Fires in the Mind

About the Practice Project

Fires in the Mind came about from a nationwide collaboration among youth and adults to investigate the question “What does it take to get really good at something?”

Called the Practice Project, it is an initiative of the nonprofit What Kids Can Do (WKCD), supported by MetLife Foundation and directed by WKCD writer and researcher Kathleen Cushman. For ten years, WKCD has brought to the widest audience possible the ideas, voices, and vision of our nation’s adolescents. MetLife Foundation’s annual survey of teachers, students, and parents has made it a leader in marshalling data to improve teaching and learning across the country.

Starting with the things they already knew and could do well, the young contributors to Fires in the Mind analyzed the process that all learners go through when they take up new things and work toward mastery.

As we came to understand that process by looking at their most passionate pursuits—often arts, sports, games, or other extracurricular activities—these youth then applied the same inquiry to their learning at school. What was the same, and what was different? What could their findings reveal about young people’s motivation and mastery in academic subjects?


The Practice Project is spreading! Anyone who works with youth can try the Practice Project for themselves, using our 5-day curriculum as a guide. (Download our Practice Project Curriculum PDF)

Inspired by the power of its driving question, teachers and parents are also starting “Practice Circles” in their districts, schools, and communities, thinking together about what it takes for young people—as well as adults—to get really good at something.

The Fires in the Mind website brings together your thinking in a national dialogue on this subject, sharing your experiences in short videos, blog comments, an , and a resource library that offers group discussion prompts and ideas for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The MetLife Foundation not only supported the research and work with students that form the core of the Practice Project, but also this website—and its invitation  to join us in this game-changing initiative.

The book Fires in the Mind makes a wonderful shared reading for teachers, parents, or youth groups and advisories. Order the book from online or retail bookstores here, or ask us about . All royalties go to WKCD to continue its work of bringing forward the powerful visions, voices, and work of youth around the world.