empty garden boxes in an open field on a sunny day
February 28, 2022

Experiments in Education

How will meaningful learning occur in this year’s Workshop?
by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

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 a chosen theme, students explore areas of personal interest.

Workshop faculty members (from left) Nicholas Zufelt, Corrie Martin, and Chris Jones brainstorm possible themes.

Past themes have included Community, Class, and Carbon and Democracy and Dissent. This year’s theme, Experiments in Education, will be taught by the following faculty members:

  • Andy Housiaux, instructor of religion and philosophy and Currie Family Director of the Tang Institute,
  • Corrie Martin, instructor in English and Tang senior fellow in engaged pedagogy,
  • Nicholas Zufelt, instructor in math, statistics, and computer science and a Tang fellow, and
  • Chris Jones, instructor in history and social science and a Tang fellow.

What will this year’s Workshop look like? While instructors are still finalizing community partners and schedules, three things are firmly in place:

Colloquium — Workshop students and faculty will meet one evening each week to talk, ask questions, generate ideas, compare findings, share discoveries, and discuss reading assignments.

The Abbot Learning Garden — In a collaboration with Andover’s new Abbot Learning Garden, Workshop students will help to create a sustainable, multi-year, multi-audience, garden education program. Students will work with Allison Guerette, Andover’s sustainability coordinator, on projects that may include building an Abbot Learning Garden orientation program for use in future years or creating lessons-in-a-box that could be used to host younger students at the garden. (They’ll even do some weeding and planting!)

Faculty-led Projects During the first three weeks of the term, students will be involved in one of the following faculty-led projects:

  • Listening to Buddhists in Our Backyard (Andy Housiaux)
    • This project will explore Buddhism in the Merrimack Valley today. Instead learning about Buddhism through books, students will learn by listening to stories by and about Buddhists in different local communities. Who are these Buddhists, and how do they understand themselves and their religious lives? What brought them to Buddhism—and to the Merrimack Valley? How do they understand their relationship to Buddhism and America in 2022?
  • Andover’s CAMD Scholars Program: Advancing DEIJ Teaching, Learning, and Community Outcomes (Corrie Martin)
    • This project will explore the hypothesis that the CAMD Scholars program has been a uniquely impactful and effective program for student learning, teacher professional development, and campus community building, specifically around DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, justice) issues. Now in its 15th year, this successful and popular program is primed for a deep self-reflection and study of its design and processes, a revisiting of its pedagogical goals, and clarification of its desired outcomes.
  • Bias (Nicholas Zufelt)
    • In this project, students will take a comprehensive look at questions such as:
      • What does bias mean, most generally, and in specific contexts throughout academic disciplines?
      • What should every student know about bias when they leave Andover? What should they know about their own biases? Those of others and of society in general? Where does our curriculum support this learning, and where does it not?
  • Methods of Storytelling (Chris Jones)
    • In this project, we will select one era of American history and read excerpts of exceptional works by different a variety of historians, each of whom bring a different agenda and theory of the past to bear on the topic. Our initial task will be to develop a rich understanding of this field and why so many scholars could have reached vastly different conclusions about this past. Ultimately, we want to ask what stories we find most persuasive—and what that might tell us about ourselves.

In the coming months, we’ll be sharing lots more about this year’s Workshop. Students will be writing blog posts about their experiences and sharing their stories on Tang’s social media accounts. (Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!) Meaningful learning occurs when students explore different aspects of the same subject across various disciplines, and we’re all excited to see what that looks like this year, our first chance to experience this program fully on campus together!


*The Tang Institute at Phillips Academy is a center for the advancement of teaching, learning, and partnership. To learn more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes on Learning.

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