When I began this blog post, I focused on the importance of places of refuge”: places where ideas, no matter how avant garde or counterculture, are welcomed and appreciated. The Workshop enables a cohort of 25 students and faculty to come together to make observations about the world we live in, formulate connections between topics, explore ideas, and work to make a difference in not just our Andover community, but also nearby and distant communities. This is something that most students, including us at Andover, do not have the opportunity to do. We are often restricted by a curriculum and pulled along by a teacher which often prohibits the pursuit of one’s own interest and curiosity in a subject, something that we all can agree is of utmost importance in the learning process.

The Workshop is a place of refuge in many ways because it allows students to step away from what they have been taught education is — memorization, grades, impressing peers and teachers, and preparing for a culminating test or project — to a place where learning is more meaningful, more fun. There isn’t the stress of maintaining a grade or not having the time to explore a nagging question, which allows students to explore.

The greatest minds weren’t motivated by, and certainly weren’t judged by, their grades, or getting into an elite college, or impressing others. They pushed themselves to learn, explore, and discover because they let their curiosity run rampant. They took the time to ask questions about their reality, and then try and answer them. No one told them the right” answer, the accepted” answer; they found it themselves. So why is our current education structure defined by clearly conflicting principles, including tests, constant homework assignments judged on accuracy, and rigid curricula? I think that the most likely answer is a mix of these: access to education, training of a workforce, and emphasis on learning information and developing certain skills while not actually applying them to a creative project or research process.

The Workshop offers a refuge from this often overwhelming reality in education and learning by giving the space for intellectually curious individuals to explore and discover. In doing so, students and faculty learn to work in a collaborative learning relationship, explore their curiosities, and demonstrate why others should find their research important. This is a refreshing vacation from the suffocating style of learning that is prevalent throughout high school (and, interestingly enough, much less pervasive throughout higher and higher education). However, I recognize that the typical form of learning is important not only for providing education to more people, but also for building the skills in attaining knowledge, building comprehension, synthesizing information, and evaluating one’s work; it actually opens doors for the learning encompassed by The Workshop — learning through asking questions, exploring new avenues, and challenging what one comprehends about a topic or the world at large.

What I hope this post has made readers question is how learning could change to let thinkers thrive. Specifically, why should an amazingly bright person have to wait to college” to have the time to delve deep into an avenue of research that they find interesting and important? The cultivation of curiosity could begin much earlier in our learning careers, as the Workshop displays. Rather than being an entirely separate program, however, we could find ways to incorporate its principles of free-flowing learning and discovery into the current curriculum, thus finding a better balance between comprehending information and applying it towards the completion of something meaningful: a project centered around discovery or community engagement, a work of art that challenges existing principles, or even an essay (or blog post like this one) about a common practice in the world around us that should be done differently.

The greatest minds weren’t motivated by, and certainly weren’t judged by, their grades, or getting into an elite college, or impressing others. They pushed themselves to learn, explore, and discover because they let their curiosity run rampant.

Phil 24



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.

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