Data has recently suggested that as many as 40% of business leaders believe that college graduates are grossly unprepared for the “real world” and being an adult in the workforce. Many schools spend precious learning time preparing for test after test, practicing rote memorization, and operating the same way schools did in the 19th century.
Let’s do better.
21st-century learning must include opportunities to build the durable skills so many employers are clamoring for in their employees.
Acton Marietta is school reimagined with adaptive game-based programs for foundational core skills. These well-vetted, standards-based programs offer learners the chance to learn at their own pace.
Socratic discussions happen 2-3 times every day and give learners a powerful opportunity to strengthen critical thinking skills as they practice speaking in a group, verbalizing their ideas with clarity and conciseness, as well as listening to opposing opinions with respect.
Hands-on, real-world projects allow learners to dig into the big ideas in science and the humanities, applying them to life through the chemistry of cooking, simulations of history, or imagining what their life at 25 will be like to understand personal finance better.
Finally, life-changing apprenticeships and internships beginning in middle school give young people a powerful opportunity to explore many different industries, career paths, and skills before they enter college.
In a nutshell, it’s all the things we, as parents wished we could have had!
Want to learn more? Check out this article on how the Acton model encourages entrepreneurship from a young age, or watch the video below to learn more about what school should be. Want to take a deep dive? Watch this video with Acton founder Laura Sandefer about the origins of the Acton schools and how the model works.
Do you have questions, or are you ready to schedule a tour? Click here to schedule a discovery call today!
For many families, school simply no longer “works.” From frustrations of too much homework and meaningless busy work to huge class sizes and safety concerns, parents find themselves saying, “There has got to be a better way.”
There is a better way in learner-drive microshools like Acton Marietta.
In the learner-driven model, young people take control of their own learning. They make decisions for themselves and for the school community, providing a significantly higher degree of autonomy.
A learner-driven approach helps young people to make principled decisions because:
● The responsibility for setting the contracts and covenants that will form a mini-civil society of peers helps young people develop complex problem-solving skills and a sense of due process and justice in action.
● Socratic discussions develop listening skills, logic, perspective, and critical thought and dispel the idea that the adult is the ‘expert’ who is there to impart knowledge.
● Multi-age studios mean learning can be shared peer-to-peer and within studios grouped by age through critiques and joint projects.
● Offering self-paced work for core skills in an environment where many types of gifts are celebrated. The environment praises improvement rather than artificial standards, which leads to an
appreciation of excellence, with multiple ways to win.
Want to learn more? Check out this article on the demand for learner-driven education, or watch the video below to learn more. Want to take a deep dive? Watch this video with Acton founder Laura Sandefer about the origins of the Acton schools and how the model works.
Come join the education revolution with us!
Do you have questions, or are you ready to schedule a tour? Click here to schedule a discovery call today!
With no homework, no tests, and no busy work, Acton schools have created a 21st-century place of learning where young people can THRIVE by cultivating the skills needed for the real world in a learner-led environment among peers of mixed ages, learning from and collaborating with each other to build both character and community.
Join the Learning Revolution!
At Acton we believe:
Clear thinking leads to good decisions,
good decisions lead to the right habits,
the right habits forge character,
and character determines destiny.
Acton schools offer:
The Acton network of schools and the Acton model are endorsed by well-known writers and thinkers such as Seth Godin, Tom Vander Ark, Kerry McDonald, and more.
Want to learn more? Check out our Info Kit or watch the video below to learn more about the more than 300 Acton schools transforming education.
Want to take a deep dive? Watch this video with Acton founder Laura Sandefer about the origins of the Acton schools and how the model works.
Are you ready to reimagine education? Do you have questions, or are you ready to schedule a tour? Click here to schedule a discovery call today!
Mistakes are the portals of discovery. ~ James Joyce
In Scoop #4, I briefly discussed the Growth Mindset work of Carol Dweck. She theorizes that people have either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes people have a finite or fixed amount of talent or intelligence that cannot be changed or grow. Alternatively, someone with a growth mindset believes people can grow their natural talent or intelligence through hard work and effort. It’s not surprising that people with a growth mindset are shown to be happier and more successful in life. The words we use when talking to our learners greatly affect their mindset and how they respond to challenges.
