May 05, 2020

The Workshop: Claire ’20’s Week 4 Reflection

Prioritizing Interpersonal and Nonlinear Learning
by Claire ’20, Workshop student

The Workshop at Andover is an immersive term-long learning experience. Spring-term seniors stop all traditional academic courses and instead work closely with peers and faculty on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single subject. This term the subject is Community, Class, and Carbon.

The following is a student reflection from the fourth week of the program. (Also read Junah ’20's Week 4 reflection.)


Claire ’20 is at home with her family in Portland, Maine, listening to the sea gulls and admiring dogs from afar during walks in the park.

As opposed to the typical academic research I have conducted throughout high school, I am now reaching out to people in my community, both familiar and unfamiliar, to learn directly from them. While I have consulted online publications to comprehend how the novel coronavirus is affecting national and local food supply chains, most of my learning and information for our first community-based project has come from personal interviews and interviews conducted by news sources. Traditional high school research sets up students for a range of relatively objective resources but has its limitations with the type of work many of the Workshop students are doing. Given the timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic, this research project has necessitated alternative methods in place of the conventional practices of searching library catalogues for established tertiary and secondary sources. Observing and portraying our communities requires a range of perspectives, which are most wholly captured through personal interviews. This undertaking has pushed me to embrace discomfort in my conversations with new people and employ new learning styles.

I set out with a set list of people to interview, with a vision of gathering their information and compiling their responses into a creative display. I have since realized that my work for this project has not, and should not be, so linear. In my conversations, people have expanded beyond my questions, recommending organizations to look at and new people to get in touch with that I hadn’t known about before. This exercise of going back to an earlier research phase to reflect on my project and complicate my knowledge of the subject of my research has proven to be enriching. While it is not the research method I had envisioned, this practice has enabled me to ask more questions, interrogate my biases, and expand my perspective, motivating me to create a more comprehensive representation of my community.

I have been struck by the sincerity of community members who I have spoken with and their willingness to engage with me on this sensitive and personal subject. In addition to asking about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses and nonprofits, I have also sought to understand why they got involved in the work they do in the first place and their personal and organizational missions. Not only have these questions opened up new stories, but they have illuminated the passion people have for their work. I am looking forward to greeting the manager of the local food co-op who expressed sincere appreciation for his staff and customers over the phone, and to meeting the farmers I read about who have banded together to support each other during an unstable time (hopefully) at this summer’s markets.

This style of work not only feels meaningful because I am doing it by connecting with people personally, but also because the subject of my research directly affects my family and the well-being of those around me. Various people I have spoken with about the project have expressed an enthusiastic interest in the information I am gathering, and I am starting to realize the significance of the projects we, as a Workshop community, are working on. In doing this research and learning, my gratitude for and sense of connection to this community has grown profoundly. It is such a privilege to be able to document people’s stories during this extraordinary time.


To learn more about the Workshop, read Tang Institute Director Andy Housiaux's recent update here.


*We look forward to updating you on the ways we are (re)imagining the Workshop, our connection with students, and our approaches to teaching and learning. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes on Learning.

Categories: The Workshop, Featured

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