ELEMENTARY STUDIO.

The Elementary Studio, ages 8-11, is based on the Acton Model of education which takes Eagles on a journey to become independent, joyful, life-long learners.

In our Elementary Studio, we lay the foundation for our young heroes journey’s as we encourage them to find their life’s calling and tap into their unique genius. Our unique and innovative educational experience ignites curiosity and creativity while educating the whole child through four different learning experiences - learning to do, learning to be, learning to learn and learning to know. The goal of this studio is for Eagles to develop agency over their own learning, respect for others, proactivity, self-control, honesty, leadership, and a growth mindset.

Watch the video below for a glimpse into a day in the life of an Acton Eagle in the Elementary and Middle School Studios. This video was shot at the main Acton campus in Austin, Texas.

 
 
 

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
— Aristotle

THE CURRICULUM.

 

MATH (CORE SKILL)

We use the latest in adaptive game-based educational technology to deliver a self-directed, self-paced and self-selected math experience. Eagles choose which tools work best for them, and take the time they need to master the material before moving on to the next lesson. Eagles then further deepened their understanding of math during Quests-based projects that almost always include math elements such as measurement, cost-benefit analyses, budgeting, and other “real-life” math applications. Eagles spend, on average, 10 hours a week working on Core Skills and choose how much of that time to allocate to math - most of them spending 30-40 minutes a day.

WRITING (CORE SKILL)

Writing skills are learned through adaptive game-based educational software as well as guide-led Writer’s Workshops. Writer’s Workshops start with journaling and lighthearted creative writing and move to more challenging work over time. During workshops, guides introduce new writing techniques and new genres of writing (for example stories, poetry, web-copy, film scripts, pitches). Eagles spend, on average, 2 hours a week in writing workshops, additional time during Core Skills working within the online writing software programs, and further practice their writing skills during Quests (project), which always have a written component.

READING (CORE SKILL)

Our first priority with reading is to inspire our Eagles to develop a love of reading - so we let them read anything they want! Once Eagles love to read, we can offer more challenging ideas, authors and genres. Eagles choose from a wide selection of books from our library or bring their own, find a comfortable place to sit, and silently dig into a book of their choice. Once a week we D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read)! Eagles post their critiques on Goodreads, mark the bookshelves with their “Eagle Picks”, and have book exchanges on Valentine’s Day all to celebrate the act of reading. Eagles spend, on average, 10 hours a week working on Core Skills and choose how much of that time to allocate to reading.

COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS (QUESTS)

Quest-based projects are challenging, carefully developed and designed, hands-on real-world projects exploring traditional topics like science, social studies, geography and history, as well as less traditional topics like entrepreneurship, economics, architecture, marine biology, coding and robotics. Quests are multidisciplinary and often include elements of science, math, reading, writing and the humanities. Quests are usually completed in groups, last 5-6 weeks and culminate in a public exhibition to parents and the community. Eagles spend, on average, 1.5 hours a day working on Quests.

SOCRATIC DISCUSSIONS

The Socratic method is used to stimulate critical thinking through debate and inquiry.  Socratic discussions are powerful ways for Eagles to help each other explore ideas, values, and opinions on politics, history, the humanities, current events or self-governance. To launch a Socratic discussion, guides might share a story, a video clip, or a world-class example to inspire and encourage, address the purpose behind the upcoming activity, bring up a community need, focus on building character or establish priorities for the day. Eagles spend, on average, 20 minutes a day participating in Socratic discussions but the Socratic method is woven throughout the day.

THE ARTS

“Art in the classroom not only spurs creativity, it also inspires learning.” – Mickey Hart.

