Come See What Our Teacher Fellows Are Up To!

As we continue a new year of deep inquiry into maker-centered learning with our 2018-2019 teacher fellowship, it’s always nice to go back to our previous year’s culminating event for inspiration. We are proud to share this video from last year’s culminating event, and give a big thank you to our 2017-2018 teacher fellows for being exemplars and providing us with their Pictures of Practice.

To see what our 2018-2019 teacher fellowship cohort is up to, we cordially invite you to our Agency by Design Oakland Teacher Fellowship - Inquiry Cycle I Culminating Event on December 11, 2018. Please RSVP and join us in celebrating their teacher action research in maker-centered learning!

Inquiry Cycle I Culminating Event (2).jpeg

Educators from 17 Oakland schools and institutions will be represented at the event, including:

  • Alliance Academy

  • Alameda County Office of Education's Integrated Learning Department

  • ASCEND Charter School

  • Bret Harte Middle School

  • Brookfield Elementary School

  • Cleveland Elementary School

  • EnCompass Academy

  • Frick Impact Academy

  • Grass Valley Elementary School

  • Lighthouse Community Charter School

  • Lodestar Charter School

  • Madison Park Academy

  • Oakland International High School

  • Park Day School

  • Roots International Academy

  • Roses in Concrete Community School

  • Urban Promise Academy

Thank you to our funders: 
Abundance Foundation
Rogers Family Foundation

Have questions? Email Nico Chen, our Program Coordinator, at

We will also have an end-of-the-year culminating event for Inquiry Cycle II in May 2019. Stay tuned for more information about this event in Spring 2019.

Creativity and the Discovery of Self



"Maker Lunch. Coding Club. Mouse Squad. Maker Wednesdays. Maker Recess. Students CRAVE informal learning spaces to learn about themselves, each other, and about technology."

In her ignite talk "Burckhalter Maker Identity: Creativity and the Discovery of Self!" Cicely Day described the power of making and technology during her time as a Teacher on Special Assignment at Burckhalter Elementary. She describes these making experiences as moments when students are empowered in their learning process while also learning about themselves and their agency within their community.


"Maker-centered learning is a great way to have students create and learn from their mistakes and collaborate with others."

Cicely A. Day
Fab Lab Coach, West Contra Costa Unified School District

Cicely A. Day is from Oakland and went to Oakland Public Schools. She loves tech, coding, art, and making, and is currently the Fab Lab Coach at West Contra Costa Unified School District. During her time as an Agency by Design Oakland teacher fellow, Cicely was a Teacher on Special Assignment at Burckhalter Elementary. Cicely describes Burckhalter as an awesome school with great learners and creators.

Thinking Routines Work - If Used Routinely


“The students will RESIST. One student told me, ‘This isn’t science. Mr. Crandell, this is a cult.’”

Ed Crandall is the Science, Making and Robotics Teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter School. During his fellowship year, Ed spent his time focused on the Agency by Design thinking routines by consistently incorporating them into his classes. In his talk entitled, "Thinking Routines Work - If Used Routinely," he described thinking routines as a powerful tool for shifting the way our students engage with ideas. 

“Thinking Routines are a strategy that will change your students forever.”

Watch Ed's insightful Ignite Talk below!  And follow the #PictureofPractice hashtag to see more Ignite Talks and leadership from our 2017 - 2018 Teacher Fellows.   


"[Maker-centered learning] provides students who need hands on learning a concrete way to learn, solve problems, and see success."

-Edward Crandall
9th grade Science Teacher and High School Making and Robotics Teacher, Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland

Edward Crandall is a relatively old (55) new (8 yrs) teacher who spent most of his adult life as an engineer before becoming a teacher. He teaches 9th grade science, making, and robotics. He teaches all grade levels of high school at Lighthouse Community Charter School. The students are predominately low-income English language learners.

Letter from Paula Mitchell, Agency by Design Oakland’s New Fellowship Director

 Paula Mitchell  Fellowship Director, Agency  by  Design Oakland

Paula Mitchell

Fellowship Director, Agency by Design Oakland

Welcome to a year of maker-centered learning!

I am thrilled to be returning for another year of deep inquiry work with Agency by Design Oakland this time as the Fellowship Director. I have worked with Agency by Design for the past two years, first as a teacher fellow, then as a Senior Lead. However, my love of hands-on learning started long before my work with Agency by Design Oakland.

When I began teaching In the Oakland Unified School District over 25 years ago, I decided I would bring more project based learning into my classroom. Over the past decade, my interest in arts integration and maker education has grown and I am delighted that my passion has allowed me to bring maker-centered learning to the Oakland community that I love. In addition to being Agency by Design Oakland’s Fellowship Director, I am also a Teacher on Special Assignment for Maker-Centered Learning at Grass Valley Elementary School.

As I believe in fostering equity and providing access to high-quality educational STEAM programs to historically underserved and underrepresented populations, I greatly appreciate Agency by Design Oakland’s focus on nurturing and promoting the development of environments where teacher and student agency can flourish.  Agency by Design Oakland’s fellowship is a year long professional development program for teachers, by teachers.  In May, we welcomed our newest cohort of 28 teacher fellows from 12 Oakland schools. In September, we kicked our work into high gear with our first daylong meeting. Throughout this year long fellowship, the Senior Leads and I will support Oakland teachers as they expand and redefine the educational model in their classrooms and at their sites through maker-centered learning.

At our first daylong meeting of the year, I was inspired by the focus, creativity, imagination, and dedication to learning that the fellows displayed.  We jumped right into working with Thinking Routines and examining real world issues. Teacher fellows participated in a playful activity where they took apart wind-up toys and looked closely at their mechanics in order to gain a greater understanding of design.  We also dove into systems thinking, looking at systems through the lens of repair, and explored its complexity by examining the role of repair in our consumer society. Through both literal and figurative repair work, we experienced the truth of iFixit’s Self-Repair Manifesto: “If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.”

