Learning amid campus construction

Construction viewed from the second floor of the upper school – photo by Sebastian Bilash ’20

All of a sudden, the top of Wilson Hall is not the highest point on Haverford’s campus. Behind it looms a massive yellow crane, acting as a sundial to count down the days until the new middle school is completed.

     Our inner nine-year-old loves the idea of having construction on campus. Still, teachers feared that the constant movement outside their windows would be distracting. The school knew noise could be an issue, but as of right now, there isn’t too much disruption. As though it were Christmas every day, the lure of heavy-duty machinery has worn off after a month. But whenever  a new stage of the project begins, such as the addition of I-beams a couple of weeks ago, teachers will find students with their noses pressed against the glass.

     For all those out there who want to be civil engineers, this proximity to a major job site is a dream come true, and Haverford has pounced on this learning opportunity. The administration had the design company, Adams Bickel, build an observation deck to look over the fence and have the construction managers teach students about different parts of the process.

     One ongoing  question is how the middle school will function in the Virtue Village. Students have a moderate commute to Centennial Hall: sometimes students will come to their first-period classes fifteen minutes late from choir. Whereas the residents of Crosman Hall used to be able to enter the cafeteria without going outside, now they have the longest walk of any on campus. However, as English teacher Mr. Mark McConnon said, it provides fewer opportunities for him to fill up on cookies. A blessing in disguise, then.

     Besides these concerns, there is only high praise for the temporary learning center. Throughout the campus, people are noticing an overall greater feeling of love and joy, and the middle school is no exception. They have created Festive Fridays—casual Fridays or a themed day to make the year special.

“The shared unique experience of having to work through compromises that brings the people of the Middle School together.”

Middle School Dean of Students Ms. Tracy Nelson

     “We have never seen a happier group of kids or faculty,” Middle School Dean of Students Ms. Tracy Nelson said. “Perhaps it is the brightness of the rooms or the excitement of going into a new building next year, but I think it is the shared unique experience of having to work through compromises that brings the people of the Middle School together.”

     Still, some things are hard to work around. History teacher Mr. John Suter said his space provides him with opportunities to try different seating arrangements and be more engaged with the class. Mr. McConnon likes his classroom, but then again, he could teach in a tin can if he had to. Science teacher Mr. Mario Masso said that the lack of proper lab equipment—sinks, the full array of beakers and test tubes—means he has to change his curriculum a little bit, but he sees using upper school equipment as a possibility.

     It seems the middle schoolers are fitting in well at their temporary home. Come winter, the weather might be a challenge with the longer walk from drop-off and art classes. But judging by the high levels of happiness and compassion seen in Virtue Village, students and faculty should get by just fine.