If you aren’t sure what 21st Century Learning is, we invite you to read this Forbes article explaining just that! There are quite a few differences between “modern” learning and traditional learning, with the one key being that the focus is on skill development rather than information regurgitation: process over content.
The content is viewed as the vehicle on the road to developing mastery in important skills like: critical thinking, resolving conflict, problem solving, and project management to name a few. Thankfully we are not relying on “curriculum development” as it happens in traditional schools where a committee of government-appointed people discuss how to change the curriculum. It is not surprising that this method means that curriculum only changes over decades but we are in a fast-paced technologically driven society where things change much, much faster than that. As an Acton Academy, are able to keep up to those changes!
The overarching narrative is the Hero’s Journey, where the hero is changed through struggle, trial and error in pursuit of the Grail. We believe each child is a genius who deserves to find a calling that will change the world. In practice, this means each child is in search of a superpower that can be honed into a gift that will serve others.
The main monsters to be faced are resistance; distraction and victimhood.
We have "Studios" & "Guides"!
Our studios are designed with independent and collaborative learning in mind. We have 4 blended age studios on campus where learners progress after mastery and not the "grade" they have been assigned. Our guides are Socratic and not the dispensers of facts and expectations. As a learner driven studio, guides play a very small role in the studio.
Our Learning Design in Action
You won’t find grades or report cards at our school. Our Lions (that’s what we call our learners) and Guides (that’s what we call our adults) use a software program unique to Acton Academy to track progress and see what the daily, weekly, and “session” plans are in real time. A session is a period of time used for the duration of a project.
Our morning is focused on academics: math, reading, writing, spelling, and a foreign language of their choice. As mentioned in the Acton Academy video here, we use a variety of tools for the academics including game-based software, group problem-solving challenges, and hands-on materials.
The afternoons are when we work on the art of writing, civilization and the project-based learning (“Quest”). Those projects hit all the major areas of learning like: art, music, history, the sciences — chemistry, physics, biology, life, environment, and specific technology like coding, robotics, software development, or graphic design.
Student-Led Learning Environment
Everyone in our program has a significant role to play here. Each Lion and Guide has a responsibility to be a contributing member, committing to the process of supporting each other in their learning goals.
Our learners “audit” each other’s work, dive into deep learning and also deep conversations that sometimes might be tough. We value the messiness that comes with making mistakes or not getting something quite right — we view mistakes more like experiments that lead us to necessary corrections and improvements.
Our Lions, through the democratic process, suggest changes to the system if they feel those are warranted, work in groups to dig into tricky problems, and learn how to support each other even when that feels hard. Over time we see growth in their character, grit, and ability to persevere.
The learners here enjoy independent learning, are self-autonomous, show a willingness to collaborate and problem solve, and want to take on responsibility.