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Re-energize your practice through inspiring talks, interactive workshops, and thoughtful conversations with colleagues! Join Project Zero researchers and educators from around the world for an exciting day of learning. “Spark” your thinking with . . .

  • Fresh takes on some of PZ's most popular and enduring frameworks and how to use them to inspire students’ deeper learning and thinking across grade levels and subjects.
  • Strategies and resources for supporting students to engage thoughtfully with one another as they grapple with complex issues and challenges in the world around them.
  • Approaches to engaging students with systems thinking in ways that inspire their imagination, creativity, and agency.
  • New thinking routines for helping students reflect on their social, emotional, and civic life in complex digital spaces as well as in face-to-face relationships.

Project Zero’s second virtual Sparks conference will be held Thursday, July 21, 2022. Due to Harvard’s policies and the unpredictability of the pandemic, we are once again unable to gather in person; however, we embrace the accessibility and convenience that an online learning experience offers, and we look forward to a day of sharing inspirational ideas as well as practical and useable examples and strategies for making those ideas a valuable and supportive part of classrooms and other learning spaces.

Quick Links

The Shape of the Day

PZ Sparks 2022 will take place Thursday, 21 July, 8:30am - 4:00pm (Boston Time). The day will include two dynamic plenaries and two interactive workshops.


  • 8:30 - 9:00 - Opening Session
  • 9:00 - 10:00 - Plenary
  • 10:00 - 10:15 - Break
  • 10:15 - 12:00 PM - Workshops
  • 12:00 - 12:30 - Break
  • 12:30 - 1:30 - Plenary
  • 1:30 - 1:45 - Break
  • 1:45 - 3:30 - Workshops
  • 3:30 - 3:40 - Break
  • 3:40 - 4:00 - Closing Session


Featured plenary speakers include:

Creating Powerful Learning Opportunities

Ron Ritchhart

The opportunities we create as teachers go to the heart of our efforts to promote understanding and deep thinking, but what does it mean to create powerful learning opportunities for our students? This session will explore what research done by the Cultures of Thinking project and others have found to be crucial qualities in the design of powerful learning opportunities. We will explore how these design principles are used to craft powerful learning opportunities that engage students deeply in building understanding. We will explore this topic through reflection on our own teaching, an examination of the research, and our analysis of video examples of learning.

Participants will learn:

  • What research says about the kind of activities that give rise to powerful learning?
  • The four design qualities of powerful learning opportunities to which all designers of learning activities need to attend.
  • What these qualities look like in practice.

Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing - and How Educators Can Support Them

Carrie James and Emily Weinstein

Two things are true: adolescents are often more tech savvy than the adults in their lives and they critically need support to navigate complex digital dilemmas. In this plenary, PZ researchers Carrie James and Emily Weinstein draw on the latest research from their new book, Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (And Adults Are Missing), based on a decade of research and insights from more than 3,500 teens. The book reveals key ways adults’ good intentions are falling short, and tees-up the focus for this plenary: how educators can rethink the ways we think and talk to students about social, emotional, and civic life with social media. James and Weinstein's research directly informs Common Sense Media's free, award-winning Digital Citizenship curriculum, for which they created three new thinking routine-inspired protocols that they will draw on during this plenary session.

The plenaries will be both live and recorded, with recordings available to participants for three weeks after the conference.


Workshops are highly interactive. Workshop leaders include both Project Zero researchers as well as experienced educators who have applied and adapted PZ ideas and frameworks in their practice. Not to be confused with webinars, these interactive sessions involve breakout groups and live discussion with presenters and other participants. Workshops will not be recorded.

Considering PZ Ideas from a Mathematics Perspective Mark Church

Considering PZ Ideas from a Mathematics Perspective

What is understanding? How does it develop? What types of thinking moves help students both retain what they learn and transfer it to new and unfamiliar contexts? The ideas of Project Zero – particularly Teaching for Understanding and Making Thinking Visible – have had a lot of resonance with teachers across a variety of grade levels and subject areas for a number of years. This workshop is designed to reflect upon these overarching questions specifically with mathematics teaching and learning in mind. Though not a “how to implement” workshop, participants will find it useful to consider examples from a wide range of K-12 mathematics experiences that give perspective as to how other teachers in the mathematics context have come to grow legs to Project Zero ideas. This workshop is designed for educators teaching mathematics and working with learners of all ages from pre-K through secondary school as well as mathematics instructional coaches, and school leaders interested in the teaching and learning of mathematics and Project Zero ideas.


