Skip to main content

Inspiration Commons

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.

Digital Design Classroom
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.

Fabrication Studio
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.


Popular posts from this blog

The Power of Faith

My former Head of School was fond of saying that late January, in the context of all enrollment and employment contracts being sent out, was the time when he suddenly found himself with no students and no employees. There is no denying the challenge that exists in sending out all kinds of offers to be a part of Berwick’s next journey and having to wait for seven or eight hundred different contracts to emerge in various ways. Some of those eight hundred stories will be straightforward, and some will take lots of follow up and persistence. There will be happy surprises and surprise disappointments along the way; there are every year.

It is hard as a leader, and harder as a parent, to acknowledge that certain things are out of our control. I heard recently from a Berwick parent that their freshman in college was back in the house for the past month and how hard it was to figure out the proper parenting role. Mostly this person just hoped and prayed that good decisions would be made. W…

A Final Dance

The Berwick events are jam packed in these final weeks of May, but a particularly special one for me has always been the amazing dance shows. Each year I am inspired to see how this program – a school within a school – comes together to put on such extravaganzas for the community to enjoy. Last weekend’s edition was one of my favorite moments to truly soak in the nature of a PK-12 school, as one can’t help but notice the progression of talent and development throughout the dance companies. Perhaps even more impressively, the dance program is one of the greatest examples we have of mentoring and role modeling across divisions. Whether that is as impressive as shared performances on stage or as mundane as managing the littlest dancers backstage, it is truly a community effort.

Selfishly, this is the one program on campus that all three of the Schneider girls love equally, and as a parent it has been such a gift to see them on stage together. While they share a common bond through the…

Setting the Table

Yesterday marked our annual Board of Trustees retreat, where we welcomed new Head of School Jim Hamilton to have a thoughtful conversation about leadership transition and future strategy. While part of this conversation was about how our Board might best support the new Head of School moving forward, the bulk of our time was focused on the strategic direction of Berwick. Everyone in the room was committed to seeing this amazing community forge ahead. Over the course of the next 18 months, our Board will be authoring the next Berwick Academy long-range plan, and there was a great deal of focus on continuing the momentum we have created as an institution in recent years.

As part of this exercise, I was asked to present some thoughts on issues that strike me as pressing as I leave the Hilltop. I distilled my thinking into the challenges of program, people, and projects that will face Berwick in its next chapter. Additionally, members of our Board helped us take a deeper dive into a l…