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The Project Design Lab

Collaborative & Creative  Planning & Learning

July 12-16, 2021 / Montpelier 


Teaching and learning must be joyful and engaging in relevant, inclusive new ways.


Now more than ever, creative engagement — making things together that we care about — can play a vital role at the center of learning and community development.


This is a watershed moment for our communities. Now is the time for everyone — young and old — to join together in the solution-making.


The Project Design Lab offers educators, young people, and community leaders everything needed to implement creative projects that bring everyone together to reflect on where we’ve been, and to take new steps to envision and co-create the Vermont we want and need.


"This has been the best professional development in my 27-year teaching career."

Photo: Ember Photography

How Does It Work?

1. Your project team must include 3-5 teachers, staff, or administrators (depending on the project you select). Students and community members are encouraged to join for select co-planning days.


2. For the 2021 Lab, your team will have a choice of two projects to develop for your school and community: The Vermont Mural Project or The Watershed Project.

Once you select your project, a teaching artist(s) will be partnered with your team.


3. At the Project Design Lab, your school team will work with a professional teaching artist and national leaders in project-based learning and creative community engagement to customize your project to meet the needs and opportunities of your school and community.  

The projects are designed to bring educators, young people and community members together in common creative purpose. 

4. Your team and teaching artist will implement your project in the fall, including a culminating event in your community.

5. Reflect, learn and plan for more project-based and community-engaged learning that is creative and joyful.

All Project Design Lab sessions take place in Montpelier 


“This is a game changer."

What To Expect
The Project Design Lab is an experience in collaborative and creative planning and learning.

Take Action on Social and Environmental Justice

  • Projects are designed to inspire young people, educators, and community members to reflect, listen to each other, and leverage their collective creativity to envision and act on building a better, more just future.

Foundations of Creative Learning

  • Develop authentic ways to model creative learning tools in your classroom; these creative tools can be used in all subject areas.

Teaching & Assessing Transferable Skills

  • Strengthen your understanding of the skills inside the creative process and techniques for teaching and assessing your students’ creative capacities.

UbD - Understanding by Design

  • Use your project’s essential question to shape the enduring understandings you want for your students.

Project-Based Learning

  • Expand your best practices in project design, backward design, authentic reflection, and scaffolding skills with national leaders in the fields of project- and inquiry-based learning.

Creative Capacity Guide COVER.jpg
The Creative Capacity Guide will be a key resource at the Design Lab. View/Download

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Barbara Schaffer Bacon co-directs Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts that inspires, informs, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change.  Barbara has written, edited, and contributed to many publications including Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy; Case Studies from Animating Democracy; Animating Democracy: The Artistic Imagination as a Force for Civic Dialogue. She has delivered presentations and workshops nationally and internationally in Canada, Australia, and England. She is president of the Arts Extension Institute, Inc., and has served for 14 years on the Belchertown, MA school committee.  She was recently appointed by the Governor Deval Patrick to serve as a member of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Eric Booth

Design Lab Co-Director

Eric is widely referred to as one of the nation’s best teachers of creativity, and the father of the teaching artist profession. In 2015 he was awarded the nation's highest honor for an arts educator (the Arts Education Leadership Award by Americans For The Arts), and was named one of the 25 most important people in the U.S. arts. In arts learning, he has taught at Juilliard (13 years), Stanford University, NYU, Tanglewood and Lincoln Center Institute (35 years), and The Kennedy Center (12 years). He is the founder and co-designer of the International Teaching Artist Conferences, the recipient of the first honorary doctorate in teaching artistry (New England Conservatory), and was the keynote speaker at UNESCO's first world arts education conference. More about Eric.

Paul Gambill

Design Lab Co-Director

Paul has 30 years experience as a non-profit administrator, educator and musician, specializing in helping schools and communities re-imagine how to strengthen their partnerships through creative projects. He began his career as a public school music teacher in Minnesota, and soon turned to arts administration and conducting. His innovative school residency projects have been GRAMMY nominated and won three national awards for children's media, including the Parents’ Choice Foundation Gold Award. Before relocating with his family to Vermont in 2009, he was founder and music director of Orchestra Nashville for 20 years, and music director of the Nashville Ballet for six years.

Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf

Dennie Palmer Wolf, Principal Researcher at WolfBrown, is one of the leading arts education researchers and evaluators in the United States. She holds a doctorate from Harvard where she served as a researcher at Project Zero for more than a decade and then headed Harvard PACE, an initiative linking schools and external partners in new approaches to assessing student learning.  She led studies on the early development of artistic and symbolic capacities and later focused on design, implementation, and evaluation strategies that help cultural organizations and communities examine and improve how people gain access to learning, culture, and creativity both in and outside of formal institutions. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for Arts, the U.S. Department of Education, the Buck, Arnold, Carnegie, Mellon, Spencer, and William Penn foundations, and has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books.

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$2,050 per person for three graduate credits
$1,750 for non-credit (35 professional development hours)


  • Co-planning with a teaching artist at the Project Design Lab

  • Five days of implementation support by your assigned teaching artist, remotely and in the community

  • Community partner development support from CEL staff

  • Culminating event production and publicity support

  • Post-project reflection and future planning with Design Lab staff and your teaching artists



Contact Community Engagement Lab Partnerships Manager

email: Claire Tebbs

(802) 377-5384


Or visit the FAQ page for answers to questions about fees, choosing your project and how your teaching artist will work with you and your students and community.

We invite you to let us know about specific accommodations you may need to participate in the Project Design Lab. 

We will make every effort to honor your request when made by August 1st.

Contact us: claire@communityengagementlab.org or 802) 377-5384

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41 Summer St.

Montpelier, VT 05602



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