Deeper, together: Strategies for cultivating inquiry practices in schools Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Principal InvestigatorAdriana Garcia

Deeper, together: Strategies for cultivating inquiry practices in schools

Despite teachers’ best efforts, “deeper learning” is a relatively rare phenomenon in schools due to a variety of constraints (Mehta and Fine, 2019). For example, the pace of schools is often rushed, teachers feel pressure to cover a lot of content superficially, and/or school systems can lack coherence. This workshop draws from the Creating Communities of Inquiry project, a four-year collaboration between Project Zero and the Innova Schools of Peru. The workshop offers concrete strategies and tools for promoting inquiry practices in schools to help advance deeper learning–even when the context is less than conducive and educators have little experience of inquiry practices themselves. Some of the strategies we’ll share build on established practices developed at Project Zero and beyond, while others were developed specifically for the context of Innova Schools. Fundamentally shifting teaching and learning practices is never quick or easy–but we are excited to share promising ways to get past common roadblocks or misconceptions to create opportunities for educator and student growth. This workshop is designed for individual teachers seeking to develop their own practice as well as those engaged in teacher training, supervision, and/or professional learning.


Exploring the Power of Making Thinking Visible: When Thinking Becomes Routine Mark Church

Exploring the Power of Making Thinking Visible: When Thinking Becomes Routine

For many years, Project Zero researcher-educators have developed a number of thinking routines that encourage students to look closely, to seek connections, to uncover complexities, to reason with evidence, and to consider perspectives. When used powerfully, thinking routines not only provide teachers with a set of practices to engage students and teachers, but help advance deeper learning. In this session, participants will have an opportunity to consider making thinking visible as a goal of their teaching, to discuss powerful practices that bring thinking to the foreground of classroom endeavors, and to consider lessons we’ve learned from teachers worldwide who use thinking routines for maximum effect.


Good Work: What It Is, and How to Teach It Lynn Barendsen Danny Mucinskas

Good Work: What It Is, and How to Teach It

What does it mean to be an ethical and engaged participant and to do excellent work in the classroom and in the wider world? Over the past 25 years, The Good Project, based at Project Zero, has investigated these questions and defined “good work” according to three criteria: it is 1) excellent (high quality), 2) ethical (socially responsible), and 3) engaging (meaningful).

Today, new challenges have emerged that may hinder the achievement of “good work,” including technological advancement, political disruption, and new working habits. Despite calls for the development of “21st century skills” necessary for success in a changing landscape, few educational outlets allow students to grapple with complexity and their own opinions and beliefs related to present and future work.

In this workshop, we will review our research and offer an introduction to a set of lesson plans which attempt to fill this gap by giving young people the skills and strategies to flourish in their work. The lessons include real-world dilemmas, reflective activities, and guided conversations about ethical challenges, responsibilities, and values. Our contention is that these materials will allow students to develop the skills, understandings, and dispositions to effectively navigate their working lives.


Intent Vs. Impact: Evaluating Our Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist Education Practices Kasey Taylor

Intent Vs. Impact: Evaluating Our Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist Education Practices

Becoming an anti-bias, anti-racist (ABAR) educator relies on a deep understanding of bias and privilege in order to recognize and interrupt inequity in our schools. This involves a perpetual process of seeing what we don’t see yet and unlearning in order to re-learn. Therefore, we must embrace the thinking dispositions needed to reveal these insidious understanding gaps and inequitable practices that are counterproductive to creating ABAR communities. In this workshop, we will: examine the exclusionary aspects of our "hidden curriculum"; identify how we unintentionally perpetuate systems of inequity in our learning spaces; and practice compassionate accountability as we deepen our commitment to shaping experiences and partnerships in which all learners feel seen, valued, and supported. While the examples of practice are from early childhood and elementary settings, the goals of this workshop are suitable for educators of all ages.


Introduction to the Teaching for Understanding Framework Patricia León Agusti María Ximena Barrera

Introduction to the Teaching for Understanding Framework

While all the strands of Project Zero’s research can be used to support understanding, the Teaching for Understanding (TfU) framework is a comprehensive model designed specifically for that purpose - Understanding.TfU guides educators’ decisions so that instruction will better nurture learners’ development of flexible understanding. In this workshop, participants will explore the difference between knowing and understanding; they will also explore each element of TfU: throughlines, generative topics, understanding goals, performances of understanding and ongoing assessment. We will introduce the educational concerns that each element addresses, the criteria that distinguish them, and their interconnectedness. Participants will identify the characteristics of TfU through a video presentation and begin to use some of the elements themselves.


