Making Meaning at Walnut Hill

A highlight of life at Walnut Hill School, whose students are all accomplished artists aspiring to higher-level study, are the Making Meaning assemblies, when groups of students share their experiences in collaborative work with the school community. At Walnut Hill, creativity is not about lightning strikes of inspiration or impassioned emoting: it’s about process— what Director of Studies Ben Gregg describes as “a disciplined, persistent, open-eyed process,” where the “creative moment” comes as the result of a deeply understood challenge and an openness to new ways of seeing.

“Making Meaning assemblies are a way of showing how the creative process works across disciplines,” says Gregg—how actors, visual artists, writers, dancers, and musicians all have to dig into their work and make difficult decisions to arrive at something truly new. Process is at the center of Walnut Hill’s academic curriculum, as well, with what Gregg calls a “transformative” core skills curriculum in the humanities that relies on a structured process that starts with “close, close, close observation” and moves through pattern finding to inference building and only then on to analysis and interpretation. It’s an axiom at Walnut Hill that “our students are not afraid of questions.” Says Gregg, “The dancer learns what it’s like to be annoyed by a challenge, but dealing with this frustration can help her understand how to work through, say, the problem of pi in a math class. Creative responses come through persistence and hard work.”

Does your school do something similar?

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