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The Think Project




A Pil ot Pro gra m To Fo s te r D ive rg e nt Th in k i ng Sk i l l s I n O u r A r t C l as s roo ms



WHY? Many students today are getting to secondary school and college without the ability to engage in creative problem solving and divergent thinking. This is a skill that is highly desired in today’s competitive job market. This program was developed to address this problem. We believe that instead of focusing on teaching techniques and formal elements which may or may not be useful to students in the future, we should instead focus on developing STUDIO HABITS OF MIND*, skills that they can take with them no matter where they go in life. Research tells us that classrooms that encourage creativity and divergent thinking have these features: Support Student Autonomy & Ownership Encourage Risk & Allow Failure Encourage Exploration & Play Create a Supportive & Congenial Environment




In 2007, Harvard’s School of Education did a study called Project Zero. Project Zero’s mission was to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels. They identified eight habits of mind that an authentic visual arts education could develop in students.

reflect develop craft

engage & persist




stretch & explore understand arts community

CHOICE-BASED/DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION TEACHES: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving Creativity/Innovation Communication/Collaboration Research & Inquiry

Initiative/Self-Direction Leadership/Responsibility Productivity/Accountability Flexibility/Adaptability



The Think Project Meet The Team Ashley Freeman Ashley teaches middle school and high school art. She is also the president of the Hershey Area Art Association and an artist. She loves her yellow lab, Molly, camping, fishing and all things creative.

Mary Ferris Mary is a studio potter teaching clay classes. She is also a substitute art teacher working with K-12 students all over the county. She loves music, clay, hula hoops and blueberries.

Angela Kost Angie is a graduate student working on her Master’s degree in Art Education. She is also a graphic designer, artist and mother of three young children. She loves reading, yoga, museums and the beach. 4

How It Works

Our pilot classroom will be engaged in self-directed learning. This will give them the opportunity to design their own learning experiences, pose their own problems and discover solutions. This will help students develop studio habits of mind and engage in divergent thinking. The classroom will be set up using well designed studio centers for the students to explore. The teachers act as facilitators, offer support, give ongoing feedback and give demonstrations. We will be inviting resident artists, designers and business owners to come in and speak with and inspire our students. The framework of the program, inspired by The Independent Project will give the students structure to work within.


An Individual Endeavor

The Individual Endeavor could be any endeavor that takes roughly one semester to complete (e.g. producing a comic book, making a short film, mastering a design program, creating a series of paintings). The only requirement for the endeavor is that the student is excited about it. Students will work on their endeavors regularly throughout the semester, and will find a mentor (inside or outside of the school) if desired. It will be up to each student to make his or her own schedule and plan of action, although every few weeks the group will have a discussion about the endeavors (where people are stuck, how they are struggling or succeeding, what surprised them, etc.). At the end of the Individual Endeavor section of the program, students will make two presentations of their Individual Endeavors. The first will be to the group, after which the group will give feedback and constructive criticism about the endeavors themselves and the presentations, the second will be to a public audience (specifics dependent on the nature of the project).

A Collective Endeavor

For the last three weeks, the group will work on the Collective Endeavor. The group will discuss and pick any serious community or world issue (such as water, hunger, or energy), and then will create a work of art addressing the issue (i.e. an installation, a documentary, a performance, a mural). There is no set mold for what makes a good Collective Endeavor and what does not, but the chosen endeavor should have a tangible impact and should teach the students about social activism. Some helpful questions for students, facilitators and advisors to ask are: Is the endeavor going to have a local or global impact? Does it address a problem that is specific to our community (e.g. a shortage of public libraries) or a problem that may exist in our community but also exists other places (e.g. a shortage of family farms)? Are we designing something (like a proposal or a theoretical solution) or actually implementing something (like a program or a garden)?

Weekly Challenges

At certain times during the semester, students will also do weekly challenges. On Mondays, each student will develop his or her questions or challenges for the week. Each person will already have two questions in mind (i.e. What is art? Why is Picasso so famous?) or should have an area of interest to focus on (i.e. learning about watercolor, drawing a portrait). The only requirement is that it has to be something the student actually wants to know or learn. Students will spend the rest of the week researching their questions, or practicing their challenge. At the end of the week, each student will present to the group about their question, their findings, their methods, etc., and the group will give feedback (about the effectiveness of the question, the thoroughness of the sources and methods, and what they could have done differently).


