All this week, I have been sneaking into the library every six hours or so. With our new Inspiration Commons set to open over the weekend, the final details are being installed and the results are spectacular. For me, it is so rewarding to see how our donor community has rallied behind the notion of an educational experience that will be hands-on and engaging. Just walking through the new fabrication studio, as the new tools were being unpacked, there was an unspoken energy in the room that it was time to build something. The teachers who were being trained on the equipment simply had smiles on their faces. So did I.
But standing on the second floor, looking down over the new balcony, one realizes that the Inspiration Commons has very little to do with technology in the end. Surveying new furniture and the new organization of space, I could envision how kids will want to be in this space - together. They will want to have conversations, collaboration, and time to make their ideas a reality. For the first time our students will be able to apply skills of science, math, design, technology, and engineering in a whole new way.
Rather than create an entirely new space, we have creatively breathed new life into an existing one. While there are many versions of makerspaces and idea labs popping up across the country in our industry, I think the Inspiration Commons will be uniquely Berwick. I say that because I can see that this will become a student-directed and organically grown place rather than a teacher directed or pre-ordained experience. It has K-12 elements to it, and it will exist in one of our facilities that draws students from all ages. The space houses nooks and crannies for group work, but it also creates a public viewing area for visitors to see work on display. They will no longer have to take our word for it that Berwick kids make cool stuff.
Simultaneously, we have preserved the essential elements of a traditional library function: quiet, reflective study and a catalyst for a love of reading. While surely the culture and flow of the building will evolve in the days ahead, we will have no less emphasis in the primacy of reading skills in all that we do. Reading remains an essential gateway to skills and knowledge, even in an age of unprecedented technology.
Perhaps what is most exciting to me, as the school’s leader, is that I am not entirely sure what this space will become. John Dewey once said: “We never educate directly but indirectly by means of the environment. Whether we permit chance environments to do the work, or whether we design environments for the purpose makes a great difference.” Certainly, in the Inspiration Commons, we have designed a learning environment with purpose, acknowledging that the culture and the space will cultivate the content rather than the other way around. I can’t wait to see what our Berwick students (and faculty) will do with it. I will certainly keep you posted.