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CSI Mission

The mission of CSI is to develop youth leadership in science through field-based science investigations and civic literacy through action projects. Students collaborate with scientists outside the classroom to apply the skills and concepts they have learned to real world projects. Students also participate in regular service-learning projects to gain perspective on civics concepts and to benefit their community. A fundamental cornerstone of MCSI is the active participation of our parent community to help with the logistics, program design, and fund-raising necessary to carry out our ambitious agenda.

What is CSI?

The Citizen Science Institute (CSI) is an Olympia School District-wide magnet, alternative program housed at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. It is multi grade and consists of approximately 47-50 students and two teachers. CSI teachers, students, and parents work together as a team to help students achieve their full potential. 

Through academically-challenging scientific and civic investigations, students become Citizen Scientists. They develop a sense of place through place-based and service learning. They understand and practice the philosophy of “interconnectedness,” that their actions can have both positive and negative consequences for their local and global communities.


How Does CSI Work?

Students typically enter CSI in their first year of middle school, 6th grade, and stay through their 8th grade year. All three grade levels learn together. CSI teachers are responsible for team teaching of the core subjects: science, social studies, and civics.

What Curriculum Topics will be Covered in Each Grade?

The curriculum is similar to all Olympia Middle Schools but is arranged in a 3-year cycle. Students are encouraged to examine personal learning styles and to take advantage of stronger areas while building on others. Much of the learning is experiential in nature and many units of study are designed to integrate curriculum areas.

CSI classes meet during 4th-6th periods of every school day. During 1st-3rd periods, CSI students take language arts, math, and enrichment classes with the general Thurgood Marshall Middle School student body.

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Grading and Assessment in CSI

In addition to traditional letter grading, CSI emphasizes learning, self-assessments and narrative teacher assessments. Students set goals for each quarter and frequently review their achievements.

STEMposium and Civics Projects

CSI students complete two extensive STEMposium (Science, Technology Engineering, Math) and Civics research projects each year. Each project includes a written paper and oral presentation on a topic of their own choosing.

Parent Involvement

CSI is a parent participation program based on the assumption that parents have the right and the responsibility to be actively involved in their children’s education. This parental volunteering is also modeling in good citizenship for our CSI students. Parents participate in a variety of ways, such as teaching “Parent-driven Explorations,” assisting in the class, Field Investigations, planning and chaperoning Field School, and fundraising. Parent meetings occur as needed, during which teachers share information about relevant classroom activities and plan upcoming events.

Parents are encouraged to participate in Thurgood Marshall all-school activities, such as the Marshall Community Council (MCC), the cafeteria store, theater productions, and activity nights.

Parent-driven Explorations

Parent-driven Explorations introduce students to new learning experiences and are an important part of CSI. Parents and community members lead these enrichment courses, which are scheduled on selected Fridays. They run nearly two hours and may be designed around themes that complement the regular curriculum, such as: handicrafts, cooking, sports, languages, community involvement, the arts, and exploration of Olympia’s natural environment. Such courses are optional opportunities that give parents a chance to share their passions and expertise with students in small groups.


Field Investigations 

Field Investigations are an integral part of CSI, either as a component of class study or associated with an Exploration. CSI also takes part in community-building events. Past Field Investigations have included water quality testing, planetarium visits, Mt. Rainier, Point Defiance Zoo, shellfish and bird monitoring, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, the Burke Museum, and bird, bull trout, and salmon tracking. Much of the observational and data collecting work by CSI students on these Field Investigations is performed as service projects for various local environmental agencies.

Field School

In the fall or spring, students travel to at least one regionally significant site, and spend several days learning about Washington’s history, ecological environments, cultural diversity, leadership and each other.

All-School Activities

CSI students participate in Thurgood Marshall Middle School activities including assemblies, theater, clubs and activity nights with all other Thurgood Marshall students. Students in 7th and 8th grades can also participate in all-school sports teams.


Fundraising is needed to support the CSI budget. The funds are used for Field Investigations, Exploration supplies, field school speakers, etc. Fundraising efforts vary from year to year, and include activities such as film screenings at the Capitol Theater, chocolate and coffee sales, and bake sales.


Because students spend three years in the same classroom, a strong community is formed and many students in CSI develop friendships that last a lifetime.


Families who are interested in joining CSI are encouraged to attend the Middle School Alternative Program Enrollment Information session. 

  • Click HERE to learn more about the CSI Enrollment Process for 2024-25


Where Should I Go For More Information?

You can contact the CSI Enrollment Coordinator at [email protected] for more information.