Current LCHC Projects

1. Designing, Implementing, and Sustaining Educational Enrichment activities

For the past several decades, a major line of LCHC research has been devoted to creating activities located in various Community institutions. These activities began with “The Fifth Dimension” which has morphed over time into a number of allied efforts.

Watch “Beyond the Fifth Dimension: University-Community Partnerships in Learning”, a film by Andy Rice:

Early Phases

The Fifth Dimension program was initially designed provide struggling school aged children, in collaboration with students enrolled in university practicum courses, with a variety of socially and intellectually enriched activities outside of regular school hours. These activities were structured to encourage all participants to externalize, reflect upon, communicate their experiences through a variety of media. These experiences were then intensively studied drawing upon varied sources of date from post­-session field notes to real time video.

In 1987 the “Fifth Dimension Project” served as an initial prototype for a model system involving University students in the development of local children as a condition of their own education. This larger system has been implemented in many locales, ranging from after-­school programs located in institutions such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YM & YWCAs, schools, churches, community centers, and hospitals. It has also included public schools in the United States, Mexico, Spain, Australia, Finland, Russia, and elsewhere. This work has included preschool through middle school community participants and university students.

For information on the early history of these efforts, see 11

Transition to UClinks

In 1997 by Mike Cole and Olga Vasquez at LCHC with the support of University of California President Richard Atkinson and anthropologist, Charles Underwood, initiated UCLinks, a statewide version of this approach to supporting the academic development of marginalized school children. Using the 5th Dimension and its bilingual/bicultural adaptation, La Clase Magica as initial models, UC Links developed both in size and diversity over the years as more and different people came into the network. Partners in local UCLinks programs across the UC system design educational programs that connect community and university partners. Drawing on the knowledge local institutional partners, parents, and teachers in the local community, each site in the UC Links network has developed enrichment activities adapted to serve the local concerns, interests, and needs of local children and their families (

Current LCHC UCLinks Project: Green Steam Communities (GSC)

At present LCHC research is carried out under the aegis of UCLinks and builds upon the 5th Dimension model in collaboration with a community-based NGO, Dubbed the “Green Steam Community Station,” this project is a joint program between LCHC, the San Diego Community Garden Network(SDCGN) and the University of California, San Diego's (UCSD) Extension Program . In addition to traditional topics that have served as the contents of UCLinks program, as its name implies, the Green Steam Community Station projects mix traditional “stem” activities (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) with
urban agriculture projects that involve digital technologies such as sensors and wireless devices to promote learning through civic engagement for social justice, food security, and environmental stewardship in addition to more traditional academic topics. The use of multi-media art projects serves as a means both for teaching valued skills and for communicating the fruits of the participants’ labor (Lead Researchers: Angela Booker, Camille Campion, Michael Cole, Robert Lecusay and Ivan Rosero). For an overall view of current activities, see

Specific projects currently contributing to the overall GSC efforts include:

A. Town and Country Learning Center (TCLC)

In the summer of 2007 LCHC started an after-school program with the Education section of the UCSD Supercomputer and the Town and Country Learning Center, at HUD housing project, on the Community side. Like the 5th Dimension, this project also mixes play, learning, and friendships among undergraduates. However, instead of providing community partners with a “starter kid of activities” as a point of departure, the TCLC project uses a strategy for inducing development that we refer to as “mutual appropriation” – an interactive strategy in which the University participants begin by immersing themselves in their hosts’ ongoing activities in ways that the hosts deem beneficial and the two groups then develop a new, program together, combining the concerns and resources unique to each. Adoption of a mutual appropriation approach to co-designing joint activities makes this line of work especially interesting from a theoretical/methodological point of view (Lead Researchers: Angela Booker, Robert Lecusay, & Camille Campion). For more information see

B. Kearny High Aquaponics

The Kearny High Aquaponics Project is an ongoing Extension-Practicum Project in the School of Science Connections and Technology (SCT) at Kearny High School. The extension component was a course titled Urban Agriculture, Green Technologies, and Food Justice, while the practicum component was a course titled Research and Design of Informal Science Learning. Lead Researchers Robert Lecusay and Ivan Rosero).

C. Bayside Community Center Aquafarm

The Bayside Community Center Aqua-farm project is a STEAM Installation born out of a series of aquaponics and GIS mapping workshops conducted by Green STEAM Communities for a middle school inter-session camp, the Montgomery Intersession Academy. To implement this project we collaborated with staff and students from the Bayside Community Center, the Mission Valley YMCA, and the University of San Diego’s Master’s Program in Counseling.

D. Town & Country Community Gardens

The Town & Country Community Garden Project grew out of the partnership with TCLC and is the longest running collaborative activity involving GSC. This ongoing project is organized around the creation and maintenance of community garden plots in the Town & Country Village Apartment complex in Southeastern San Diego. The plots are used both for growing food, for engaging adult residents in questions of nutrition and health for themselves and their children and as “living laboratories” to support a variety of educational activities for the local resident youth. (Lead Researchers: GSC)

2. Meta-Study of Sustainability

One of the major motives underpinning the 5th Dimension from 1986 to the present, and the various new forms of university-community links programs which have subsequently evolved, has been to understand the process by which such projects fail and disappear from community memory. Over the past three decades data based on field notes of meetings, email documents, as well as official reports, have been used to trace the “life histories” of these programs. What are the combinations of properties that sustained some projects and gave rise to new ones? By the same token, what combinations of factors resulted in the terminations of the program?

