************************************** Enrollment is open for February camp!
    • February Vacation Camp! February 17-21, 9-3 pm. A whole week of invention and creation! We’ll have our electronics workbench, art table, a bunch of hand-tools, building supplies, scrap materials, air pumps, hot glue, duct tape, etc. Printers will be taken apart, bread will be baked, LEDs and
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      motors will be glued to things, there may very well be giant cardboard sculptures. Who knows? We don’t know exactly what’ll happen, but we promise it will be fun, and amazing! Open to kids age 7-13. Cost: $75-300/week, sliding scale, with early and late care available.

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Help Save Henry’s Garden! Update: Sunflower Picket Line! (the following is copy pasted in an email from a camp parent) “People all over Somerville, MA plant flowers

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in beds in medians. These sunflowers are not a safety hazard–I live and drive there every day, and people walking and driving by compliment us every day as we work on the plot. We planted them specifically to memorialize a very old tree that was taken down without our knowledge by the city of Somerville. These flowers and vegetables are are not overgrowth, they are carefully contained and tended in a bed that our family

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Highway Lights and Lines has requested that the family take down this flower bed, saying that it’s overgrowth whose height poses a safety concern (see petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-henrys-raised-bed-garden-in-somerville-ma/) We like sunflowers! (they are both friendly, and useful in remediating nuclear waste sites!) If you’d like to see it preserved, click on this link and let the City of Somerville know how you feel! http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-henrys-raised-bed-garden-in-somerville-ma/ To kick off the new camp session, we decided to stage a sunflower picket line. Pictures below!

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Slow Times at Parts and Crafts Amazing pictures with slow-motion camera, jello, water balloons,

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Girls Invention Week Rocks! It was an amazing week of stilt-making,

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We had an all-time high of 40 kids who came to camp last week — a first for Parts and Crafts, and more than double the number who signed up for the session last year (for more on what we did over the course of the week, see pictures below) Working on mosaics Scratch Day! Carbonating ginger ale with dry ice Building a loom out of a bed frame Stilts! Girls Invention Week rocks!

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Kids Street Band rehearses this weekend! After a long hiatus, the Parts and Crafts kids

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street band will be starting rehearsals again this weekend! Come and make a joyful noise. Sunday May 6, from 3-5 pm!

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