 Agency  by  Design Oakland fellow Jane Lee uses a soldering iron to repair her phone.

Agency by Design Oakland fellow Jane Lee uses a soldering iron to repair her phone.

 Jane’s successfully completed repair!

Jane’s successfully completed repair!

 Using the  Parts, Purposes and Complexities  thinking routine, Agency  by  Design Oakland fellows Chantel Parnell and Shraddha Soparawala take apart a wind-up mechanical toy and look closely at its inner workings.

Using the Parts, Purposes and Complexities thinking routine, Agency by Design Oakland fellows Chantel Parnell and Shraddha Soparawala take apart a wind-up mechanical toy and look closely at its inner workings.

Looking back at these activities, I am once again struck by the value and universality of the Agency by Design framework, strategies, and routines — they encourage an holistic view of teaching and learning. These activities show how Agency by Design’s thinking routines can be used in subjects as diverse as mechanical engineering and the humanities.  

This year, the fellows have the opportunity to work intensively within specific focal areas of maker-centered learning through participation in two inquiry cycles. Our fellows may choose to do action research in any number of areas, such as, thinking routines, maker capacities, strategies that help facilitate student empowerment, maker identity or assessment. Last year’s cohort worked with some fascinating topics that deepened our knowledge of maker-centered practices. I am eager to continue the work with this year’s fellows as they contribute their own Pictures of Practice to our growing field of maker-centered teacher research.

If you are interested in learning more about maker-centered learning and the work of Agency by Design Oakland, I invite you to come to one of our events: the mini-culminating event for Inquiry Cycle 1 on December 11 and our year-end grand finale on May 4, 2019.

We have had phenomenal fellows’ presentations at past events. I look forward to seeing the innovative ways in which our 2018-2019 Agency by Design Oakland teacher cohort integrates maker-centered learning into their teaching practice.

In Fellowship,

Paula Mitchell

[Editor’s Note]  To learn more about Paula Mitchell’s work at Grass Valley, see this video.

Collaboration and Co-Critique

Collaboration and Co-Critique

A Picture of Practice by 2017-2018 Agency by Design Teacher Fellow Monique Parrish

Monique Parrish is a 3rd grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary School in Oakland. As part of her inquiry over the course of her fellowship, Monique wanted to learn how to enable a more engaged classroom where students supported and learned from one another, not just from her. 


In Room 2, students are constantly moving about and are having many interactions throughout the day. My goal this year was to make the interactions more self directed, positive, engaging, helpful, supportive, diverse, and insightful. To support my goal, I decided to do an inquiry on collaboration and co-critique.

Inquiry Question:  How can students collaborate and co-critique without teacher intervention, to achieve the learning goal for the group task?

In creating a culture of collaboration and co-critique in my classroom, I used various techniques and strategies to promote collaboration. I used Roles to promote collaboration during group work, and I also used collaboration surveys to help determine how students best work together. 


I also used team building games. Together we discussed 'What is Team Work?' and came up with the following list: 

  • Working on things we need to focus on

  • Working hard to help each other and figure out stuff as team

  • Help your partner build

And we also played many team building games:

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors Showdown- The students partner and play rock,paper,scissors. the winner goes on to challenge another player and the other partner becomes the winner’s cheering fan. This continues until there is one winner and the entire class is cheering for them. After the game we had a discussion about what went well and not so well. 
  • 1,2,3- The students partner and alternate saying the number 1,2,3. 


I really wanted my students to be able to give meaningful, helpful, and deliberate feedback that would support their peers in refining their work. Therefore, I implemented a protocol for co-critique, which I discovered in the book “Visible Learners Promoting Reggio-inspired Approaches in All Schools,”  By Mara Krechevsky, Ben Mardell, Melissa Rivard and Daniel Wilson

Critique Center (Looking, Noticing, Listening, Wondering, Inspiring) 
Learners were asked to share their work with their peers and receive feedback to inspire ideas.
Students were taught to give feedback that is specific, (exact), kind, and helpful

1.   Looking- looking quietly at the work being presented

2.   Noticing- This is the time to talk about noticings. What

do you notice? I notice that…………… I see that………………

3.   Listening- The presenter will discuss their work

4.   Wondering- What do you wonder about the work?

      How did you…………..

      What did you………….

      I wonder why………….

5. Inspiring- friendly ideas to help improve or finish work

TakeAways: I learned that teaching kids to collaborate and co-critique can be a big task that has a lot of moving parts. Student need to be presented with many opportunities to collaborate and teaching collaboration is strategic. If you can put protocols in place, feedback can be very helpful and productive. I learned that not every student enjoys group work, but most students felt that they got along with their peers in a group (despite me observing disagreements). I also observed differences in attitudes towards collaboration depending on the task. I loved the fact that overwhelmingly, when the students were asked how they would solve a problem, they would ask their group for help, or have them apologize to each other. 

Questions I still have: How do I make accommodations for students who would prefer to work alone or with the teacher? What does fully implemented collaboration look like?


"I believe that Making can bring out the best in students and make learning fun. When they're making students learn a variety of skills (social, creativity, and academic), students are vested in what they are making (because it's their project), and it's engaging."

Monique Parrish
Third Grade Teacher, Grass Valley Elementary School, OUSD

Monique Parrish is an educator in Oakland Public Schools, and is currently a third grade teacher at Grass Valley Elementary. She has lived in Oakland most of her life, and is herself a product of Oakland Public Schools. Monique is a married mother of three (two adults and a teenager), and enjoys art, teaching, eating, and cooking.