Over the years, sustainability of such innovations has gained increasing prominence in our thinking. As the time scale across which the innovation survived has increased, and the range of social ecological circumstances in which it has been implemented expanded, we began to see many promising efforts falter and die away. At the same time, there are 5th Dimension and later UClinks programs that have continued for decades.

Early accounts of this work can be found in M. Cole (1996) Cultural Psychology, or M. Cole and the Distributed Literacy Consortium (2006) The Fifth Dimension, An After-school Program Built on Diversity. A recent discussion can be found in Nillson and Nocon, 2013. (Lead Researchers: Virginia Gordon, Michael Cole).

3. The UChange Network (2013 to present)

LCHC co-founded the Uchange Network in 2013 in partnership with the MAGNET Center at New York University, the EngageLab at the University of Oslo (Norway), and the Oslo University College of Architecture and Design. The UChange Network supports design studio experiences oriented to social innovation and community improvement through collaboration among design students, university researchers, and community participants, particularly young people. Research will document the variety of learning experiences associated with participation, especially the development of collaboration skills across substantial differences in age and background. In future the network will expand to include additional partners in Europe and elsewhere and the developmental of a platform to facilitate online collaborations.

The UChange Network is applying for ongoing funding from the National Science Foundation and various European Union funding sources. Initial design groups began work in New York and Oslo in early 2014. LCHC will be mainly responsible for assisting in analysis and interpretation of the video documentation of the project (Lead Researchers: Jay Lemke, Michael Cole).

4. Technological Mediation of Learning and Development Among Teachers and Future Teachers

Jim Levin (UCSD Education Studies) explores the ways in which technology can be used to improve education, particularly the ways new technologies fundamentally change the relationship between education and society. Specifically, his research examines in detail the variety of mediators of learning and development, both conventional and those provided by new technologies, focusing on the ways that these multiple mediators interact with each other in promoting or hindering learning and development. Models of mediation are constructed with multi­agent­based modeling tools, and these models are evaluated by comparison with process data of interactions among teachers, teacher educators, and student teachers (Lead Researcher: Jim Levin).

5. Collaborative video production in the construction of identities and self-representations: Street corner stories

Camille Campion examines how collaborative video production (CVP) can act as method, process, and text for exploring the construction of identities and creation of self-representations. There is a long history in academia of looking at small groups and addressing questions of identity and representation, and more contemporarily, of ethnographers seeking to do so in more collaborative and reflexive ways. Digital media tools, particularly video-making in this current case, provide opportunities for collaborating, analyzing, and intervening in and with small groups in novel ways. Camille has conducted CVP projects with two non-profits in Southeastern San Diego: Project Safe Way (a local group dedicated to ensuring age passage from students on their way to and from school), and People's Produce Project (an organization focusing on local food justice issues and urban agriculture). Together, Camille and the members of the organizations co-created short videos promoting each respective program. In addition addressing questions of identity and representation, these projects speak to Camille's interest in creating mutually beneficial university-community partnerships (Lead Researcher: Camille Campion).

See People's Produce Project video here:

6. Traditional Crafts in a Computer Mediated Community of Practice

Rachel's current research is part of the Connected Learning Research Network, funded by the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative. Her project is focused on an online group of women who combine the interests of fiber crafting (knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving) and Harry Potter. Hogwarts at Ravelry is named after the magical school of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and offers members a rich learning environment where they are supported and challenged to advance in their fiber crafting and Harry Potter interests. The members of this group use narrative, crafting, and role-play to create a fantasy Hogwarts. Members become students, attend classes, and participate in Harry Potter-based activities.

Rachel looks at how the design features, supports, and peer culture of the group support connected learning. In her blog entries for the Connected Learning Research Network, Rachel has discussed how the group's collaborative activities foster participation and learning, the community offers peer support and also spurs individual inquiry, the networked nature of the group offers a community for those who are physically unable to participate in local groups, the group's activities offer gateway opportunities for community and civic engagement, and how the group's activities and design have helped support a teenager as she's become a knitting pattern author and seller (Lead researcher: Rachel Cody).

Rachel's case study on Hogwarts at Ravelry will be released later this spring. Her blog writings about the group can be found at:

7. Growing Multi-media Discursive Spaces for International Polylogue

Beginning in approximately 1984, in conjunction with the reorganization of LCHC we began to conduct an international, internet-mediated forum that has expanded along with the internet itself. Now using the acronym, XMCA , this discussion has grown into an interactive forum for a community of interdisciplinary scholars who share an interest in the study of human mind in its cultural and historical contexts. Our emphasis is on research that seeks to resolve methodological problems associated with the analysis of human socially embedded activity and theoretical approaches that place culture and activity at the center of attempts to understand human nature. Our participants come from all over the world and a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, cognitive science, education, linguistics, psychology and sociology. This forum has itself become the subject of research. For more information, see the archives page on this website.

8. Playworlds: A Recently emerging form of adult-child joint play

Playworlds (Lindqvist, 1995) are a form of adult-child joint play in which adults and children enter into a common fantasy that is designed to support the development of both adults and children. Playworlds are inspired by Vygotsky’s theories of imagination, creativity and the psychology of art, as well as by the work of many other researchers and scholars and by the practice of playworlds in various local settings. Playworlds complicate traditional dichotomies between, and make visible for empirical research, such key psychological processes as cognition and emotion, and imagination and creativity. For more information, see the Playworlds page.