EBI: Filling Time or Fueling Minds?

Despite attending a handful of EBI classes after a year and half at Andover, I can only remember two. One during the Fall Term when we received candy, and the other when the whole class came together and played a game — one about learning how to spend and save money. While the game was quite simple, it made us think creatively as a team and left the choices up to us students — teaching us that we must always find a way to rise up from hardships. I am confident that all of us learned something new that day that changed their perspective on life. The rest of them? Lost with time. In spaces like the EBI, it is not only the teacher, the EBI Upper or Senior, and the PowerPoint presentation that comprises the learning in the class. The empathy roots from the students, the balance is shared between peers that make up the conversation, and the inclusion comes from the people being able to accept and encourage one another to be their best selves. And I feel that many times, these parts which the foundations of EBI stand for, are lost. My view towards EBI ultimately changed after one memorable class.  From then, I learned that EBI had the potential to be something more, something that the Andover students regardless of their academic achievements can simultaneously enjoy and learn from rather than having the information go in one ear and out another.

As a Junior last year, I had no expectations when I attended EBI. Returning students told me it was just a time filler, and that over Covid-19 it became a passive event students were forced to attend because they would be penalized otherwise. I soon understood how many of them felt in my Junior Spring. If I thought that my Fall and Winter Term class peers were quiet, then my Spring Term class was filled with a deafening silence apart from the occasional voice of the instructor asking the list of hypothetical questions that were written in their lesson plans. Yet, one day, we learned about financial literacy and what might happen to us in the future financially if we made some poor spending choices. It was one of the funnest activities I have ever experienced during EBI — debating with one another about what is more necessary in our lives and why. Why was fixing the car better than buying a new bike? Did the advantages of living further away outweigh the drawbacks? These lighthearted, entertaining questions were ones we asked ourselves and our peers for the full time. At the end, one of my peers said, “You know, I actually wish we had EBI for a longer period of time…”

After that day, EBI taught me how education is not just about the grades achieved; it’s about the experience of learning, the interactions with peers, and the development of empathy and critical thinking skills. EBI may have started as a mandatory session to fill time for me, but it has the potential to become a platform where students eagerly participate, exchange ideas, and leave with more than just information, but with a deeper understanding of themselves. With a little nurturing and innovation, EBI could be a cornerstone of the Andover experience, enriching the academic journey of all students.

Currently, EBI is a mix of courses and subjects that is curated by the EBI Uppers and Seniors, alongside the faculty who run the program. While I agree that these topics are important and effective in shaping the lives of young students, I think the feedback survey presented to students at the end of a term should have a bigger impact than it currently does. The survey, as of right now, merely looks for extremities to ensure that students aren’t responding too negatively to a certain topic. Instead, there should be a rotation of topics presented and address what students can do and think about in the immediate future — as in, literally, the next couple of hours that they attend school for. While the curriculum covers topics of diversity and social structures on campus, the school must find ways to connect with its audience in order for students to truly reap the wisdom from EBI.