It’s a given that school would look different than it did before the transition to offsite learning in March 2020—but how much different?
“Wow, this is so much better than before,” said Mia R. ‘24, while studying in the new CO:LAB (formerly the library space). “I use it all the time for group work and projects, and the booths are so cozy. I really enjoy being able to come down here and study by myself or with friends.”
As Wildwood rose to meet the challenge of Distributed Learning during the 2020-2021 school year, it was also presented with at least one silver lining—the ability to move forward and complete the construction work planned as part of the successful Foundation for the Future campaign. While the work kicked off in the summer of 2020, with faculty and students off campus for much of last year, crews were also able to integrate enhanced equipment and health protocols that helped make our return to onsite learning possible last spring.
Along with the CO:LAB, major renovations include the addition of new lower level classrooms, a wet lab for neuroscience and biology, a redesigned theater with reconfigurable seating, a music studio, and dedicated spaces for the Institutes at Wildwood.
Previously tucked away in shared spaces and hallways, the Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development (WISRD) and Wildwood Institute for Entrepreneurship (WIE) are now front-and-center, with glass roll-up doors that allow students, faculty, and visitors an opportunity to see the work happening in real time. Meanwhile, the Wildwood Institute for Social Leadership (WISL) is adjacent to the CO:LAB, providing a front row seat to WISL’s work for all community members.
Joe Wise, director of WISRD, shared that their new space has certainly added a professional perspective to their work and has validated the work in the eyes of WISRD members.
“We’re so excited about the new space because we can now organize our tools and our equipment in a more efficient way that allows us to design and build for the future,” Joe said.
Likewise, Matt Lucas, director of WIE, shared that the physical benefits of an open studio space carries over into enhanced student creativity and innovation.
“WIE members have been using a variety of technologies to create prototypes and products for their projects, but before we had our own space, it was often happening behind the scenes, particularly during COVID,” Matt said. “Although we’ve only been in the space for a few months, members have already had the opportunity to see how others solve problems in innovative ways, similar and dissimilar to their own.”
Meanwhile, the Wildwood Institute for Social Leadership (WISL) is adjacent to the CO:LAB, providing a front row seat to WISL’s work for all community members. The WISL space is also glass-fronted and can be split into two separate spaces.
“WISL’s new space allows all members to have a seat at the table—literally,” said Dr. Liza Bearman, director of WISL. “As a collaborative consultancy, it’s so important to have this space to work together to discuss, brainstorm, and execute ideas for our clients. It also gives us a place to visually calendar and display our work with each other, the community, and potential future WISL members.”
Directly upstairs, middle and upper students are flexing their creativity in an entirely different space. Wildwood’s new theater, a combination of the previous theater and Gathering Space, features retractable tiered seating, an updated sound board, and custom acoustics for professional-level productions.
“The fact that it is a flexible space gives us so much creative opportunity for different types of performances,” said Melissa Bales, performing arts faculty. “It’s been so rewarding watching students rehearse and utilize the new space. We’re planning on holding our first student productions in the theater this spring, and I can't wait to welcome audiences back to enjoy it!”