Event Details

The Project Zero Sparks Conference (June 28-30, 2021) is a 3-day virtual learning experience featuring new research and fresh takes on some of PZ's most popular and enduring frameworks. Engage in plenaries, interactive workshops, and facilitated discussion groups with colleagues from around the world. Featured plenary speakers include Ron RitchhartDanielle Allen, and the ArtC initiative's Shari Tishman & Carrie James.


Sparks Questions for Exploration

In the plenaries, workshops and discussion groups, we will explore striking questions that are arising in a wide range of today’s educational contexts. Some of these questions are:

  • How do we harness the power of play, the arts and creativity to ignite curiosity?
  • How do we build and sustain cultures of thinking in all learning contexts?
  • How do we engage learners in uncovering complexity?
  • How do we develop dispositions to be an ethical and engaged civic participant in today’s world?
  • How do we incorporate strategies for deep learning and thinking across ages, grade levels, disciplines and cultural contexts?


Attending Sparks

Educators from all backgrounds and disciplines as well as those working with any student age group are welcome - classroom teachers, early childhood educators, after-school coordinators, informal/nontraditional learning instructors, museum educators, homeschoolers, nonprofit coordinators, and more. Whether you are new to Project Zero ideas or already expert in adapting and applying them, Sparks is an opportunity to reflect on your pedagogy, renew your inspiration for teaching and learning, and recharge.



Here’s what you can expect each day at Sparks:

  • Plenaries - Each day you will hear from a PZ researcher about a different area of research. The plenaries will be both live and recorded, so you will be able to participate live in the chat and/or rewatch them later at any time. Featured plenary speakers include Ron RitchhartDanielle Allen, and the ArtC initiative's Shari Tishman & Carrie James.
  • Workshops - You will be able to engage in a live interactive learning experience each day with a PZ researcher and other participants from around the world. Not to be confused with webinars, these will be like class sessions where there will be breakout groups and/or live discussion with presenters and other participants. More info on workshops can be found here.
  • Spark Groups - Each day you will have the opportunity to engage with other conference attendees in facilitated small discussion groups called Spark Groups.  Here you will get to participate in interactive discussion and activities that help you synthesize and personalize the information you’ll be gathering during the conference.
  • Global Time Circuits - The Sparks Conference is scheduled so that you can participate in live sessions from almost anywhere in the world! There are two time circuits that you can choose from - the Orange Circuit and the Blue Circuit (see details below). Both circuits will have the same offerings. You will be able to attend events that are designated for all attendees and for those during the time circuit that you choose when you register.

All times below are in Boston time,  Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Check your local time.

All Attendees

  • 10:00 AM  - 11:15 AM EDT - Plenaries
  • Ongoing - Throughout the conference, participants will be able to access special resources and materials to deepen learning and spark conversation with other participants.

Orange Circuit

This circuit may be suitable if you plan to participate from countries in North or South America, Europe, Asia (particularly western Asia), and Africa. These events will be held Monday, June 28, 2021 through Wednesday, June 30, 2021 EDT. Check your local time.

  • 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM EDT - Workshops
  • 2:00 PM -  3:30 PM EDT - Spark Groups

Blue Circuit

This circuit may be suitable if you plan to participate from countries in Asia and Oceania (particularly eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand). These events will be held Monday, June 28, 2021 through Wednesday, June 30, 2021 EDT.  Please note that if you plan to participate from these regions, these events will take place in your time zone across four days instead of three days - from the evening of Monday, June 28, 2021 through the morning of Thursday, July 1, 2021. Check your local time.

  • 7:00 PM  - 9:00 PM EDT - Workshops
  • 9:30 PM - 11:00 PM EDT - Spark Groups


Behind Their Screens: Supporting Students’ Digital Well-Being and Citizenship in and after the Pandemic
Carrie James, Principal InvestigatorEmily Weinstein, Senior Researcher

Behind Their Screens: Supporting Students’ Digital Well-Being and Citizenship in and after the Pandemic

Digital technology use was a consistent part of everyday life before the pandemic. In 2020-21, it became a near-constant by necessity. Our students’ learning, social lives, and entertainment were (and in many ways still are) happening largely ‘behind the screen.’ How do we help them re-assess and reset their digital habits as we prepare to move forward? How can we build dispositions they need for mindful engagement with peers and the broader world?


Building Community in Our Classrooms
Tina Blythe, Senior Researcher and Director of Learning and OutreachKurt Wootton, Co-Founder of Habla

Building Community in Our Classrooms

How can we build authentic communities with our students whether we are teaching on-line or in-person? Feelings of trust and connection are essential to teaching and learning. After the large shifts we've experienced in our lives over the last year, fostering relationships becomes even more important. Tina Blythe, Project Zero’s Director of Learning and Outreach, and Kurt Wootton, Co-Founder of The Habla Institute, will offer approaches to help you and your students to connect and work collaboratively online and in-person. In this highly interactive workshop, you will participate in activities that can be easily transferred to your classrooms. This course is recommended for primary and secondary teachers of all subjects.


