Architecture for Inquiry Learning

A week ago at their January meeting, The White Mountain School Board of Trustees voted to go ahead with significant renovations to academic spaces. This project is driven by this idea: we need to be sure that our architecture supports our mission – in our case that our architecture supports inquiry and engagement. Our spaces must encourage the creative thinking that underlies authentic inquiry and support collaborative engagement with ideas and with each other.

Last summer, a group of teachers gathered to think anew about learning spaces on campus, digging into the practical and philosophical ideas behind our current configuration, and gathering new ideas from around the country. Through common readings and broad discussion we developed a vision of how our learning spaces can best support inquiry. This work led us to three principles that will guide this renovation.

First, our spaces should visibly support student-driven inquiry. Students should be inspired to think beyond what they know, and develop the courage to ask new questions, interesting questions, hard questions. The spirit of inquiry should be palpable – with questions literally on the walls. Second, our spaces should promote creative collaboration – the mixing of ideas. The author Steven Johnson has written about the importance of “liquid networks” of ideas. For new questions to emerge, we need ideas to bump into each other, to jostle around. Creating spaces for this type of informal collaboration is central to our vision. Third, our library should be reimagined as a hub of inquiry – a collaborative space, a creative space, and a research center. The library should the place to go for students in all phases of their inquiry work, from question framing through research and writing.

As we continue to lead the way with our academic program, our focus on making sure that our architecture best supports this program is the logical next step. We look forward to seeing it in action.

— Tim

Tim Breen, Ph.D., Head of School

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