The Masters School New Athletic & Arts Center Reflects Harkness Teaching Approach

masters school north entryThe Masters School, located on 96-acres in Dobbs Ferry, has begun construction of its new Masters Athletic and Arts Center (MAAC). This dynamic, 75,000 square-foot building will be a dynamic addition to Masters and will play a vital role in advancing the School’s mission into the 21st century.

As a college preparatory school for day students grades 5-12, plus full-time boarding for grades 9-12, Masters is distinguished by its gender and learning-style specific classrooms in grades 6-8 and renowned Harkness teaching methodology in co-ed grades 9-12. Harkness classes are taught in a seminar format around a large oval wooden table, where every student shares equally in the interactive learning experience – building listening skills, critical thinking and confidence in speaking.

The MAAC will be unique among private independent schools in its unique design of placing arts, athletics and student engagement under the same roof. The MAAC is designed to reflect and elevate the school’s Harkness table teaching methodology that encourages diverse opinions and shared experiences. This innovative complex will provide new and expanded athletic and arts facilities. “I’ve been a trustee since 1999 and the MAAC is by far the most significant and game-changing project that we have undertaken as a school,” said Tracy Tang Limpe ’80, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “The impact it will have on everyone who is associated with the Masters community – boarding students, day students, faculty – will be enormous.”

Highlights of the MAAC include: state-of-the-art fencing facility, six-lane competition swimming pool, four squash courts, fitness center, running track and a gymnasium with a regulation basketball court, two practice courts and two volleyball courts. The MAAC will enable Masters to expand existing athletic teams, add new sports such as swimming and squash, and host local and regional athletic events. “The building will support both the recreational athlete and the team athlete whose goal is to play competitively after prep school,”  noted Kevin Versen, Director of Athletics and Physical Education. “Many athletes in the surrounding areas of New York look toward New England for their boarding experience. The MAAC will enrich both our day and boarding programs, bringing the boarding school experience a little closer to home and enabling Masters to compete head-to-head with New England prep schools.”

From an arts perspective, the new facility will feature two dance studios, a large art gallery, dedicated music rehearsal and performance space, an experimental black box theater, and a media arts lab for video and photo post-production as well as a dedicated video and photography studio. “It’s going to be an exiting space for us,” said Madeline Wilson, Chair of the Visual Arts Department, “opening up some opportunities so that the art department can keep evolving. It will double the size and capability of the department to schedule digital classes. We will have a dedicated room for the newspaper. It will give us a lot more breathing space…and a lot more flexible space. I see it as something we can grow into and change as time goes on.”
The MAAC will also be a “green” building, achieving a Gold LEED certification with rooftop solar panels and an energy efficient heating and cooling system. Through the extensive use of glass walls and open spaces, “we created a building that supports community interaction,” said Peter Gisolfi, founding partner of the architectural firm Peter Gisolfi Associates. “While you’re hanging out talking with your friends, you could watch any of 10 or 11 activities going on at the same time. You could see people playing in the gym or on the squash courts, you could see an exhibit in the art gallery, you could see students practicing in the music and performance space, you could look at people running on the indoor track. It’s an intentionally ‘revealing’ building to evoke the Masters spirit of community.”

“Our ability to create a facility that integrates all aspects of the Masters’ mission under one roof is unique,” agreed Ralph Rosenberg, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees. “The MAAC will help complete the school’s commitment to developing well-rounded students who have enthusiasm and appreciation for academics, the arts and athletics.” Clearly, the collaborative and interactive nature of the MAAC reflects the ethos of The Masters School and will further enhance its distinctive and innovative approach to education.

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