How do we best prepare young people for a rapidly changing world?

In response to this question, many leading education experts advocate interdisciplinary, project-based learning. Paired with design thinking, this “maker-centered” approach–a methodology providing a framework for looking closely, exploring complexity and finding opportunity–embraces the development of a wide range of dispositions and hands-on skills. Emergent research from the Agency by Design initiative at Project Zero shows promise for students, especially those from historically marginalized communities, to engage more meaningfully with content and to make rich connections across the curriculum on their own.

The Professional Development Collaborative is leading a new project called Agency by Design-DC: Making Across the Curriculum that aims to change the paradigm of teaching and learning in DC schools by creating a network of educators who use a maker-centered approach in their classrooms to better empower their students to make their mark on the world.

“A key goal of maker-centered learning is to help young people and adults
feel empowered to build and shape their worlds.”
~Agency by Design website

The Collaborative is managing the initial phase of the project, an ongoing researcher-in-residence program. Since February 2018, two Agency by Design (AbD) researchers from Project Zero have been working alongside 16 Washington International School teachers, across disciplines and grade levels, introducing AbD concepts as well as various related pedagogical tools. In the fall of 2018, this group expanded to include 25 teachers from the following public schools across the DC metropolitan area:

  • H.D. Cooke Elementary School (DCPS)
  • DC International Public Charter School
  • MacFarland Middle School (DCPS)
  • Roosevelt High School (DCPS)
  • Van Ness Elementary School (DCPS)

In spring of 2019, the Collaborative is hosting the first-ever Making Across the Curriculum Conference! On Saturday, May 18, educators from around the DMV area will gather at WIS’s Tregaron Campus to hear directly from the teachers who have participated in this initiative over the last year. The keynote speakers will be PZ researchers Edward Clapp and Sarah Sheya. 

For more information about the Making Across the Curriculum Conference, and to register for it, click HERE!


There are two major strands of inquiry for this project:

(1) How can the practices of maker-centered learning be applied across content areas and grade levels?

(2) How can the practices of maker-centered learning be applied to better reach and engage students–especially young people from historically marginalized communities–who struggle to excel within traditional educational structures?

Teachers involved in the project are learning about AbD pedagogical tools and practices in professional development seminars and then are trying them out in the classroom. They bring documentation of student learning to share with their peers.

To learn more about how this project is going, read this blog post published on the Agency by Design website!


This project has been funded through a generous 1:1 matching grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation.