Project Zero

Project Zero, a leading educational research organization at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, has had a decade-long relationship with WIS.

The very first Project Zero conference held away from the Harvard campus was co-hosted by WIS and the National Gallery of Art in November 2010; this successful collaboration was repeated in October 2016. In addition, WIS teachers have presented workshops at off-site conferences in New York, Atlanta, and Clarkston, Michigan and regularly lead in-house workshops to show colleagues and parents how they are using Project Zero ideas in practice. (This article on innovation in schools highlights WIS's partnership with Project Zero.)

For the 2010-11 academic year, WIS received a matching grant from the EE Ford Foundation to establish a consultant-in-residency program featuring Project Zero researchers Veronica Boix Mansilla and Ron Ritchhart. Contributions from the community ensured WIS met the match. In the 2011-12, the WIS Parent Association awarded a grant that sustained this work for another year.

Throughout these two years, the Project Zero consultants worked with teachers and administrators to develop the skills, knowledge, and understanding connected to a relevant global issues curriculum and its delivery. Their work entailed, but was not limited to:

  • Leading workshops for teachers;
  • Observing classes and engaging the faculty in explorations of teaching and learning issues related to building a relevant curriculum for the 21st century;
  • Organizing and advising professional learning groups of teachers;
  • Consulting with groups of teachers in subject area and grade level groups to build interdisciplinary approaches to various topics;
  • Training teachers to be trainers, so they could lead workshops and symposia as outlined above; and
  • Consulting with the school’s Academic Council and administrators on strategies to ensure success of this project.

As a result of these initiatives, the entire WIS faculty has engaged deeply with Project Zero ideas.

What is Project Zero?

As stated on its website, “Project Zero's mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as in humanistic and scientific disciplines, at individual and institutional levels.” Project Zero was founded at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 1967 by the philosopher Nelson Goodman to study and improve education in and through the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that "zero" had been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name. Today, Project Zero is building on years of research to help create communities of reflective, independent learners; to enhance deep understanding within and across disciplines; and to promote critical and creative thinking (read this article from the Harvard Gazette on the benefit of developing better thinking skills). Descriptions of the key projects led by researchers at Project Zero can be found here.

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