At AAM, we know that mistakes and failures are essential for learners to develop, test, and strengthen their growth mindset. Therefore, we neither avoid nor prevent them for the learners. Rather, we challenge the Eagles to own their mistakes and consider how to learn from them.
In the article Learning From Mistakes: Helping Kids See the Good Side of Getting Things Wrong, Marilyn Price-Mitchell suggests ten ways to help children and teens learn from their mistakes. These include acknowledging that you don’t expect perfection and providing examples of your own mistakes and how you grew from them. Guides at Acton and parents alike can also support Eagles by using growth mindset language when they are facing challenges.
Phrases to Encourage Growth Mindset
When a child says they can’t do something, reply, “You can’t do it YET.” or “You don’t know it YET.”
“Thinking is like giving your brain a workout.”
“The harder you try, the smarter you become.”
“Don’t give up!”
“Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Failure = learning” or “If it’s too easy, you’re not learning.”
“You are so hard-working!” (Instead of, “You are so smart!”)
“I can tell you tried your best on this.”
Because the process of making mistakes and learning from them is paramount at Acton, the way we recognize (not monitor) learner progress looks different. First and foremost, we look for ‘big small moments’ – times like when an Eagle rises to get help then decides to try again themselves. Or like the day a younger energetic Eagle reads calmly without distraction for twenty minutes straight. No quizzes. No tests. No grades. Big small moments that accumulate and, over time, produce strength in competency, community, and character.
Recognizing progress is a celebration at Acton. At the end of each session, learners who have completed a series of competencies earn a mastery badge. Eagles use badges to track learning milestones and to see their work quality improve over time. To earn a badge, Eagles may present evidence of their “excellent” work to peers, guides, and audiences for approval. Badges form the foundation of a portfolio and can be translated into a traditional transcript for school transfers or college admission. Later, they can show employers and colleges what an Eagle has accomplished.
Badges are grouped together for each learning squad (a group of Eagles at similar places on their learning journeys) and form a ‘badge plan’ – the collection of learning outcomes required for each Eagle. Badges offer clear guidelines and examples of the type of work required along with as much learner freedom as possible. Badges also are designed so that they can be translated in such a way as to cover all the necessary traditional education subjects like math or reading. The modular and open-ended design allows Acton founders to create custom badges for their campuses.
Several times a year, Eagles review their badge plans and progress in a Journey Meeting with their guide and report to parents. Goals are discussed and adjusted as the Eagle considers their progress. Parents receive their Eagle’s badge plan when badges are introduced during Session 1. At Acton, we do not use letter grades nor do we give written progress reports. Eagle progress will be documented through their achievement and mastery of badges in the Core Skills of reading, writing, language arts, and math initially and, eventually, in humanities and science areas.
Acton Academy Marietta has been fortunate to participate in a beta group for a progress tracking software program. This coming year, all AAM learning squads will have access to this program and the ability to share and celebrate progress with their parents!
Last week, we learned that the ‘why’ of AAM is to provide an environment where learners can develop competency, community, and character. Cultivating, observing, and celebrating progress in these areas is a tremendous paradigm shift from how we’ve all thought about and experienced learning progress in our lifetimes. We, as guides and parents, are all learning together through this shift, and need to be kind and thoughtful with ourselves as we make the transition. There are bound to be moments of uncertainty and many questions – we have them, too! Together, we will navigate our own Hero’s Journeys alongside our Eagles.
Years of educational research have had experts waffling between theories on what’s important in the world of learning and why. Several decades ago, a wave of thought emerged professing that the key to raising and educating a child successfully was to immerse them in complex cognitive experiences from an early age; essentially, flood them with knowledge and do everything you can to push their IQ along. Do this, and you’ll grow a successful human being.
Well, they tracked the human beings reared and educated with this emphasis and, as it turns out, they found that what you know and how much you know has little, if anything, to do with your success trajectory. Rather, there are key traits that are essential to develop for a child to grow into a happy and productive adult. For years, the focus of our schools...our society...has been on the wrong aptitudes. Cultivating the soft skills that comprise ‘character’ is a far better predictor of overall success.
