Democracy and Dissent: The Workshop Prepares for Second Iteration

The Workshop at Andover is an ongoing experimental program designed for Seniors during their spring term. Reimagining education by redesigning school structures and testing, the program aims to help students become pilots of their own learning. The Workshop employs an approach that helps prepare students for independent, life-long learning and action while providing an opportunity to foster an inclusive, reflective community.

The 2020-2021 Workshop topic is Democracy and Dissent. Under this umbrella, the program intends to integrate content from various subjects and connect different aspects of learning, according to Corrie Martin, Instructor in English, and Andrew Housiaux, Instructor and Chair in Philosophy and Religious Studies, two organizers of the Workshop. The final information session for this year’s workshop will take place on the evening of Friday, October 2. Applications are due on Monday, October 5.

Housiaux wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “​A student’s academic program often goes in several different directions. As a Junior or a Lower, a student may take 6 classes that do not overlap in terms of content or essential questions. In the Workshop, our work is organized around a central theme; for the spring of 2021, it will be ‘Democracy and Dissent.’ When students then learn about statistics, or philosophy, or neurobiology, or art (or, of course, the intersections of these disciplines), it will be with the broader goal of shedding light on this complex topic.”

In the Workshop’s pilot program last year, the central theme was “Community, Class, and Carbon.” According to Martin, students approached the theme from a variety of angles and utilized many skills and techniques to create their projects.

Martin wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “In our pilot last spring, students pursued a wide variety of projects such as creating a digital story map of a community’s food system that documented the impact of the pandemic on local food pathways; curation of an online art exhibit; an analysis of how racism drives voting districting. Students employed a wide variety of skills to create these projects: data science, oral history, narrative and visual analysis, creative and persuasive writing, and so on. The only limit to the projects this year in relation to Democracy and Dissent is our imagination!”

Junah Jang ’20, a student of the Workshop’s first cohort last year, enjoyed being able to devote her time to her project and explore the impact of the pandemic on her family. 

“For me, our first big project was what I enjoyed the most. Since the Workshop is focused on interdisciplinary work, I was able to write this long-form article on Covid-19 and its impact on my relationship with my mom and my thoughts on going home and being someone who is a child of an immigrant, someone who has both respectives, internationally and nationally. It was super fun for me to write, because I was able to pour all my time doing it,” said Jang.   

Without predetermined classes, topics, and homework assignments, students have flexibility in terms of what they wish to pursue, according to Housiaux.

“There is not a preset menu of projects students must choose from. In dialogue with their peers, Workshop faculty, and outside experts, they will articulate research questions, pursue their learning, and develop the best ways to present that understanding. Students made podcasts, portfolios, plays, presentations last year—there are many, many options,” said Housiaux. 

Martin and Housiaux are working to develop the second Workshop with Andrea Bailey, Instructor in Biology; Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of Community Engagement; Christopher Jones, Instructor in History and Social Science; Rafael Kelman, Instructor in Art; and Nicholas Zufelt, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. Martin explained how the global pandemic forced the faculty members to rethink how the course would take place. 

“We thought we were ‘reinventing’ school, but we had no idea that global circumstances would force a reinvention of truly radical dimensions. What we do know is that The Workshop will continue to pursue a model of learning in which students and teachers pursue intellectual paths together as co-investigators of really big problems,” wrote Martin.

Martin continued, “​If you seek to become, not just a student of history, but a historian, not only a student of science, but a scientist, not a student of writing or art, but a writer or artist, then this program is for you. The best part of the program is that your curiosity, your passions, shape what we spend our time and energy on. You learn how to apply your academic knowledge to real-world problems, how to reflect on your own identity and practices as a learner and on your own practices of creation and communication.”