On the morning of September 2, Whittle School & Studios’ Shenzhen campus ushered in the first dawn of the new school year. But this was no ordinary school day; after four years in the making, Whittle School & Studios can now pursue its mission of “redefining education” by bringing this extraordinary modern school to the world. As the doors of the campus, designed by the world-famous Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, slowly swung open, the headmaster and the teachers were filled with joy and excitement as they prepared to meet Whittle School & Studios’ inaugural students.
At eight o’clock on this drizzling morning in Shenzhen, new students filed into campus one after another. With umbrellas in hand, the headmaster of the Shenzhen campus, the school’s director, and the teachers all came to the gate to greet the arriving students, taking these young children’s hands from their parents’. The children followed their teachers into bright, spacious classrooms to meet their classmates, make new friends, and prepare to embark upon their next great journey in life as students at Whittle School & Studios.
At 11 o’clock, the teachers led students to a public space on the first floor to attend the opening ceremony, which began with a rendition of the national anthem. Shen Xianzhang, chairman of the Shenzhen campus, delivered a speech to mark the occasion: “Today, Whittle School & Studios’ bright and spacious campus has welcomed hundreds of new students, 144 full-time teachers, 77 founding employees. Though we come from all over the world, from this moment on, we will share a common name: Whittle People.” Later, Rhiannon Wilkinson, head of school of the Shenzhen campus, also delivered a speech: “In this closely connected world, people’s living standards have risen exponentially. To meet the needs of our ever-changing world, we need more well-educated young people who can find balance, versatility, and self-confidence. I believe that the students here who have come to Whittle School & Studios can and will continue to make progress and contribute to the ongoing development of our world.”
The teachers and students were both especially excited to welcome the founder of Whittle School & Studios, Chris Whittle, who came to the opening ceremony to share in this historic moment. At the ceremony, student and teacher representatives made a series of speeches expressing their hopes for their journeys to come with Whittle School & Studios.
The teachers prepared a special welcome gift for the new students: with the help of several music teachers, the Shenzhen campus faculty all joined in singing the song “Childhood.” More touching still, the Washington, DC campus, which officially opened just two days later, also sent greetings and blessings to the students here in Shenzhen. These first two campuses form the beginnings of Whittle School & Studios’ global network.
At the end of the ceremony, members of the Whittle School & Studios Advisory Board and Leadership Team cut the ribbon for the school and struck a drum to mark the opening of the school. Together, they ushered in a new chapter for a school four years in the making as it embarks upon its journey into the future of education.