April 23, 2020

The Workshop: Isabel ’20's Week 1 Reflection

Learning to Learn: An Exploration of the Old and New
by Isabel ’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 first week of the program. (There are three more student reflections in the Week 1 series: Skylar ’20, Sophie ’20, and Liu ’20. Please click on each student’s name to read their work.)


Isabel ’20 has been working outside (when she can), overlooking the mountains and wildlife that surround her neighborhood in Vermont.

Last week, I felt overwhelmed by everything the past few weeks had brought—the lockdown mandate in our town, the shift of Andover’s spring term to remote learning, and perhaps a mild case of cabin fever—and I just wanted to find peace amidst the chaos. I sat down with my iPad, turned on my favorite calming Jack Johnson-esque playlist, and drew. Besides taking Art-225 my first year, I barely had any artistic pursuits at Andover. In this moment, though, I just wanted to do something for no particular purpose. I am in no way a talented artist, but I found consolation in drawing, in this case, my dogs (my sources of constant joy). Though in the past I rarely drew for myself, the goals of the Workshop—learning to learn, civic engagement, and practice and craft—have allowed me to value activities, such as drawing, through a different perspective.

While participating in the Workshop from home, I’ve found myself with some extra time every day. While this time is partially filled with my normal and established hobbies, such as exercise and reading, I’ve also felt the encouragement to continue activities I hadn’t pursued at Andover. Outside of classes at Andover (or rather, at Andover’s physical campus), I primarily involved myself in the activities that I was confident in and felt that I made tangible progress and accomplishments in. Whether this was through sports or through certain leadership positions, there was almost always a clear right or wrong direction of progress, and in some sense, I just wanted to find the things I was “naturally good” at.

This mindset partially stemmed from my lack of understanding that learning is a fluid process of growth. I viewed the 0–6 grading scale in our academic class at Andover as a measure of our ability through a somewhat firm lens, and I viewed growth as a linear and quantitative process. The Workshop, however, has a sense of excitement, community, and support unlike any other I’ve experienced before in an academic setting. The three categories in which we are focusing on growth—learning to learn, civic engagement, and practice and craft—support a process of learning that places greater emphasis on our personal growths, our downfalls, and teamwork.

My simple artistic pursuit, though seemingly separate from the Workshop itself, shares the same three values and goals that the Workshop aims to focus on.

Learning to learn: How do I understand my own learning process? How can I most effectively learn to enhance my artistic abilities?

Civic engagement: How can I engage my own community in my artistic pursuits? What can I learn from the people around me, and how can I use my artistic abilities for the greater good?

Practice and craft: How can I reflect upon my own artistic work, and how do I strive towards artistic excellence?

As saddened as I am about the loss of our spring term and in-person Workshop, I’m really excited about the opportunities that this situation presents. I’m excited to engage with new learning opportunities and to gain a greater understanding of my own learning process, whether it’s through our readings, projects, or personal endeavors to try new things. I am also incredibly excited to see what lies ahead in the Workshop—as we work together to explore the topics ahead, I have no doubt that we will continue to aspire and work towards these three areas of growth in everything we do.


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.

A drawing of my dogs that I drew on the Notability app
Categories: The Workshop, Featured

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