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students in classroom of windows with mountains in the background view

Honors chemistry students at work in the lab.

Open Spaces

Text by Jennifer Sutton
Photos by Joanna Chattman

From the soaring expanse of the atrium lobby to the private study corners that overlook the hills, the Gilder Center is the place to be on campus these days. The new building, home to NMH’s math and science departments, was under construction from May 2020 to October 2021, and when the doors opened about seven months ago, students and faculty were awestruck. The feeling held. “It’s just exciting when you walk into this building,” Liam Lichocki ’23 said during his honors chemistry class in February.

Text: The Gilder Center is where students and faculty go to think big

Named after the late Richard “Dick” Gilder ’50, the new building provides a backdrop of environmental awareness throughout the classroom and common spaces, and supports student-teacher interactions with more hands-on, interdisciplinary tools and techniques. Sustainability Director and science teacher Becca Malloy calls it “a dynamic and immersive place to learn.” To students like Lulu Calame ’23, the Gilder Center’s minimalist beauty and light-filled spaces offer something else, too. “It’s hard to describe,” she says. “It just feels like we can breathe here.”

A COMMUNAL SPACE

Walk in the front door and sense the possibilities. The atmosphere is open, inviting discussion and collaboration. “It’s nice to see kids want to hang out in this space,” says science teacher Jolene Schuster. “In Cutler Science Center, there was no place to sit and be together as a group outside of class, and it was kind of cold and dingy. But students are in this building every chance they can get.”

 

 

BACK AND FORTH 

Beginning physics students explore the concept of potential and kinetic energy by measuring the speed of a pendulum at different points. “We find out the difference between the two energies to better understand how they work with each other,” one student said. 
 

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Ninth graders take a test together that they took individually the previous week. “It’s a little chaotic, but helpful,” says Phoebe Garrett ’25 (center). “When we have different ideas about what the answer is, we work together to find something that makes sense to everyone.” 

SMALL-GROUP STUDY 

Eliot Vaughey 22 (left) and Laure Mandiamy 22 work on calculus problems in one of Gilder’s more intimate conference rooms. Because so much of NMH’s curriculum emphasizes collaboration and interpersonal skills, breaking out into smaller groups is crucial.


 

LAB WORK 

During an evening Science Club session, students dive into biotechnology, working with bacteria extracted from jellyfish plasma to see if they survive under certain conditions, and getting familiar with equipment and practices they’ll encounter in college science courses. “We get to try our hands on things most high school students don’t get to do,” says Bryan Ho ’22 (right). 


 

LAWS OF PHYSICS

In an Advanced Physics class, Otto Luessenhop ’22 measures how much energy is needed for a spring to launch a small ball in the air. The Gilder Center provides more spaces for students to focus on lab techniques, problem-solving practices, and projects.


 

HANDS ON 

Ella Gazo ’22 (left) and Brynn Charron ’22 dig into an augmented-reality sandbox — essentially a color-gradient topographic map that can be manipulated with the movement or touch of their hands. By forming mountains, valleys, river deltas, and flood plains, students can learn about geography, hydrology, erosion, and conservation. 

400+ The number of writable whiteboard surfaces

 

WRITE ON THE DESK! 

Gilder’s desk surfaces, along with many of the walls, are made of whiteboard material, so students like Ruyan Li ’23 (with Michael Liu ’22) have the freedom and flexibility to try out ideas before committing them to paper or a computer screen. More space to write leads to clearer thinking, and it saves paper, too.


 

SEEING TRENDS

Honors Chemistry students Lulu Calame ’23 and Alex Clayton ’23 look at “periodic trends” — patterns in the size and electronic properties of different elements in the periodic table — by observing how the elements react when combined with hydrochloric acid. 


 

AT THE BOARD

Math teacher Mark Yates confers with Advanced Calculus students as they learn to integrate and differentiate the slope of a curve and the area under a curve. Collaborating at the whiteboard — talking through problems and assignments — helps students process and retain what they learn. 


 

SHARING RESULTS

Science teacher Skylar McAlpin pulls a display poster off a new large-format printer. Her Honors Biology students conducted research in the NMH forest and designed posters to help present their findings, much like they would at an academic conference. The new printer provides a sophisticated way for students to share what they’re discovering and hone their visual communication skills. 


 

UP FOR DEBATE

Members of NMH’s award-winning Debate Society gather weekly in the Gilder Center, preparing for tournaments and practicing their quick-thinking and rebuttal skills. 

 

SPARKING CREATIVITY

Students design, tinker, code, and build in the Guild Fabrication Lab (named after Peter ’64 and Ann Guild). Whether they’re working with robots or 3D-printed racecars, students discuss ideas, research ways to bring those ideas to life, assemble equipment to test prototypes, and gain knowledge by making and doing. Top photo: Lydia Hong ’23 (left) and Tiana Johnson ’22. Bottom photo: Satvik Mathur ’24 (in checked shirt) and Grady Miller-Foulk ’24.