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How Project Zero Influences My Classroom and My Everyday Life

“Hey! How are you?” Such a common question we encounter many times throughout our days and weeks. It seems the most widely accepted—and perhaps most anticipated—response to this common question is, “Busy! I got a lot going on.” 
When we overload our plates with an endless number of tasks, we miss out on the opportunity to reflect, make connections, assess emotional awareness, and think critically about the world around us.
It is true, the world we live in is moving at a breakneck speed. And yes, we are constantly inundated with potential tasks from all directions and at every hour of the day. However, we need to remind ourselves that tending to this infinite list of tasks is not only impossible, it is exhausting both mentally and physically.
Slowing Down and Being Intentional Every Day 
You may be thinking, “So, what do I do next?” As an educator, a big influence on my practice has been and is currently, the work from Project Zero around creating cultures of thinking. These Project Zero practices, have inspired me to slow down and resist the temptation to echo the common refrain, “I am so busy!” 
You see, one of the core tenets of the Project Zero work is about slowing down and being intentional and purposeful in your approach to teaching and learning. It is about slowing down to a pace where you begin to see the space between knowing and unknowing. It is about reframing your perspective from covering content, to uncovering ways of knowing and experiencing the world. This work has helped me develop a culture of thinking in my classroom and provide powerful ways to zoom in and make visible the transformative moments of growth and understanding among my students.
My Own Work with Project Zero
It’s important to point out that Project Zero is not only something I use with my students but something I personally learn about and grow from as well. This past year, I have been fortunate to work on a research project with the Columbus Museum of Art and the Project Zero team, in collaboration with several Columbus-based educators.
Together, we are exploring how to Cultivate the Creative and Civic Capacities (C4) of our students in a variety of settings. The heart of this work is investigating the overlap between the civic and the creative. One driving question that has helped ground this work is, “How might we use our creative and civic capacities to create a more just and sustainable world?”
Through our research, we have found some key components begin to surface, to help develop the conditions to cultivate student’s creative and civic capacities. These components will not only drive enculturation of creative and civic awareness, but they will also inspire new tools and protocols to use with students and faculty, towards creating a more just and sustainable world.
Here are some of the emerging components we’ve uncovered to cultivate creative and civic capacities:
Deep Questioning
Learning in the C4 space begins with student curiosity. 
Students follow the interests and issues that are compelling and life-centered. Questions that transcend all academic content areas can help provide a more holistic approach to teaching and learning. This approach can empower students to see connections that might have gone unnoticed in a more isolated, compartmentalized approach.
Imagine Boldly
Imagination is essential in the C4 space. Students must possess the bold imagination to
make visible possibilities that others can’t yet experience. Imagination is about so much more than just solving problems that seem insurmountable. To imagine boldly, one doesn’t just look for a new path to a clearly defined destination, they chart an entirely new path to a new destination yet to be discovered. If we truly want to challenge the status quo, we need to imagine boldly.
Influence and Inspire Action
One of the most important components of the C4 space is the ability to influence and inspire action. In order to cultivate students’ creative and civic capacities, we need to empower them to seek change and find a circle of friends to make this change happen. This work is very much about understanding others, as much as it's about understanding the self. The C4 space is about influencing others to take that first step, towards creating a more just and sustainable world.
Embrace Interdependence
To enter the C4 space, one needs to embrace its interdependent nature. Understanding the interconnectedness of the people, places, and artifacts among us helps open minds to new ways of seeing, understanding, and experiencing the world. The problems that define us are nuanced, complex, and interdependent. Allowing space for students to experience the vast complexity of these issues in our world, helps illuminate new creative connections between these seemingly disparate relationships. The C4 space embraces both the independent and interdependent nature of relationships.
How to Begin Project Zero Work in Your Classroom
As we head into this school year of uncertainty and ambiguity, let us slow down and notice the
world around us. Look for the space between knowing and unknowing. Look for the
opportunities for connection and reflection. Experiment with these components when
designing learning experiences for your students either face to face or remotely. How will you
allow for students to find and explore deep questions? How will you provide opportunities for students to imagine boldly? How will you empower students to influence and inspire action? How will you help students embrace interdependence in their learning journey? Lastly, how might you cultivate your students creative and civic capacities, towards a more just and sustainable world?

Join the Project Zero Cohort

In the fall of 20-21, we are continuing our Project Zero work with a new cohort and would love to have more teachers and administrators join us in our work.

If you are interested in learning more about Project Zero visit their website for articles, thinking routines, and professional development opportunities.

Learn about Project Zero at your own pace with our upcoming online book study. We will be focusing on the brand new "The Power of Making Thinking Visible" book, which provides new thinking routines and practices that engage and empower all learners.

You can join the book study anytime after October 15 and must finish before December 31.

Become involved in the new cohort this fall by emailing [email protected]

Jason Blair is a 19-year art educator. He has presented at NAEA, the Ohio Art Education Association conference, the Progressive Education Network conference, and Project Zero. He is currently the teacher-leader-in-residence at the Columbus Museum of Art and an assistant co-director of the Cultivating Civic and Creative Capacities research project in collaboration with the Columbus Museum of Art and the Harvard Graduate School of Education's, Project Zero. He received his MA in art education from The Ohio State University. Currently, he teaches elementary art in Dublin, Ohio.