Parts, People, Interactions

One of the key focuses of a maker-centered classroom or environment is to encourage students to develop a “maker mindset”. But how can educators promote a dispositional shift toward maker empowerment in students?

Agency by Design (AbD) has been working on solutions to this question for some time, and in their research, they have developed a set of Thinking Routines. Thinking Routines are “short, engaging, two-or-three-step patterns of intellectual behavior that are highly transferable across contexts”. The idea is to guide the way students think, focusing on areas of a subject or material that might not have been emphasized in a normal classroom. And since these routines are transferable, students are learning the process of deep thinking and questioning, not just delving into one particular topic from a single class.  

So far, AbD has created the following thinking routines: Parts, Purposes, Complexities; Parts, People, Interactions; Parts, Perspectives, Me; Think, Feel Care; and Imagine If…. The most common and applicable routine is Parts, Purposes, Complexities; it has been utilized in Lighthouse classrooms already.


My PPI for Lodestar

On my first day at Lighthouse and Lodestar, I was introduced to Parts, People, Interactions (PPI). One of mine and Anna’s tasks for that month was to document a system using this thinking routine. The instructions were broad – the system could be Lighthouse or Lodestar, education, or anything wider / narrower in scope. As examples, Aaron, the Creativity Lab Director, discussed using thinking routines to examine a something as simple as a pen, and, later on, we read a section of Maker-Centered Learning that mentioned a kindergarten classroom using the prototype version of PPI on an apple pie: they sketched a map of an apple’s journey from an orchard to a pie, noting the parts and people involved in that system.


Throughout that first month, I kept PPI in the back of my mind, ultimately deciding to focus on Lodestar. I developed and refined the different components I found in that system, and some of the key questions that popped for me were:

Anna’s PPI for Lighthouse / Lodestar


  • Do teachers count as parts, or just people?
  • Is the philosophy used at Lodestar a tangible “part”, or more of an interaction?
  • How can I group and visualize the key interactions?

Along the way, I created my own answers to these questions, and I ended that first month with a visual representation of the parts, people, and interactions at Lodestar.

After Anna and I finished our versions of the PPI (Anna’s focused on Lighthouse / Lodestar, and it went a bit further up the educational chain), we came together to combine and refine them. With the help of Aaron and Daniella, our VISTA Coordinator at Maker Ed, we developed a larger, more complex PPI. This version  incorporated additional programs in the Bay Area and ideas that Anna and I had not previously thought about, such as the impact of EL Education on our family of schools’ learning structure and the influence of the greater Oakland community.

At the end of the day, we had a poster-sized PPI centered around Lighthouse Community Public Schools, which delved into more detailed characteristics and extended to more broad topics than our PPIs alone.

Our group PPI

Anna, Aaron, and Daniella working on our group PPI

If any of the local readers are interested in checking out our group PPI, it is hanging in front of Anna’s desk in the Lighthouse Family Resource Center.






About Claire Tiffany-Appleton

Claire Tiffany-Appleton is currently an Americorps VISTA member serving through MakerEd at Lodestar Charter School. She assists in the Making, Art, Design and Lighthouse Creativity Lab Programs. She recently graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and is excited to start her journey with making!