Washington International School

Making Across the Curriculum

How do we make learning meaningful?
How can the practices of maker-centered learning be applied across content areas and grade levels?
How might we disrupt traditional transmission models of education in order to support the diverse needs of our students?

These questions are among many being generated in the Making Across the Curriculum (MAC) project based at Washington International School (WIS).

The MAC project began in early 2018 with the support of an Edward E. Ford Foundation traditional grant and matching contributions from WIS families. MAC combines professional development and research to facilitate teaching and learning experiences inspired by Agency by Design, an ongoing initiative at Project Zero, a research group at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.

Initially, a cohort of 20 WIS teachers embarked on this journey. They met once a month for a seminar led by Project Zero researchers Edward Clapp and Sarah Sheya. In between seminars, they got together every other week in learning groups to explore the ideas and pedagogical tools that Clapp and Sheya had introduced. 

At the start of the 2018-19 school year, the original cohort of teachers continued to meet, with three of them taking on the additional role of facilitating learning groups for a new cohort that formed with 25 Washington, DC, public school teachers. 

The project culminated with the first-ever Making Across the Curriculum Conference held at WIS in May 2019. Clapp and Sheya were featured as keynote speakers, while teachers from the two cohorts led workshops for participants. 

Like other initiatives at WIS supported by the E.E. Ford Foundation, MAC aims to sustain impact beyond the life of the original grant. In the 2019-20 school year, teachers from a new consortium of schools—independent, Catholic, and public—started exploring maker-centered practices. Additionally, participants in the original WIS and DC cohorts are looking specifically at the potential for exploring issues of justice and equity through making, design, and systems thinking. Teachers involved in MAC now regularly present at local and national conferences about the ways they have put maker-centered learning to powerful use in their contexts.

Most striking for the project leaders has been the level of commitment and excitement toward these ideas by the two cohorts. Some of it can be attributed to the foundation WIS has laid over the last few years with Project Zero-focused work across its two campuses and throughout the region. Teachers using maker-centered practices genuinely have seen higher levels of engagement from their students; have noticed students who might have previously struggled or held back in class taking a more active part in learning; have themselves taken more intellectual risks in their teaching; and, through the ongoing collaboration within the cohort, have eagerly explored interdisciplinary connections across subject areas. This blog post from Fernanda García, a Spanish language arts teacher at MacFarland Middle School and a participant in the DC cohort, gives concrete illustrations of these findings.

In the video below, three WIS teachers share insights into the benefits of maker-centered learning.


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