Learn to Share, Share to Learn: Collaborative Classroom Agency by Design Indi McCasey

Learn to Share, Share to Learn: Collaborative Classroom Agency by Design

“Civic agency is the capacity to shape one’s life and be a co-creator in shaping one’s community.” - Political theorist Danielle Allen

Many educators are committed to the idea of student-centered instruction that supports learners in their “capacity to shape their lives and be co-creators in shaping their community.” Even with the best of intentions however, teachers can find it difficult to shift from a transmission model where the teacher is the source of knowledge and the students are the receivers of it, to one where teachers and students collaborate for whole group learning.

Drawing on Project Zero’s Agency by Design research, this interactive workshop will address the “parts, purposes, and complexities” of our teaching practices. Together we will engage with the Creative Equity in Learning Framework, a tool being developed by educators in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ll use this framework to identify key elements of instructional design that aligns cross-curricular content standards with project-based learning in order to support outcomes of belonging, civic agency, and educational equity.


Maker-Centered Learning: Supporting Systems Thinking and a Sensitivity to Design Edward Clapp

Maker-Centered Learning: Supporting Systems Thinking and a Sensitivity to Design

Design is all around us: coffee mugs, smartphones, classroom furniture, and desktop lamps are all carefully designed. In fact, there is lots of designed “stuff” in our world. But beyond all this stuff, the systems that we participate in each day are also designed. If systems are designed, then perhaps they can be hacked or redesigned to be more effective, efficient, ethical, or even beautiful. For over ten years the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning has supported educators in empowering students to shape their worlds by looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity to redesign the objects and systems in their worlds. During this interactive session participants will work with Project Zero principal investigator Edward Clapp to look closely and explore the complexity of the systems they participate in—and consider how they might hack or redesign those systems. Along the way, participants will be introduced to a variety of Agency by Design pedagogical tools and resources. By the end of the session, participants will not only have a greater sensitivity to the design of the systems they are a part of, they will also be empowered to engage their students in systems thinking through maker-centered learning.


Making Thinking Visible in the World Language Classroom Faraday de la Camara

Making Thinking Visible in the World Language Classroom

What is the traditional story of learning in the world language classroom? How is this traditional story similar to and or different from what you believe about language teaching and learning? What learning opportunities might we offer to make our classrooms more student-centered and thinking-focused? In this workshop,, based on the work of Ron Ritchhart, we will explore what it means to make thinking visible and how making thinking visible might help us engage our world language students in more meaningful opportunities to develop and demonstrate language skills and knowledge while developing thinking moves that will stay with them long after they walk out the door. We will look at real pictures of practice with thinking routines in low intermediate to advanced elementary and high school world language classes. and begin to plan how we can use these thinking structures in our own classrooms to facilitate and enrich language learning.


New Socio-emotional Thinking Routines for a World on the Move Veronica Boix Mansilla

New Socio-emotional Thinking Routines for a World on the Move

We live in remarkable times. As educators working within intimate space of our schools, museums, and classrooms, we seek to prepare children and youth to lead well lived lives in a a world of rising complexity, diversity, and mobility. Our classrooms are the microcosmos where our youth learn to build more just societies, where inclusion and belonging become the norm. 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 Project Zero-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. Participants will leave with a set of practical tools and a connection to the Smithsonian Learning Lab for use in their classrooms.


Playful Learning, Playful Teaching: Using a Pedagogy of Play from Preschool through Middle School Ben MardellJen Ryan

Playful Learning, Playful Teaching: Using a Pedagogy of 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 workshop, join Project Zero researchers from the Pedagogy of Play initiative in an exploration of what it means to embrace play as a core part of learning in school. What is playful learning? How do we support playful pedagogy in school? Participants will explore playful learning practices, see classroom examples of playful teaching and learning in action, and consider strategies for bringing more play into their teaching and learning contexts.