Cultures of Thinking in Action: 10 Guiding Principles
Ron Ritchhart, Senior Research Associate

Cultures of Thinking in Action: 10 Guiding Principles

Transforming schools and classrooms into cultures of thinking is more than merely instituting a set of practices. As useful as practices like thinking routines, documentation, and effective questioning can be, culture runs deeper. Culture is built on our values and beliefs and embedded in the messages we send. Thus, deep and lasting transformation must begin by embracing a set of beliefs about teaching, learning, and schooling. In this workshop, we will explore through active, interactive dialogue with our peers the 10 principles that we use in the Cultures of Thinking project to drive our action. These principles motivate and guide our actions and provide the touchstones we need as we create places where thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted.


Educating for a Complex World
Flossie S. G. Chua, Ed.D, Principal Investigator

Educating for a Complex World

How can we deepen and broaden learning for the lives today's learners are likely to lead? In our era, the demands of a rapidly changing world on education urge us to reach beyond the traditional agendas of achievement, information and expertise. In more adventurous school settings, innovations thrive when learning is reimagined using big understandings and big ideas. This workshop explores how teachers and schools can define their own visionary directions, drawing on a flexible framework about learning that matters and ways of fostering and leading it, developed collaboratively between Project Zero and Independent Schools Victoria. It shares this general approach along with examples from Australian settings of how educating for big understandings and big questions can become powerful levers for teacher and school development.


Humane Dispositions: New thinking routines for a diverse, unequal and moving world
Veronica Boix-Mansilla, Principal Investigator

Humane Dispositions: New thinking routines for a diverse, unequal and moving world

The year 2020 showed the resilience of educators committed to student learning under most unsettling circumstances. It also shed light on the need to understand our students in context and to eliminate the pernicious inequities permeating our societies. In this session, we will ask: What dispositions might be worth nurturing to empower our youth to live fulfilling lives and construct more inclusive and equitable societies? What concrete practical tools might help us move in the right direction? Participants will (a) become familiar with our new Re-Imagining Migration Dispositions Framework; (b) experience our newly developed Socio-Emotional-Civic Thinking Routines; and (c) familiarize themselves with the Smithsonian Learning Lab interactive platform for digital learning. Along the way, we will connect ideas and tools to our own practice.


Interpreting and Navigating the Three O’s: Supporting young people to engage with human complexity
Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Principal InvestigatorSheya, Project Manager, Founder of JusticexDesign

Interpreting and Navigating the Three O’s: Supporting young people to engage with human complexity

In this two-hour workshop, participants will be introduced to ongoing work from Out of Eden Learn, an online learning program and research project that connects young people from around the world to share stories and engage in thoughtful dialogue with one another. The workshop will focus on the Three O’s: overgeneralization, overconfidence, and othering—a framework that supports students to thoughtfully interpret and navigate the world and to avoid common pitfalls when engaging with difference, such as making assumptions, stereotyping, or viewing one’s own culture or perspective as the norm. After being introduced to the framework, workshop participants will be invited to find examples of the Three O’s in their own lives. They will also examine student work and consider how the Three O’s might be useful in their own teaching and learning contexts. Participants will exchange ideas and explore new tools. The workshop is intended for educators of elementary, middle, and high school-age students, as well as adult learners.


Pedagogy of Play: Supporting learning through play from preschool through middle school
Mara Krechevsky, Senior ResearcherMegina Baker, Research Collaborator, Pedagogy of Play

Pedagogy of Play: Supporting learning through play from preschool through middle school

Play is at the heart of childhood. Through play, children learn how to collaborate, how to negotiate rules and relationships, and how to imagine, create, and dream. They learn to solve problems, think flexibly and critically, and communicate effectively. Whether playing with objects, engaging in pretend play, or tinkering with ideas and testing theories, children’s play is essential to their social, intellectual, physical, and emotional growth. In this interactive workshop, we will discuss what it means to embrace play as a core resource for learning in schools. What is playful learning and what does it look like? What are the core principles that help set the conditions for a pedagogy of play? Join Project Zero researchers Mara Krechevsky and Megina Baker as they share resources for cultivating a pedagogy of play: a suite of practices, strategies, and tools co-created with teacher-researcher partners on the Pedagogy of Play project. Participants will have an opportunity to test some playful learning tools, considering the role of play in their own teaching and learning context.


Sparking civic inquiry through looking at and making art: A practical introduction to the Arts as Civic Commons project
Shari Tishman, Senior Research Associate

Sparking civic inquiry through looking at and making art: A practical introduction to the Arts as Civic Commons project

The Arts as Civic Commons (ArtC) project offers strategies and resources to help learners explore civic life through looking at and making art. ArtC materials can be used in person or online, and are suitable for use in school, museums, galleries, or anywhere else people of any age gather to explore art together. In this workshop, participants will learn about the core ideas behind ArtC, and engage in a series of activities and reflections that bring the ideas to life.


