In early October, I found myself with some time to reconnect with my Boston roots. I had been on the topic of Wheelock College recently when friends told us of their summertime visit to the campus with their 17-year-old daughter. I was excited to hear that their daughter was interested in Wheelock. Its location, nestled along the curved route of Riverway, is unique and special.
The Admissions Office is home base for Wheelock. I was greeted by numerous people, including my student tour guide, Colin. We set out on our tour on one of the most picturesque fall days — leaves at their near peak and very warm temperatures. The Riverway still has the same feel to it as it did back in 1988-1992. The park across the street, the buzz of cars along Riverway, the presence of the Wheelock Family Theatre — all familiar and comforting. Colin showed me around, highlighting one of the newest additions, the Campus Center. The modern building has a spectacular view from the dining spaces. Many students were seated in small groups finishing a snack while engaged in conversation. We also traveled through Pilgrim’s student center space, the hub of student space back in my day. It has been transformed into a multi-cultural resource space with excellent books and resources lining the walls. I recalled to my tour guide that it was in this space that Wheelock socials were held.
We went on to another significant addition, The Earl Center for Learning and Innovation. Only at a place like Wheelock College can you find an inflatable ball pit! The tactile learner tunes in to this manipulative immediately. There is great support for this type of learning with so many learning tools available, including kits, books, and iPad and Mac technology. In addition, as you enter, there is a large open concept meeting space with a large screen on the wall for presentations. At the back of this space are expandable rooms with sliding doors, allowing for small groups. I was impressed with the design of this space, which allows for such flexibility.
We also viewed Peabody Hall. I was surprised to learn that my old dorm and dining hall have been transformed. The former dining hall now houses the Athletics Department, once contained to a small office in Pilgrim. Wheelock’s Athletics Department is far more significant, offering many sport choices. Colin talked about how his running career in high school led him specifically to Wheelock. I played field hockey one year at Wheelock, and we used The Winsor School’s field for practices and games. I also took advantage of Simmon College’s athletic complex and frequently swam laps in their pool to de-stress from the workload.
When I departed from my tour, I lingered on campus and explored on my own. I found myself in the Classroom Building, with an ear to classroom instruction. Through an open door, I viewed a math class, with problems etched onto the whiteboard, and students clustered in groups seeking to solve them. I saw a more traditional lecture format with the professor standing among her students. From the hallway, the noise in the classrooms appeared productive and engaging. Small classes have that effect. I walked the hallways where professors’ offices were contained, observing professors and students engaged in conversation. I had a lively and engaging conversation with one of the assistants. And later, I poked my head into the office of Terry Meier, Wheelock College associate professor of Language and Literacy, who graciously discussed two issues on my mind: today’s preparation of teachers and the challenges second language learners face acquiring English proficiency.
Finally, I drove to the Brookline Campus’ Hawes Street building, parking in the neighborhood. A short walk to this stunning building was refreshing. The property has a beautiful green space. I toured the building, learning about the Aspire Institute and interacting with the iPads in the Documentation Studio.
My love of travel stems from my first international trip as a sophomore. The course focused on medieval England and was taught by Philip Craig. I spent time in Wales and England, and then traveled on to Germany. Travel encourages a new educational perspective. No matter how many times one visits a place, old or new, an opportunity for discovery takes place. Whenever I find myself in a new place, I quickly set out to find a museum, a park, a library — a sanctuary of space to learn new things.
And that is what Wheelock’s recent tour offered me. Novelty and familiarity. A chance to explore new things such as The Earl Center for Learning and Innovation and the Hawes Street mansion. It was also a chance to appreciate the familiar comforts such as the curve of the Riverway and the foundational lessons learned in the Classroom Building, including childhood development, teaching and learning styles, and a love and an appreciation for knowledge.
Amy Rheault-Heafield ’92 is an independent educator and learning consultant at @ Too Fales Lane, Educational Planning and Design. She lives in New Boston, NH.