Power, Justice, and Joy: Critical Pedagogy as Restorative Practice Sheya gerald smith

Power, Justice, and Joy: Critical Pedagogy as Restorative Practice

What lives at the intersection of justice-driven pedagogy, the many dimensions of power, and joyful learning? How might justice-centered learning experiences be as restorative as they are transformative? Founded in Washington, DC, in 2019, the JusticexDesign (JxD) project, has been exploring critical applications of Agency by Design’s framework for maker-centered learning. The JxD project has developed a set of principles and practices that encourage learners to: 1) look closely at context, history, legacy, and representation when interacting with systems and content, 2) explore the complexity and multidimensionality of forces of power that shape and influence everyday systems, and 3) find opportunities to redesign their own participation in systems. During this workshop, JxD founder and director, Sheya, and JxD origin educator, gerald d. smith jr, will share an overview of the JxD framework, consider how we sustain maker-centered justice work with joy and care, and share resources and tools for participants to explore the ideas further.


PZ Ideas in the Science Classroom Dolph Hardigree

PZ Ideas in the Science Classroom

In this workshop, educators will learn about how PZ thinking routines and protocols have been adapted for science content and classrooms. Dolph Hardigree will share his experiences as a high school science teacher in a diverse Georgia (US) public secondary school working with and integrating Project Zero’s research and frameworks. Participants will explore some of PZ’s thinking routines to consider how they specifically support learning in the sciences and help students become more engaged in classrooms and more effective as independent and collaborative learners. This workshop will include specific before & after examples, as well as time to work in small groups to develop applications for educators’ own school settings. This workshop is designed to support educators teaching in the sciences with learners in middle and secondary school as well as science-focused instructional coaches and museum educators.


Thinking with Text + Images: An Exploration of Thinking Routines for Looking Closely Jessica Ross

Thinking with Text + Images: An Exploration of Thinking Routines for Looking Closely

How can we support our students to gain understanding of complex text + images through looking closely?

How do we design learning experiences to foster thinking dispositions inherent in looking closely?

In this virtual workshop, participants will have the opportunity to engage with thinking dispositions and related thinking routines through image-based literature: picture books, graphic novels, and illustrated texts. We will look at a variety of image rich texts and consider the language of thinking routines to support specific thinking dispositions. Participants will have time to consider how these texts and routines might be employed in their own context to support their students in observing, connecting, question asking, exploring viewpoints, and reasoning. This workshop is designed for educators working with learners of all ages from pre-K through secondary school and beyond.


When Creative meets Civic: Engaging learners in worldmaking Flossie Chua Jason Blair

When Creative meets Civic: Engaging learners in worldmaking

Creativity – or using imagination and critical thinking to generate new ideas of value – has always been valued in human societies as critical for fulfillment and success for individuals, communities, industries, and countries. As our contemporary world grapples with the complex opportunities and challenges of human diversity, technological advancements, and environmental sustainability, developing the disposition towards creative problem solving, nuance, imagination and empathy is more pressing than ever.

This workshop introduces participants to the Cultivating Creative & Civic Capacities (C4) project, a 3-year research-practice collaboration between the Columbus Museum of Art and Project Zero to investigate and document ways to support young people’s capacities for creative and civic thinking, and their participation in a community with room for divergent perspectives. Participants will engage with an empirically-based framework and tools designed to promote young people’s curiosity about complex issues, openness to engaging multiple, often divergent, viewpoints, and a sense of social responsibility about actions they may take.


Who Should Attend?

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

Registration, Tuition, & Scholarships

$195 per person.

Groups of five or more attend for $165 each ($30 off each registration).

Scholarships are available for educators from qualifying organizations (apply for a scholarship). Scholarships for this event cover ~80% of the tuition (total cost to scholarship recipients = $40). Applications (here) must be submitted and accepted prior to registration. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please do NOT register for the conference until you have completed the scholarship application and have been approved for scholarship. Those who register for the conference prior to applying for a scholarship will become ineligible for the scholarship.

Scholarship Eligibility:

  • In the United States, public school educators working in schools with a free and reduced lunch rate of 25% or more OR educators working primarily with students who attend these schools.
  • Outside of the United States, educators whose schools or organizations serve 25% or more students whose families meet the country-defined standard for low-income.
  • Scholarship applications must be submitted and approved *prior* to registering for the conference.

Apply for Scholarship Register for Sparks

Deadline for registration: July 8, 2022 at 11:59pm Boston Time

Please note: Space is limited. The event may fill prior to the registration deadline.

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions must be submitted by July 8, 2022 at 11:59 Boston Time. All payments must be finalized by July 8 or participants will be placed on a wait list (removed from the registration).

To request a refund, modify your registration, or to ask questions, please email pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu


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