LOOKING DEEPER Learners find and solve problems through inquiry, divergent thinking, play, reflection and evaluation. Students who bring ideas to class plan ahead for their work; others discover ideas by experimenting with media at studio centers.


A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum. Portfolios can reveal a range of skills and understandings, reflect change and growth over time, encourage student, teacher and even parent reflection. It will record both final products and students’ ongoing thinking reflections and decision making processes while engaged in such tasks. Why it is ideal for The Think Project: It encourages and supports self-directed learning. It fosters learning about learning. It demonstrates progress towards goals. It provides a way for students to value themselves as learners



Students participating in The Think Project classroom are assessed in multiple ways to support their growth, document their progress, and inform the teacher about how the program is working, so he or she can make adjustments to better support the learners. The portfolio is the biggest component of the assessment process, and will be looked at as an artifact of the learning that has taken place over the course of the semester.

Teacher documentation captures observations of students’, noting developing studio habits of mind, in addition to needs and accomplishments. Self-assessment occurs on a regular basis, both informally and through self-reflection writing to be included in the students portfolio. Students will be encouraged to develop their ability to self-assess. Collaborative assessment includes peer coaching, group sharing, curating exhibitions and conferencing with the teacher.

STUDIO CENTERS A studio center is a “three dimensional lesson plan.� Each center contains menus with set-up procedures, directions and lists of materials and tools. Resources include images by student and adult artists, books, charts and other related references. Materials and tools are organized for easy access and return. Centers can be as large as half the room or as small as a shoe box and can be arranged to accommodate a wide variety of ages and abilities. Some basic centers will remain in the classroom all year, while others make brief, limited appearances. Centers are opened one at a time, as students show their teacher that they are ready to handle more choices.

ORIENTATION WEEK We believe that the orientation will be necessary because switching from years of one type of education to a completely new style of education will require some adjustment. Orientation will consist of various activities, challenges and small projects designed with three goals in mind: beginning to develop the group dynamics, exploring the nature of art, education and the purpose of The Think Project, and beginning to practice and form the fundamental skills that will be valuable in the program (such as inquiry, exploration, creativity). In addition, the week will also serve as a time for students to decide on the focus of their Individual Endeavors. 7


The Think Project "Teachers aren't inspiring students to take initiative with their own education." ~ Ava, student

“If you had a discussion of everyones own ideas of different ideas for projects, then you can come up with your own idea for a project. As you go through the project, you could think like, ‘Oh, that be really cool, how could I do that?’ and then learn different processes of different ways to do things. But you would still be doing something you’re interested in, you know, which could make people want to do the art projects more.” ~ Renee, Age 15

“It’s ridiculous to think that kids can be trusted to learn on their own,” ~ student heard a teacher say this

“Technique can only go so far, and it applies to artists. Creativity influences everything else.” ~ McKenna, Age 15 “The students are guided carefully through a structured environment that provides positive, creative, informative choice making.” ~ Amy, middle school TAB(Teaching For Artistic Behavior) instructor “I think a lot of young kids have more creativity, than like adults.” “Yeah, it’s taught out of people. You’re taught to be less of an individual and more of what you are expected to be.” ~ A conversation between Renee & McKenna, age 15

“A school is a place where everyone comes together to engage in meaningful ideas. When schools get it wrong, it’s a disaster. When schools get it right, it’s powerful” ~ Peter Dillion, Superintendent (about The Independent Project)

“Maybe there is no one way in preparing students, in this issue of how to think - that there is a model, but that they need to be chameleons. They recognize that in this classroom this is the model that I have to operate by and they are conscious of that fact, meta-cognitively aware of the fact, that here I must think this way if I am to succeed.” ~ Scott Warner, University Professor, Technology Education

Visit our website for more information about the development of this project. Be a part of the discussion.

The Think Project  

A different approach to "doing school"