THIS is the ‘WHY’ of Acton Academy Marietta.
Why is our program so different? It’s because our goals are kept front and center, and our learning design is deeply committed to prioritizing development of tools for success. We look to cultivate -
Competency - a learner’s knowledge and behaviors that equip them for success.
Community - a learner’s awareness of and connection to the people and world around them.
Character - a learner’s mental and moral qualities that will determine their habits, decisions, and destiny.
Now, how do we do this?
Acton’s learning design is made up of three elements that support the development of competency, community, and character. We do not have a rigid curriculum to be followed in lockstep, but a modular menu of choices so that our learners:
~“Learn to Learn” foundational skills along with processes, recipes, and algorithms. Learning to learn includes developing the skills of lifelong learners such as curiosity, grit, and resourcefulness.
~“Learn to Do” by solving real-world problems both independently and with peers. Learning to do includes project management, organization, and making practical decisions to accomplish great tasks.
~“Learn to Be” by forging the character that is the bedrock of a successful, satisfying, and fulfilling life. This means developing warm-hearted and tough-minded character traits while searching for a calling that will bring joy and fill a need in the world.
Building competency starts with Core Skills and moves through Socratic discussions, Civilization explorations, and Quest challenges. Building community involves self-governance, studio maintenance, and a deep connection to others. Building character is woven into every moment of the day; whether it’s finding grit to push through a math problem, using empathy to help friends work through a disagreement, or channeling curiosity to dig deeper in a learning task.
With a clearer picture of our ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ I’d love to share a personal note. I’ve recently been considering my ‘Why’ as an Acton founder, director, and guide. The large majority of Actons are started by parents looking for something different for their families. My children are grown, so what connects me to this group of pioneers? At first I thought my ‘why’ was to find a learning space that felt more relevant and less restrictive. But I realize now that the ‘why’ that fuels my passion for AAM is so much more. Our AAM children… ALL children...deserve an environment that sets them up for success. I’m so glad we are teaming up to make that happen!
Go Deeper with this article on 7 Traits Kids Need to Succeed (and even deeper with the book How Children Succeed; Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character).
Whether a guide, parent, guardian, or other adult loved one - we are all on this Acton journey for the same reason: We want our Eagles to be happy and equipped for life. It’s really that simple, isn’t it?
While that’s a pretty simple notion, how to go about being a part of making that happen isn’t always as simple! We want to help...to protect...to make things easier...to give them what we didn’t have, whether that be things or love or other intangibles that nurture or otherwise help make us who we are. But - sometimes what they need most is to NOT help, to NOT protect, and to NOT make things easier. What, in the moment, feels like support doesn’t always, in the long run, nurture strength and independence. How do we know what to do when? How do we allow for productive struggle and still make our Eagles feel loved and supported?
As Acton guides, we work to create a framework that cultivates a loving and supportive environment where Eagles can take risks and safely feel vulnerable as they experience the ups and downs of their Hero’s Journey. We set boundaries and design a program that supports student-led learning, then get out of their way. We trust them. We believe in them.
Acton guides promise to do the following:
1. Treat each young hero with the respect due a world-changing genius, no matter the circumstances.
No one would talk down to a struggling young Einstein if they knew later he would discover relativity. No one would call Madame Curie a “kid” if they knew of her future scientific discoveries. No one would ignore a young Martin Luther King if they could anticipate his courageous march to Selma in his future.
2. Adhere to a policy of powers being strictly limited by contract and due process.
Guides are delegated limited power by a written contract with the learners. Learners agree to join the community with certain voluntary contractual freedoms and responsibilities. A guide cannot unilaterally seize powers beyond the contract or act without due process.
3. Never answer questions.
Guides never answer a question. Instead of giving answers and direction, guides offer choices which may include a recipe or process, and natural consequences which illustrate the power of choice. By doing this, the ownership of problem-solving is returned to the Eagle, empowering them to be the master of their destiny.
