When North Bennet Street School (NBSS) was founded in 1885, founder Pauline Agassiz Shaw advocated the Swedish system of craftsmanship training known as “sloyd,” a method focused on the development of character and intellectual capacity, as well as technical skills. Today, the philosophy of sloyd, which means “craft” or “hand skills,” remains at the heart of NBSS education.
The core of the education is the eight full-time programs. Complementing the full-time programs, the continuing education department offers workshops, short courses and certificate programs that are open to the general public.
Eight full-time professional programs train students for careers in Bookbinding, Cabinet and Furniture Making, Carpentry, Jewelry Making and Repair, Locksmithing and Security Technology, Piano Technology, Preservation Carpentry, and Violin Making and Repair.
The full-time programs provide intensive, hands-on training in a structured framework with a focus on practical projects. Each project builds on previous learning and requires students to solve increasingly complex problems. This method encourages students to systematically develop their hand skills, along with an understanding of tools, materials, and processes, a sense of care, and a commitment to excellence in their craft.
Additional learning takes place through lectures, reading assignments, field trips, and discussions. However, working at the bench remains the most important part of each program — providing a practical context for students to receive and apply information and advice from instructors who are masters of their craft.
While NBSS has used the same teaching approach for more than a century, course design and content reflect the recommendations of students, graduates, employers and artisans in each field. Our rigorous programs, master faculty, and inspiring community encourage individual growth, curiosity and commitment to excellence as well as technical mastery. Our goal is to provide exceptional preparation for careers that employ hand skills to produce objects that last.
North Bennet Street School is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). ACCSC is a private, nonprofit, accrediting organization dedicated to ensuring educational quality and integrity in America's post secondary career schools. ACCSC accredits more than 800 post secondary schools and colleges in the United States and Puerto Rico, annually serving more than 250,000 students.
Surrounding the full-time programs is a much wider community of individuals who care about traditional crafts and who want to learn a new skill or perfect and expand an existing practice. Among this group are children and teens who are naturally curious and fearless makers who often have few opportunities to learn hand-skills. Workshops, short courses, programs for families and teens are offered through the continuing-education programs.
A supportive, stimulating learning environment
NBSS courses are rigorous. Instructors expect students to perform all required work, and to do it to the highest standard within a supportive, stimulating environment. Classrooms and shops are informal. Small classes allow instructors to provide individual attention. Equally valuable is the opportunity for NBSS students to help and learn from each other. Students come from across the country and around the world and their diverse life and work experiences encourage a lively exchange of ideas and perspectives. It is common for program graduates to remain involved with the school, offering their insight and expertise as guest lecturers, instructors, networking contacts, and employers.
the next generation
In the Spring of 2010, North Bennet Street School and the John Eliot School, neighborhood public elementary school, revived a program that was initiated one hundred years ago by the founders of the school. In a three-year pilot program, middle-school students from the John Eliot School come to North Bennet Street School once each week for woodworking classes. Read more about this unique program here.