Within the first few hours of the Workshop, I found myself nestled in a warmly lit restaurant booth in El Taller & Cafe Azteca in Lawrence, Mass., with salsa smeared across the corners of my lips. There, we met Dariana Guerrero, a local poet and activist. She introduced us to a deck of playing cards she created on an artist grant and took us on a tour around the city. We got to see walls of colorful murals in a local park that was in need of renovation — but filled with potential to be a community gathering space. Directly across the street was a row of modern apartments that marked the roots of gentrification. When we returned to El Taller, Dariana performed two of her spoken word poems and encouraged us to jot down poetry that represented our voices.

It was hard to believe I was in school. While most of my friends spent the day sitting in classrooms taking lecture notes and working on statistics problems, I was on a field trip in Lawrence listening to spoken word poetry and munching on fried plantains. As a course focused on Experiments in Education,” the Workshops teachers could have designed the day to look however they wanted. So why did they choose a field trip — especially one that had no clear learning goal — out of all other educational formats?

Later that night, we began reading the book Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project that Matters to You (and the World) by Christopher Rea and Thomas S. Mullaney. The authors explained that they wanted to help readers find a research topic that they’re truly passionate about. Rather than abiding by outside influences or pleasing an external judge, they suggested the reader to take a self-centered” research approach by maintaining close contact with your own self” (Rea & Mullaney, 4).

However, with the looming pressures of grades, hierarchical dynamics between a teacher and student, and the constricting nature of academic silos, it’s unrealistic for students to research guided purely by their curiosity and instincts in a traditional classroom.

This is where the field trip steps in. Without explicit instructions from our teachers, I was able to fully immerse myself — as a person, not just a student — into the experience. Whether intentional or subconscious, I unearthed nuggets of inspiration from the intersection of my identities with my experience in Lawrence. The hospitality of El Taller & Cafe Azteca’s staff and the action of sharing food with my classmates inspired me to make Chinese dishes for my dorm that weekend. I found myself referring back to Dariana’s playing cards art project when questioning how I can make my art more communal. Seeing the stark contrast between the rundown Lawrence community park and the lavish apartment buildings across the street reminded me to research the ongoing gentrification of Boston’s Chinatown — a place that reminds me of home.

At its core, field trips give students the time and agency to form their own takeaways instead of being passively spoon-fed knowledge. I’m curious to see where the unexpectedness of engaging with unfamiliar people and spaces will lead me within my time in the Workshop.



Each spring term, The Workshop welcomes approximately 20 seniors to this interdisciplinary, project-based course. With an eye toward reimagining what school can be, The Workshop is the senior’s only academic commitment for the entire term. Instead of splitting their time and attention into units of distinct courses and fields of study, they work closely with peers, faculty, and community and global partners on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single theme. Within the theme Experiments in Education, students explore areas of personal interest.

Back to Top ↑

Be a part of our community!

Subscribe to our newsletter, Notes on Learning, for monthly updates.