After just over a month of learning in Stirn Hall, both students and teachers have begun to realize its full capacity for education. The new features, as well as the improved rooms from last year, have been a major boost to student productivity and overall experience. From the Shiverick Learning Commons to the new-and-improved FabLab to the technologically advanced Brilliance Bar, students are finding new and innovative ways to improve their social, creative, and academic lives at Hawken. The opinions of the student body and faculty members reveal just how the members of Hawken have adapted and responded to their new home.
For some, their first impression of Stirn Hall was not as positive as how they see it now. Senior Maggie Canitia says that, “In the beginning, I didn’t really know how I felt about [Stirn Hall]. When we gave tours I thought that it was going to be something I really didn’t like because it was just so new”. After a few weeks of learning in Stirn Hall, her opinion had changed completely. She explains, “Being a senior, I was so used to the old building and what it was and how old and comfy it was. It felt like home. But … as we’ve gone to classes, gone in the rooms, [Stirn Hall] is more of a high school. It’s a lot different, it’s a lot more advanced. It’s a better place for learning, and I really like it.” Ask any tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grader and they will all say the same thing: Ireland was okay, but Stirn is fantastic. Many freshman are of a similar opinion. Mikhail Stiffler, a freshman, explained, “I really like the new school. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like last year.” Many upperclassmen find it just as hard to imagine going back to the old building.
Stirn Hall is uniquely tailored to fit the needs of all students. As a result, students tend to find the space that helps them learn individually.
Sophomore Izzy Culver says that her favorite feature is the Brilliance Bar. She says, “My favorite feature is the Brilliance Bar because I find that it’s really conducive to learning. It’s a really beautiful space that helps keep me focused on my work. Also, it accommodates all of the technology we use at Hawken.” The Brilliance Bar is a helpful addition for many students because of the power outlets for laptops, as well as its capacity for individual and group study. Students feel as though they can have a place to study quietly, as well as to collaborate with their classmates. Each student’s individual perspective shows how versatile the new space is for learning and socializing.
This feeling of finding a place of one’s own extends to the teachers as well, who have adjusted by finding parts of the building that fit best with their teaching style. Mr. Bill Harris, a physics teacher, explains that “it certainly has been fun to come up on the balcony here and drop things for physics class. It’s nice also to have a nice big ceiling; we’ve been doing a lot with kinematics lately, and so I can throw stuff up in the air to demonstrate gravity”. Clearly, the new building allows for teachers to direct their classes in a far more personalized manner. Furthermore, Mr. Harris finds that the overall experience in the new building has aided student life as well. As he describes, “The school, interestingly enough, feels more relaxed. When I walk around, since students don’t seem to be all crammed in AC Lobby, there’s more space for them to spread out, I see students in little nooks and crannies here and there, and it just seems a little more relaxed. I don’t know how it is from the student perspective, but that’s how it looks to me.” Stirn Hall is an incredibly advantageous addition to learning at Hawken, as it gives students and teachers a building that allows them to learn and teach in a way that best suits them.
Some faculty members and students have described Stirn Hall as “awesome”, “college-like”, “grandiose”, and “transparent”. Each of these terms showcases one of the great aspects of the new building and aptly describe its architecture and construction. Ms. Dolman even says that compared to last year, the new building has even given her “more exercise”. As the school year continues to progress, Stirn Hall will begin to be appreciated for more than just its grandeur, but its capacity for improving the lives of both students and teachers.
Mr. Harris continues his testimony for the new building by saying, “It’s gorgeous. A lot of fun to work in. It seems really big. I love the [openness], like right here, just looking out the glass, and seeing the pretty trees and beautiful sky. And I love the bridge.” He speaks for many of the students and faculty by saying that the views of the great lawn through the glass and the amount of transparency in the school create a beautiful space in which to work. We are lucky to have such a beautiful campus, and Stirn Hall is the tool with which we can showcase it in all its beauty.