Teaching Good Work
Lynn Barendsen, Project DirectorShelby Clark, Senior Research Manager

Teaching Good Work

Over the past 25 years, The Good Project, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, has investigated individuals and institutions that exemplify “good work.” We define “good work” according to three criteria: it is 1) excellent (high quality), 2) ethical (socially responsible), and 3) engaging (meaningful).

It’s clear that new challenges have emerged that may hinder the encouragement and achievement of “good work.” Despite calls for the development of “21st century skills” in adolescents necessary for success in employment, few educational outlets allow students to grapple with ambiguity, complexity, and their own opinions and beliefs.

In this workshop we will review our research on “good work” and offer an introduction to our Lesson Plans, which attempt to fill this gap by giving young people the skills and strategies to flourish as future workers. We expose adolescents to real-world dilemmas, reflective activities, and guided conversations that will help to prepare them for the working world of today. Our contention is that students who are exposed to our materials will develop the skills, understandings, and repertoires to effectively navigate their future work lives.


Welcoming Uncertainty By Supporting Children as Agents of Change
Ben Mardell, ResearcherMatt Karlsen, Center for Playful InquirySusan Harris MacKay, Co-director, Center for Playful Inquiry

Welcoming Uncertainty By Supporting Children as Agents of Change

Learning is most powerful when the social, emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic dimensions of experiences are integrated. How can we make schools places where children gain hope and heal from trauma; environments where academic learning is meaningful, playful, and has a friendly relationship with uncertainty? Drawing on a collaborative research project involving the Center for Playful Inquiry, Opal School and Project Zero, this workshop focuses on three of the project’s principles in creating classrooms where children learn the wholistic skills they need to thrive:

  • Having clear and explicit values about the purpose of schools
  • Relying on play as a strategy for learning within a conflict-rich environment
  • Using a variety of materials and media to catalyze children’s thinking, extend it, and make their thinking visible

We will unpack these principles with classroom examples, and provide tools to take back to the classroom to actualize these principles. This workshop is most suitable for early childhood and elementary teachers and school leaders.


Registration and Payment

Register by Friday, May 14, 2021. Enrollment is limited, so please register today, especially if you are a part of a group or would like to apply for a scholarship (see Group Discounts or Scholarships below for details). Note: The conference may reach capacity prior to the deadline When the conference has reached capacity, registration will close and it will be noted here on the website.

Payment in full is due at the time of registration by credit card. If paying by a purchase order, payment is due within 30 days of the date of registration (you will be able to download an invoice once you register).  Project Zero is not able to hold spaces for the conference.

Register Here Workshop descriptions and information about the selection process will be available in mid-April to registered participants.

Group Discounts

A 10% discount is available for groups of 4 or more registering at the same time.  If you are interested in registering with this discount, you must first email Project Zero at pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu with the list of educators, roles, organizations and email addresses.  Upon approval, we will send you a unique, time-sensitive code to use when you register. 

All group members must register within the timeframe given. Group discounts will not be available after a registrations has been processed.


A limited number of scholarships is available for 70% off the tuition.  You are eligible for a scholarship if you are an educator:

  • In the United States, working directly with students as a teacher or school leader in either a public school with a free and reduced lunch rate of 60% or more OR working directly with students in an educational setting (e.g. a museum, a maker space, an after-school program, a child care provider) primarily involving  students in those eligible schools.
  • Outside of the United States, working directly with students as a teacher or school leader in a school or organization that serves 60% or more students whose families meet the country-defined standard for low-income or who receive financial assistance to attend.

All eligible applicants will not be able to receive a scholarship. Up to three applicants from the same organization may be awarded a scholarship; additional applicants from the same organization will be placed on a scholarship waiting list.

Apply for a scholarship here Please do not register for the conference until you receive a response from PZ.

To be considered for a scholarship, you must first complete the scholarship application. If you register/pay before applying for the scholarship, you will not be able to receive a refund for the amount of the scholarship, even if you are eligible. If you are approved for the scholarship, you will be sent a unique scholarship code to use during registration. You will receive a notification of your scholarship status within 3 business days of submitting a completed scholarship application.


To cancel your participation in the conference and request a refund for your registration, please email pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu by Wednesday, May 26, 2021. We will not be able to issue refunds after this date.  A 5% processing fee will be subtracted from the amount paid.

Substitutions for Registered Participants

Substitutions for registered participants, including those registered for a group, will be made only on a limited basis, and for significant, qualifying events (e.g. death in the family, serious illness, etc.). Should you have a significant, qualifying event, requests for substitutions should be made by email to pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu. We will not be able to make substitutions after Monday, June 14, 2021.

Certificates of Participation

If you participate in the full conference, you will receive a certificate of participation documenting 15 hours of professional learning. Certificates will be emailed approximately 6 weeks after the conference ends.