Andover students left campus just a handful of days ago for a well-deserved spring break. This afternoon, outside my window in Adams House, snow is falling onto the Quad from a darkly greying sky. We are in the liminal space — the threshold between seasons, between school terms, the very transition period when in March 2020 as we anticipated the launch of the Workshop’s pilot term, the pandemic upended life, work, and school as we had known and had reimagined it. For the students and teachers involved in the first iteration of the Workshop, spring term 2020 felt like a perpetual liminal space, neither allowing us to do school” in the familiar way, nor in the immersive, place-based, hands-on way for which we had been eagerly readying ourselves.

Two years on and we are less than a week from launching the Workshop 3.0. (Last year’s iteration, a hybrid blending of in-person and Zoom-based experiences, was perhaps even more of a liminal experience, but that’s a story for another time.) 

This spring — barring unforeseen global events — twenty students and four faculty members will work together to explore (and practice) the theme, Experiments in Education.” With in-person school in session this spring, we will implement our original goal of integrating off-campus experiences, community-based partnerships, and student-directed projects, even as we continue to operate within pandemic safety protocols and an eye to the possibility of needing to adapt to changes in national, state, and local conditions. One deep lesson we have learned over the past two years is that flexibility and openness to the unexpected, good communication, and collaboration based in deep listening and reflection, are key to good teaching and learning under even the best of circumstances, not to mention under a global pandemic.

Guest teacher, scholar Chenxing Han, came to campus in late February to facilitate a session with Workshop 3.0 students that helped ground us in these practices even before spring term begins. Han is author of Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists, whose methodology and synthesis will serve as a model for us as we open the term by executing four faculty-led research projects.

On that Sunday afternoon in the Tang Institute, Han guided us through exercises she describes as looping, dipping, paraphrasing, and repeating questions,” which engaged us in reflecting on our intentions and hopes for participating in the Workshop. The session culminated with individual and collective writing activities that oriented us to the Workshop’s broader habits of mind and dispositions They connected the four faculty-led projects to our three key learning outcomes in the areas of:

  • civic engagement
  • practice and craft
  • learning to learn

The group of students taking on the CAMD Scholars oral history project came away from the session having crafted a bigger vision for the project: What if we can imagine a CAMD Scholars program that is even more communally involved and informed?”

four Workshop students looking at the camera standing next to a list they made on the wall

When Han returns to campus for a week-long residency with the Workshop (March 24 – 31), she will work more closely with Andy Housiaux and a team of five students undertaking the Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard” research project. She will accompany them on site-visits and mentor them in conducting interviews and capturing the diverse stories and experiences of Buddhist communities in the greater Boston and Merrimack Valley.

In January 2022, our first guest mentor, Professor Aria Chernik, founder and director of Duke University’s Open Design Studio, led us in a session about practicing the deep listening skills necessary for collaborative learning. In recent months, Chernik and Han have helped to ground and prepare us for the most audacious experiment in education of all: our own. As we traverse this threshold into the unchartered territories of Workshop 3.0, Han’s words serve as a kind of north star: You’ll shape the Workshop, and the Workshop will shape you.”

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