First Week of School 2020

Our 1st Year, Session 1, Week 1 (includes 2 days from the previous week)

Our first week was full of excitement, team building, and allowing the Eagles to create their own community guidelines.

We did many team building exercises so the Eagles would get to know each other and in one particular challenge we had a limited number of objects that our Eagle’s had to use to get across a vast expanse together as a team.

They each had their own ideas of how they should get everyone across, and strong debates were held.

They broke into factions and struggled to get across as a team without falling.

In the end, they realized that coming together as a team was the best way to accomplish the goal.

Building and maintaining relationships, resolving conflicts, exploring/expressing emotions, and communicating with others respectfully is part of our 1st session quest (Quests are project based learning experiences that are done in the afternoons after Core Skills of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic).

Our quest for the 1st session is “Building the tribe” which includes filming a “Lip Dub” (a music video that showcases their talents and school spirit).

The lip dub is 100% lead by the Eagles and will be shown at our first public exhibition.

This process involves learning lyrics, practicing dance moves, choreography, story boarding, designing costumes, props, directing, etc.. The pressure is on!

World class examples were viewed and they created a rubric of what they thought was important to include as to how they would know if it was “excellent work”.

The process of revising work through multiple drafts was discussed and they are currently on their 10th draft of filming and continue to revise through group critique and feedback.

We next week we will have an “outside expert” from ACT (local community theatre) to come and provide feedback on their work.

We measure excellence at Active Leadership Academy by asking:

  • Is this your best work? (If the first time you’re doing something.)
  • Is it better than before? (subsequent times)
  • How does it compare to a world-class example? (Often posted by guides in the studio or online).
  • And finally, is it ready for public exhibition? (That is, would you be proud to show it to friends, family, or others interested in your work?)

They are in the process of creating their first draft of their Studio contract (the promises they agree to uphold as a community).

Ideas they discussed such as “Don’t jump on the beanbag chairs” have been experimented with and revised into “I promise to treat the studio like a sacred place.”

The promise most discussed has been “I promise to never distract myself or others.”

They have learned and discussed about how the founding fathers drafted the US. Constitution (a world class example of a governing contract), how Thomas Edison experimented with developing the light bulb through trial and error, and also have been viewing other examples of studio contracts from other Acton Academies.

Having a growth mindset VS a fixed mindset was introduced.

Anytime a learner used the phrase “I can’t do ____” or “I’m not good at____” : Everyone shouted out “YET!!!”

Being on a Hero’s journey was also discussed as a central part of our school philosophy.

We had a technology launch in which students completed challenges in order to earn access to their Chromebooks.

They learned their way around their software quickly, logging in and exploring each of their learning programs; older Eagles were challenged with tasks such as learning to compose and send a properly formatted email.

This process involved lots of group collaboration, google searches, research, etc…

Once the deadline was reached, they were surprised to find that those who completed the challenge in time were given a special reward for their responsibility:

A 2 day freedom pass to sit anywhere they wanted during D.E.A.R time (Drop everything and read- a daily ritual)!

Freedom comes with responsibility. Lessons learned…

Some learners were disappointed that they did not finish in time.

Upon reflection (and a few tears), each discussed why they did not reach their goal.

Statements such as “I didn’t speak up enough when asking for collaboration” and “I was distracting myself and others by talking with another Eagle” were followed by describing actionable steps for the future.

They were given another chance and eventually earned the freedom pass the following day- but missed out on it’s usage on the first day.

Despite a technical delay in getting our computers up and running, most Eagles logged several hours of work on each of their core skills this week: Math, Reading, and Writing.

Eagles enjoyed working on core skills off-line as well.

They learned about and began setting daily and weekly SMART goals.

Next week we will be introducing points for effort, badges for excellent work, and freedom levels based on their levels of responsibility.

We did our first martial arts class this week, and Eagles took turns leading their groups in a warmup where they practiced “standing tall”, “having a clear loud voice” and “making eye contact”.

The best performers were chosen to come up and lead the entire class.

One of our older Eagles shared her experience from our evening Martial Arts program: “Martial Arts has helped me with become stronger physically, but the area that it has helped me the most is the mental area. I’m so much stronger mentally now because of it.”

One of the lessons learned and discussed was that everyone has a comfort zone (in which they feel comfortable and safe, but are not really learning anything new), a challenge zone (in which they are pushing themselves to try different things that might be a little scary, but that will help them to learn and grow), and a panic zone (in which they are pushing themselves too hard and are actually too uncomfortable to learn or gain anything from the experience) – and that these zones are different for different people.

One of our Eagles experienced a major breakthrough during Lip dup practice and realized she was in her “panic zone” and decided to take a step back on her responsibilities.

A problem on the horizon

As guides we noticed that everyone was really enjoying crafting paper creations during free time and they were using up a lot of tape.

We had a circle discussion and brought to their attention that our studio purchased this tape to last the entire session and it was being consumed rather quickly (about 25% of the tape is left).

We asked how they would solve that problem. Ideas were thrown around, but it didn’t seem to be a real concern for them.

We are curious to see how this goes as they have only a few days worth of tape left at the current rate they are going through it 🙂

Consequences don’t necessarily need to be “taught” as much as they need to be “allowed to be experienced”.


Our weekly town meeting tradition was started this week, and Eagles posted their concerns, ideas, announcements, etc… on the bulletin board that is visible for all to see.

Problems such as “wasting of paper by making airplanes during free time” where posted and subsequently discussed amongst themselves and solutions were proposed long before the actual town meeting occurred.

Anytime an issue would arise, the common theme was “that sounds like a great topic for the town meeting”.

The town meeting on Friday was the most focused and distraction free circle discussion held all week.

This is because by then they had drafted a provisional set of rules and promises for their socratic discussions that included their top three promises:

1. Never distract others or yourself or you will be asked to leave the circle (by another Eagle).
2. Be concise.
3. Take a strong stand.

This first blog post is rather long but won’t necessarily be the norm for each week.

Many other studio systems were implemented and many are yet to be implemented.

Your children cannot wait to show them all to you and answer your questions at the coming exhibition they will be preparing to showcase publicly at the end of this session!

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