The middle school learners have taken on new leadership roles this year as members of the Council. Elected learners from each studio (lower elementary, upper elementary, and middle school) serve on the Council, whose responsibilities include facilitating conflict resolution processes, reviewing work submitted by learners, and running Town Hall meetings.
Weekly Town Hall meetings bring the elementary and middle school studios together to consider proposals, offer counsel to the guides, and modify guardrails. Council members are responsible for taking notes about the topics discussed and any solutions agreed to. At the end of the session, the learners vote on whether or not to permanently adopt resolutions made during Town Hall meetings.
How do Acton students learn to take on this kind of responsibility for self-governance in the studio? Some of the ways learners develop their leadership and management skills are by working in teams to complete real-world projects, reflecting on issues and challenges during Socratic discussions, managing their own daily and weekly learning goals, and mentoring younger learners.
Learners in the Acton Elementary studio jumped right back into flow following spring break this week. There is a lot of work to be done before the end of the session! This week learners worked hard to prepare their proposals for the Acton Children’s Business Fair, write their folktales, and, for some, prepare for the Middle School launch.
Going to school in the nation’s capital can be exciting! Learners are naturally curious about what they observe on their way to school, in our outdoor space, and on our excursions. They are particularly inquisitive when it comes to low-flying helicopters. Is that the President? Where is it going and where is it coming from? Guides, do you have the answers?
Guides try not to answer questions as part of our role in the studio. Questions like these, though, we are often unable to answer!
The beginning of a new semester encourages learners to cultivate this curious mindset and apply it to their learning. What are we learning in quest and writer’s workshop? What will our studio look like in six weeks at our next exhibition? What’s next for me in core skills?
Not only does this mindset help with goal setting and maintaining excellence in our studio, but it pushes learners to seek answers to their questions. In the architecture quest this session, learners will investigate the structure of our school building and then design their own dream studio. If they choose, learners can also submit a design to be considered for the new Acton middle school studio.
Learners will also apply their curiosity to this session’s writer’s workshop, podcasts. In their podcasts, learners can tell a fictional story, host an imaginary interview with an expert, or present research on a topic of interest to them. Many learners are already using this writer’s workshop as an opportunity to seek answers to their many questions.
What’s the history of the alphabet? How can you sneak candy into the movies? What is the meaning behind this song? All these are questions that learners will seek to answer in a podcast format this session!
Are you a giver or a taker? Are you an explorer, a puzzler, or a data collector? How did people who lived in ancient civilizations, like Sparta and Athens, build their identities? These are all questions learners addressed this week during launch, quest, and civilizations respectively.
Our conversations challenged learners to consider whether they construct their identity based on their values, their actions, or their thoughts and feelings. Learners said they identify themselves and others based on actions. If you want to be considered kind, treat people with kindness; if you want to be a mathematician, master your math skills; if you want to be an athlete, play sports.
Preparing for this exhibition looked a lot like the final dress rehearsals for a play or musical. The studio became a company of performers with opening night resting equally on the shoulders of each role. Every learner had their part to master and a friend to help them execute.
In the days leading up to the performance the studio was abuzz with energy. Learners submitted their naturalization applications and completed the final edits on their biographies, all while drafting scripts, memorizing lines for their second exhibition of learning, and continuing their core skills. Some used code to create our schedule of events and others took advantage of any free time to rehearse lines. But all learners committed themselves to the excellence of this exhibition.
This was our last full week of Session 2 before the exhibition of learning on Thursday. With the end of the session fast approaching, learners must address the question “How do I know when I’m finished?”
Learners have been self-directing projects in Writer’s Workshop and Quest. Writer’s Workshop emphasized the importance of the writing process as learners worked on hero-biographies. They’ve done research, outlined, and drafted, and now they’re self-/peer-editing. This process involves asking questions like “Is this my best work?”; “How does this compare to something else I’ve written?”; and “How does this compare to a world class example?”
At Acton Academy, we showcase our learning during exhibitions. Instead of proving what they have learned through test-taking, learners have the opportunity to show their family and friends what they have learned through a creative event. At previous exhibitions, learners have invited guests to solve crimes, play custom-designed games, view published books, evaluate artwork, and listen to persuasive speeches.
Acton exhibitions are learner-driven affairs. For our first exhibition of the year, learners had to get creative with technology to virtually walk their parents through the different stages of Build the Tribe Quest. Because Build the Tribe does not culminate in a final, physical product, learners demonstrated the success of their quest by showcasing the community they have built and commitments they have made to each other.
We welcomed learners back into the studio under some different and still exciting circumstances. On the first day, the learners demonstrated their ability to adapt to, and thrive with our new way of learning. Many learners recommended their own best practices for how we can stay safe while still having fun.
We dedicated the first week to emphasizing the importance of building the studio community and introducing learners to Acton’s unique qualities. Learners spent time familiarizing themselves with our space and each other through fun games outside, hero board activities, and thoughtful discussions about the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is an important metaphor at Acton. Learners begin to imagine themselves as the heroic protagonist in their own journey in life.
New learners, with the help of returning ones, are working towards several certifications in studio maintenance and processes such as sweeping and doing the dishes. Both Acton elementary studios began regular core skills in the morning. This included practice getting into flow, or getting in the “zone,” as well as the introduction of civilization, where we explore questions such as “Why do some civilizations rise while others fall?” and “How do you know which version of history is true?”