4. Offer Growth Mindset praise while ignoring behavior that triggers a personal emotional response.
A guide offers Growth Mindset praise and personal testimony as encouragement, and looks to each Eagle and the community with “fresh eyes” every day. A guide may “hold up a mirror” to the Eagles as a reminder of promises made, but never issues judgements or nags, especially through leading questions, passive aggressive remarks or micromanagement. Instead, a guide ignores poor choices (unless safety is involved) letting the power of natural consequences do its work.
5. Equip learners to lead the tribe.
At every opportunity, studio processes are modeled and handed off to learners as soon as possible to de-emphasize the presence and power of an adult in the studio.
6. Be on a Hero’s Journey, too.
Acton’s mission is to inspire each person who enters our doors to find a calling that will change the world. A guide’s next step always requires the courage to look where they least want to look to discover the next step on a Hero’s Journey.
As Acton parents, you play a crucial role in developing the skills you chose Acton to help develop. Consistency is vital, or the skills and habits your Eagle is developing on campus will stagnate or even regress.
To support your Eagle on their Hero’s Journey you are asked to do the following:
1. Welcome Acton Academy as a self-paced environment.
Understand and embrace the fact that Eagles work at their own pace. A parent should never judge that pace but, rather, ask questions fueled by curiosity and a desire to be supportive. You are the cheerleader!
2. Celebrate progress.
A journey includes the adventure and experiences on the way, not just the destination. Effective Acton parenting involves shifting the focus of the conversation from the product to the process, highlighting and finding joy in the progress an Eagle is making in learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be.
3. Allow your Eagle to fail early, cheaply and as often as necessary without intervening.
Know that your Eagle will struggle and how important that struggle is! In the coming weeks, we’ll launch a parent reading challenge that will help you through this brave parenting and share some tips and tricks for what to do when your Eagle does struggle.
4. Commit to the nuts and bolts of Acton Academy parenting.
We won’t ask you to run out at 8 pm for poster board, or to fight with your Eagle over homework. But, we will ask for some commitments that are essential to your Eagle’s journey and the success of our community. From volunteering to participating in weekly Family Meetings with your Eagle, we hope you will commit to partnering with us.
5. Be on a Hero’s Journey, too.
Just as we commit to as founders and guides, we ask parents to have the courage to look where they least want to look to discover the next step on their Hero’s Journey.
Go Deeper with this TED Talk of Carol Dweck discussing how to help our children to be hearty and resilient.
someone who has given their life to something bigger than oneself
Referring to our learners as ‘heroes’ comes deliberately and earnestly. It’s not intended to be a feel-good gesture; rather, it’s to introduce and emphasize the fact that everyone in life, regardless of age, is on a Hero’s Journey, and that they should recognize and face the trials and tribulations of that journey as a Hero each and every day.
The Hero’s Journey is a classic story structure found in ancient myths to modern novels, from religious to classical literature to drama to popular culture. In fact, the plot of every Disney movie follows the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey describes the path of a protagonist who heeds a call to adventure, leaves behind their known world, overcomes opposition, and returns to the starting place having transformed. The greatest triumph is the change that takes place internally. This universal myth represents the original human drama that animates each individual’s journey through the ups and downs of life.
Acton uses this monomyth to illustrate and explore the adventure of learning. Eagles learn that heroes are people who get up when they fall down. The basic question we ask ourselves on our journey is this: “How can I use my talents in a way that brings me joy and serves others?” Being on a Hero’s Journey means actively seeking to answer that question.
Stages of the Hero’s Journey:
At Acton, we look to equip our Heroes with the habits and skills needed throughout the stages of their Hero’s Journey. With guides as mentors and fellow Eagles as allies and helpers, Heroes are emboldened and prepared for whatever may lie ahead and, especially, to find their calling and change the world someday.
Go Deeper: Contemplate and enjoy this article about living more heroically.
Check out Tom Vander Ark's podcast Getting Smart Podcast where he discusses Acton Academy and building a student-centered school and Global Network.
Sharing a link shared with our families!
Searching for great holiday gifts for your children? Tired of toy clutter or looking for new ideas? This article has some creative and worthwhile options!
24 Meaningful Gifts for Kids to Make the Holidays Less Materialistic