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Learning Design

Learning Design

At Acton Blairsville our children learn in a collaborative studio of multi-age learners.

Our flexible approach challenges each student with their own differentiated learning plan and inspires them through real-world projects and experiences.

Our Learner Driven Community puts children at the center of their learning, allowing them to create and maintain personal goals and relational covenants, as they Learn to Learn, Learn to Do, and Learn to Be.

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Core Academic Skills

"Learn to Know"

Master the foundations of reading, writing, and math


Example:
Instead of one-size-fits-none teacher lectures ......

Self-paced mastery of 3rd-grade math with cutting-edge personalized technology and peer mentoring.

Quests & Projects

"Learn to Do"

Hands-on projects to master the skills needed to solve real-world problems


Example:
Instead of memorizing the periodic table ......

You are an ER doctor in a 6-week simulation.You learn the processes, tools, decision trees and facts to triage patients.

On the final-day Exhibtion, parents come with prepared "diseases." You can order an MRI, an X-ray, etc., paying for each. The winner of the simulation is the ER doc who saves the most lives (correct diagnoses) for the lowest cost.

Socratic Discussions

"Learn to Learn"

Think and speak clearly to develop wisdom and judgment

Example:

Instead of memorization to cram for the test ...

... You are Harry Truman.

  • Do you drop the bomb?
  • Reflect on this video of Hiroshima after nuclear force. Does this change your mind?
  • Reflect on this photo and personal account of a Japanese POW camp. Does this change your mind?
  • Which ethical approach is more important to you: a values approach — "We do not kill people" — or a utilitarian approach — "Fewest total lives lost"?

Servant Leadership

"Learn to Be"

Develop habits and character traits that make an abundant, fulfilling life

Example:

Instead of schools designed to minimize behavior problems ...

... Young people learn to lead by doing so, with Servant Leader Badges celebrating the most important milestones, like:

  • Leading a conflict resolution discussion
  • Developing a mentor relationship with a personal hero
  • Completing deliberate practice of a skill you want to develop
  • Mentoring a team from a younger studio
  • Leading a team in accomplishing a big goal
  • Mastering a productivity skill like the urgent-important matrix

The Hero's Journey

Learning at Acton Academy is an invitation to a Hero's Journey. We believe that each of us has a special calling in life, and a series of trials and tests that must be faced with integrity and purpose, in order to live a life of meaning.

Our mission is to prepare everyone for his or her special journey.

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Outcomes

Above all, we believe in delighting families with a school experience you're thrilled about.

One of the great experiences of life is the feeling of learning something challenging and worthwhile. Real growth is hard work – just like developing a muscle. It's often even harder for parents than it is for children. It's not easy, but few meaningful things are.

For those up for the challenge, some of the outcomes we've observed are:

1

Young people who love school

Students who can't wait for summer break to be over, want to come to school on weekends, and sing on their way to school.

2

Families feeling more unity and purpose

Families discover the joy of learning is a shared journey. As one parent described: "Acton Academy has transformed our family, inspiring each of us to find a calling and discover a Hero's Journey."

3

Mastery of core academic skills

While only a small portion of the day is spent on Core Skills, and there is zero "teaching to the test," over the 9 years of Acton's history we've seen an average of 2.5 grade levels per year growth on the IOWA standardized test.

4

Self-management and leadership

The result parents likely appreciate most is seeing their children take ownership of their learning. Meeting an Acton student speaks for itself: they look you in the eye, ask powerful questions, are curious about the world around them, and have plans they're passionate about.

What makes us unique?

D.E.A.R.

The acronym D.E.A.R. stands for "Drop Everything and Read". Students spend 30 minutes every day developing a love for reading by, well, reading! Students choose from a wide selection of books in the Hidden Creek Library, find a comfortable place to relax, and silently delve into a book of their choice.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Heroes at Acton Academy Blairsville look to the horizon, set specific and meaningful goals and strive to reach them.

Early on in the Discovery Studio, a Hero might set two to three goals each day. Later on, the goal setting horizon expands to a week and then a few weeks and even sessions.

By late middle school, daily, weekly, session-length and annual goals become a deeply embedded habit; and by high school, even multi-year goals should be common.

The key tool for all goal setting at Acton Academy is SMART goals:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant and
Time-bound milestones and deadlines.

Heroes set SMART goals for each session, in order to focus attention and effort, provide Growth Mindset praise and allow Squad Leaders and fellow travelers to hold each other accountable.

Learning (and practicing) to set, evaluate, and refine these goals is done throughout each session. Weekly SMART goals are set with Running Partners or in Squads each Tuesday morning and progress is measured each Thursday afternoon. Sometimes, a Wednesday virtual check-in is added, especially for Heroes who may be struggling with procrastination or intentionality.

The goal is to engage Heros in a weekly discussion about their goals and their work habits. Doing this in a group gives them exposure to more ideas and experiences and leads to some peer accountability. Often individual, Squad-based or studio-wide extrinsic rewards can be tied to SMART goals, either by referencing Weekly Points or Badges earned.

The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.

-Allie Kohn

Find out if Acton Academy Blairsville is the right fit for your family:

Resources

Get inspired with a visual peak into our learning design.

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Our Story

We're a family just like yours. Find out why we're here.

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Say Hi!

Reach out to schedule a visit and learn more.

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