Students Think They Are “Lucky” to Have Teacher of the Year [Video]

Hather Fisher“Dogwood Elementary 3rd grade teacher Dr. Heather Fisher was named the 2012-2013 Shelby County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year. The classroom veteran is a life-long learner whose passion for education rubs off on her students and co-workers” (Source).

I became acquainted with Heather just over a year ago when she was selected as a 2012 Martin Institute Fellow to Project Zero. The impact that experience at Harvard has had on her teaching is evident in the video clip below. In addition to spending time together at the Project Zero Institute last July, Heather was also an active participant in our study group during this past school year. She has been committed to learning more about teaching for understanding and has a desire for her students to thrive. Heather has also taken advantage of opportunities to share her expertise with others through presentations and workshops. There’s no wonder why her students feel “lucky” to be in her class.

Event Tags: #pzc2013 #hgsepzfol

Project Zero at Harvard University: Information and Strategies Every Educator Needs

Harvard’s Project Zero: Part 1

I had the privilege of participating in Harvard University’s Project Zero Classroom last summer. We (the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence) were able to send 6 local teachers to participate in the institute thanks to the generosity of Presbyterian Day School here in Memphis. It was undoubtedly the best professional development in which I have ever been involved. I took notes, gathered resources, and spent time documenting my thoughts and reflections with the intent of sharing some of it with you here on this blog. The experience impacted my beliefs about learning and teaching and has been a catalyst for the redesign and enhancements I’ve made in the graduate courses and professional development that I teach and facilitate. In the midst of implementing those instructional modifications, and balancing my work and personal lives this school year, I just haven’t had much time to share much of anything on the blog.

This past February Harvard invited me to be a Project Zero Faculty Fellow. I’m excited for the opportunity to work more closely with “the experts in learning” and look forward to all the ways that I will grow and all that I will learn. With the school year behind me and the summer before me, I’ve begun to steer my mind towards all-things-Project Zero. I’ve been reading and watching videos about learning, teaching for understanding, making thinking visible, thinking routines, cultures of thinking, multiple intelligences, making learning whole, and more. These are just some of the components of the work that the Project Zero research group has produced in it’s more than forty year existence. I intend for this to be the first in a series of Project Zero related posts in which I hope to introduce you to some of PZ’s research, frameworks, strategies, terminology, and big ideas, while sharing some of my own experiences, ideas, and classroom connections. With that in mind, let’s start at the beginning.

Project Zero

“Project Zero is an educational research group at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University” (Source). “Project Zero was founded in 1967…by the philosopher Nelson Goodman to study and improve education in and through the arts. Goodman believed that arts learning should be studied as a serious cognitive activity, but that “zero” had been firmly established about the field; hence, the project was given its name.

“Today, Project Zero is building on this research to help create communities of reflective, independent learners; to enhance deep understanding within and across disciplines; and to promote critical and creative thinking. Project Zero’s mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels.

“Project Zero’s research initiatives build on and contribute to detailed understandings of human cognitive development and the processes of learning in the arts and other disciplines. They place the learner at the center of the educational process, respecting the different ways in which an individual learns at various stages of life, as well as differences among individuals in the ways they perceive the world and express their ideas. Many of these initiatives involve collaborators in schools, universities, museums, or other settings in the United States and other countries” (Source).

Learn more about the history and research of Project Zero.

Project Zero Classroom

Participants in this week-long immersive institute will learn to “create classrooms, instructional materials and out-of-school learning environments that promote deep learning and understanding…The Project Zero Classroom details various frameworks that enable you to look at teaching analytically, develop new approaches to planning and make informed decisions about instruction. You will learn to recognize and develop students’ multiple intellectual strengths; encourage students to think critically and creatively; and assess student work in ways that deepen learning. In a Project Zero classroom, teachers are also learners who model intellectual curiosity and rigor, interdisciplinary and collaborative inquiry, and sensitivity to the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of learning” (Source).

The institute addresses fundamental educational questions, such as:

  • How can we best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in our students and ourselves?
  • What is understanding, and how does it develop?
  • What are the roles of reflection and assessment in student and teacher learning?
  • How can participants continue to share and pursue their understanding of Project Zero’s ideas with others after the institute?

The Project Zero Faculty Chair is comprised of Howard Gardner, David Perkins, and Steve Seidel.


Interviewed by Wes Fryer

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Wes Fryer for his Speed of Creativity Podcast back in October. We discussed the mission of the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence, experiences and lessons learned from our inaugural conference, rethinking professional development, and my appreciation for educators throughout the Midsouth. Listen to the podcast by clicking on the play button below the photo.

Wes Fryer and Clif Mims


Show Notes

  1. The Martin Institute
  2. The Martin Institute Conference Wiki (with links to presentation resources)
  3. Video: About the Martin Institute

Talking Ed.: Nurturing Creativity

Nurturing Creativity

Talking Ed. with Rosalynn Wade

Episode 003 (View entire series)

Program Director, Rosalynn Wade, describes the innovative network of schools dedicated to nurturing creativity in every learner. I was able to visit with Rosalynn and others from Oklahoma A+ Schools during the World Creativity Forum in Oklahoma City. My thanks to Rosalynn for participating in this impromptu interview.

Connect with Oklahoma A+

About the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence [Video]

The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence provides world-class professional development for educators. The Institute provides on-site seminars, workshops and conferences; a teacher residency program; and funding for off-site professional development, especially Project Zero at Harvard University. The Institute draws on the research and ideas of leading educational thinkers and child development experts, and it blends theory with practical application, including the opportunity for teachers to observe, network and/or develop their craft.

Summer Conference
The 2011 Martin Institute Summer Conference will be in Memphis, TN on June 15-16. This year’s theme is Teaching for Tomorrow, which focuses on 21st century skills. The world-class slate of presenters and workshop facilitators includes Bill Nye the Science Guy, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Tom Barrett (@tombarrett), Paul R. Wood (@paulrwood), and many other outstanding educators and thought leaders.

Upcoming EduEvents

Arkansas Association of Instructional Media Conference
Hot Spring, AR
April 3-5, 2011

Memphis, TN
April 7, 2011

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference
Indianapolis, Indiana
April 13-16, 2011
Website, Blog

TAIS Technology Institute 2011
Memphis, TN
April 15, 2011

2011 Forum for Innovative Leadership
Memphis, TN
Memphis City Schools’ Urban Education Center Memphis City Schools
June 7-9, 2011

Cure4Kids Global Summit
Memphis, TN
June 9-11, 2011

2011 Martin Institute Summer Conference
Memphis, TN
June 15-16, 2011

iSummit 2011
Nashville, TN
June 22-24, 2011

Philadelphia, PA
June 25, 2011

International Society for Technology in Education Conference
Philadelphia, PA
June 26-29, 2011

Lausanne Laptop Institute
Memphis, TN
July 10-13, 2011

Martin Institute Special Education Summit
Memphis, TN
Sept. 27-28, 2011

Fun Invitation to the 2011 Martin Institute Summer Conference #micon11

Bill Nye the Science Guy is among the many outstanding speakers and workshop facilitators that will be at our innaurural Summer Conference. Make your plans to join us in Memphis, TN, on June 15-16, 2011.

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Video Ad for the 2011 Martin Institute Spring Conference

A video advertising the 2011 Martin Institute Spring Conference was released today. It highlights some of the key benefits of participating in 2 days of high quality professional development. You are encouraged to share this video with friends and colleagues via email and social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Posterous, etc.) and you are invited to embed it on your own website, blog, wiki, etc.

2011 Martin Institute Spring Conference from Martin Institute on Vimeo.