New School Exterior

The future of Winchester Thurston School is unfolding at the corner of Morewood and Centre Avenues, where a historic 1920s-era building is under renovation to become the Joan Clark Davis Center for Interdisciplinary Learning—a groundbreaking facility that will serve as the literal embodiment of WT’s strategic priorities Reimagine Learning and Rethink Time and Space. Named for alumna Joan Clark Davis ’65, the Davis Center will expand WT’s commitment to project-based and community-based learning; create collaboration among humanities, engineering, arts, and science programs; and amplify the impact of the school’s renowned City as Our Campussm program.

“Some of the deepest educational connections happen outside the traditional classroom setting, and beyond the boundaries of individual subject matter offerings,” declares Head of School Dr. Scott D. Fech. “As we continue to evolve our practices for teaching and learning, the new Center creates a unique space to foster that learning and growth.”

“Nothing is off the table”

Just a few-minute walk from Molloy Posner Hall and the Upper School, the building at 4951 Centre Avenue will add 15,000 square feet of adaptable space, spread over two stories, to WT’s physical campus. Workshops, studios, breakout spaces, and ample room for group gatherings will help to facilitate WT’s innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

“The possibilities are unlimited, and most are yet to be imagined,” enthuses Fech. “Nothing is off the table.” What is certain, Fech says, is that this new chapter in WT history will be bold, progressive—and written collaboratively.

“This is not just about transitioning existing Upper School courses down the street. This is about updating that experience for students, and layering in new components not currently possible because of space constraints. How do we do this? The people who can answer that are teachers. They’re the ones who have said, ‘I can’t do that because…’.  Or, ‘I feel limited in what I’m able to do because….’. It’s our teachers—in their innovation, creativity, and collaboration—who will bring this to life in very real ways.”

Interior of planned school

“A guidepost for what our program can be”

The Center is slated to open in the 2022-2023 school year; during the next 12 months, there will be sustained, strategic work around what kinds of courses and interdisciplinary collaborations could happen there.

“I’ve been imagining what a Pre-K–12 aligned curriculum looks like at WT and working with teachers to create that,” shares Desiree Jennings, Director of Academics. “There’s wonderful groundwork that’s been laid in our existing curriculum. Identifying the necessary changes to be made, weaving differing perspectives and interests into a unified approach, and meeting the time and energy demands needed to do this work will lead to enormous growth. That’s thrilling. I’m equally excited about opportunities for our teaching and learning to become increasingly interdisciplinary, to create school-based learning experiences mirroring real-world learning. Shifting towards learning with the community as well as from is important, too; this will deepen and expand the community-based learning work we do with City as Our Campus.”

While the Center will be utilized primarily by Upper School students (“…they can move more independently between the Upper School and Centre Avenue,” says Fech), it will dramatically impact the entire school.

“At one end, the Center will stand as both inspirational and aspirational, a guidepost for what the rest of our program can be,” Fech adds. “We plan courses beginning with the end in mind: Where do I want my students to be in June? And how do we get there? This is what I want the Center to be: a place for culminating projects, capstone projects, all coming together in this space. What it looks like through the rest of the Upper School builds on what is happening in the earlier divisions. The whole scope and sequence of the curriculum is planned with all of that in mind.”

On a tangible level, one of the most significant shifts will affect Molloy Posner Hall, which houses the Lower and Middle Schools and administrative offices. “We will move some administrative offices to the Center, which allows us to expand and codify the Middle and Lower School spaces,” notes Fech. “Right now, the Lower School is disconnected with the fifth grade on the second floor, remaining grades on the first floor, and some special classrooms on the ground floor. We now have an opportunity to unify the Lower School. At the same time, the Middle School can grow—students can expand their wings and will have a special place to call their own.”

“I am honored to support the school’s efforts.” —Joan Clark Davis ’65

“I am honored to support the school’s efforts.”— Joan Clark Davis ’65

In 1961, Chubby Checker and Patsy Cline were at the top of the charts, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, construction began on the Berlin Wall—and Winchester Thurston School enrolled a freshman who would grow up to become the first graduate with a building named in her honor.

Joan Clark Davis '65“I hope it creates more space and opportunity for students to realize their possibilities,” says Joan Clark Davis ’65 of the Joan Clark Davis Center for Interdisciplinary Learning, a facility made possible by her transformational leadership gift, the largest single donation in WT’s 134-year history. The Center expands WT’s presence along the Morewood Avenue corridor, enlarging the school’s urban campus by two floors, 15,000 square feet, and unlimited possibilities for collaborative, interdisciplinary, project- and community-based teaching and learning.

The opportunities Davis envisions for future students are inspired by her own WT experience.

“I came to Winchester Thurston from a small school, so it was quite a change to be in a big school with so many different classes and teachers. I remember enjoying all of my classes. The teachers and curriculum at WT were excellent preparation for college. In fact, I think I had to work harder at WT than I did at college!”

As anticipation builds for the Joan Clark Davis Center for Interdisciplinary Learning, its namesake fondly remembers the excitement students felt upon moving from the Fifth Avenue school building into the new Morewood Avenue facility when she was a junior. That building, dedicated in 2017 as Molloy Posner Hall, was designed to accommodate steadily increasing enrollment with state-of-the-art classrooms for the specialized needs of all disciplines, and ample space for performing arts and athletics.

“Winchester Thurston School played an important role in my life, and I am honored to support the school’s efforts to continue as pioneers in education. Although I am proud to have named the building, and hope my gift inspires other alums to give, I don’t want to take the attention away from the extraordinary work going on inside of the building. I can’t wait to see what happens there, and I hope my contribution will make a lasting impact.”