By Katrina Schwartz
Can the act of making or designing something help kids feel like they have agency over the objects and systems in their lives? That’s the main question a group of researchers at Project Zero, a research group out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, are tackling alongside classroom-based teachers in Oakland, California. In an evolving process, researchers are testing out activities they’ve designed to help students to look more closely, explain more deeply and take on opportunities to change things they see around them.
The program is called Agency By Design and it relies on nimble, malleable activities Project Zero researchers call “thinking routines” that slow down the pace of the classroom to make space for deep observation and wonderment. That happens by talking and discussing objects or systems in the everyday world to help kids develop words to describe their thinking. It’s more a framework than a specific step-by-step process. The Oakland educators experimenting with thinking routines teach a range of ages across public, private and charter schools. They each adapted the exercises to fit their purposes.