We know that revitalizing the academic core of campus to better complement our evolving curriculum and teaching methods is essential. This is particularly true of the Anson S. Thacher Building (AST), which houses roughly 40 percent of our classroom space and, like many of our academic buildings, was built to meet pedagogical practices that are now outdated and doesn’t easily accommodate the new approaches to deep and enduring learning that our faculty and students are pursuing today.
Teaching and Learning
Teachers are increasingly being called upon to function as coaches and facilitators of student-centered learning, acting as both subject-matter experts and cultivators of traits like creativity, ingenuity, and communication through hands-on applied learning opportunities. The old teacher-centric model of “the sage on the stage” has shifted to one more centered around the student. This, in turn, calls into question the current configuration of our older learning spaces.
Any classroom renovation or rebuild necessitates deep thinking about teaching and learning. How do we create spaces that will support our long-term vision? And how do we remain true to the core educational values and relationship-based learning that have always defined our school while, at the same time, evolving to meet the changing world of today?
In recent decades, Thacher has embraced student-centered pedagogies with interdisciplinary course offerings and hands-on, project-based learning. Many of these approaches work especially well within the Thacher educational ethos, where small class sizes, high academic expectations, and close community relationships provide an essential framework for inspiring great work in teenagers. Indeed, our horse and outdoor programs have always served to introduce mentoring, exploration, risk-taking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Our woodworking and computer science programs and, more recently, our dance and electronic music studios, computer labs, coding club meetings, 3D-printing rooms, laser cutting garages, and our newly renovated Thacher Observatory are serving the same purpose.
New Academic Core
The AST building was constructed in 1965 and last “modernized” in 1983. A cinderblock facility with walled-off, box-like learning spaces, the AST minimizes windows and conceals activities related to computer science, history, language, physics, engineering, and visual arts. For a program that hopes to expose students to new ideas and perspectives and to foster cross-disciplinary connections wherever possible, this is a significant deficit. Other than minor renovations and technology upgrades to these and other spaces, Thacher hasn’t made any material investments in our academic facilities in 35 years.
After considerable analysis, we’ve determined that we are best served by replacing the building and reimagining it as a center for multi-disciplinary creativity, exploration, and learning, complete with room to move and break out into small groups, as well as labs and maker spaces that support project-based, applied learning opportunities. This will be the brand new Gates Rough-House—the first step in a campus-wide strategic effort to reimagine our learning environment.