We place a significant focus on the arts - including (but not limited to) painting, drawing, sculpting, music, drama, dance, photography and film. Studio guides or local professionals in the arts come to the studio to lead sessions that inspire Eagles to explore their inner artist and let their creativity and imagination soar. In addition to the afternoon arts program, arts-based Quests allow Eagles to delve deep into specific art forms.  Eagles spend, on average, 3-4 hours a week on the Arts, in addition to the time spent on arts-based Quests.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

We plan to start every day with 20 minutes of physical activity to help our Eagles release energy and gain focus before their morning work period. The “morning refresh” may include yoga, running, aerobics, dance, or other physical activities. Once a week, Eagles will have a PE session and once a week Eagles will explore specific sports (one sport per 5-6 week session) often off-site, for example skating, gymnastics, karate, dance, swimming, and rock climbing - depending on their interest. Eagles spend, on average, 5 hours a week doing physical activities.

MINDFULNESS

A short daily age-appropriate mindfulness practice may include meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, stress and anxiety management tools for children, and emotional intelligence and compassion cultivation exercises. Mindfulness can help children learn to fend off negative thoughts and behaviours, build self-confidence and focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation, improve academic performance, decrease stress levels, and increase emotional maturity. Eagles spend, on average, 1 hour a week on mindfulness.

FIELD EXPERIENCES

Field experiences and guest presenters related to the Quest in session, extend learning beyond the classroom. For example, during the “Marine Biology Quest”, we may visit Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto - and potentially even stay for an Overnight Reef Adventure! During the “Forensic Science Detective Quest” we may invite a local police detective to join us in the studio to answer questions and talk about what they do. Eagles will also enjoy regular trips to the local library. Eagles spend, on average, 1 day on a field experience every 5-6 weeks.


At the Acton Academy, kids teach themselves and each other, as they respond to a series of challenges offered by adult “guides.” The challenges are tough, which leaves no one a stranger to life’s best teacher—failure. Talking out of turn and challenging the status quo are commonplace, but laziness and shirking are not acceptable.
— Forbes Magazine

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FOCUS ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Every year at Acton Academy Waterloo, our young Eagles build small businesses from the ground up.

By preparing our Eagles to become entrepreneurs (if that’s what they choose for their future), we are in turn preparing them for anything they may choose to do in their future! Everything we do at Acton Academy Waterloo is designed to help our Eagles develop these “soft skills” while at the same time ensuring they are competitive academically.

The research is clear about the future of work in Canada and abroad - to be successful in the workforce, youth will need to possess a high level of entrepreneurial skills including complex problem solving, critical thinking, social perceptiveness, collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision-making skills, communication and adaptability.


FORGING CHARACTER

We believe our Eagles need two critical qualities to soar: warm-heartedness and tough-mindedness. These are the traits of heroes, not victims, and must be demonstrate by our Eagles in real life to earn the required Character Badges. Peer-to-peer feedback on their heart and mind is shared during our 360 Feedback exercises.

WARM-HEARTED - Strong relationships, compassionate, respect for others, generous, helps others, prepared for the world.

TOUGH-MINDED- Life-long learner, independent, self-confident, problem solver, not afraid to fail, prepared for the world.


MEASURING MASTERY

Instead of grades, our Eagles celebrate the mastery of tools, skills and character by earning badges, assembling portfolios and taking part in public exhibitions. More specifically, there are seven ways that progress is tracked at Acton Academy Waterloo and parents have access to all of them.

  • Student Portfolios that showcase Eagle’s writing, quest project work, and overall accomplishments.

  • Project Exhibitions where Eagle’s hard work is displayed and presented by them to the outside world.

  • Peer Reviews which give Eagles the opportunity to provide and receive constructive feedback from one another.

  • S.M.A.R.T. goal tracking sheets are used by Eagles to track their goals and accomplishments day by day and week by week.

  • Online dashboards provide hard data on progess (regarding core skills like Math) in incredible detail, and are available to view 24/7/365.

  • Learning Badges are earned by Eagles when they have reached a specific level of mastery or character development and are kept safe and organized in an online journey tracker software exclusive to Acton Academy. The software also tracks work completed and points earned for working hard and focusing.

  • Standardized tests are done once per year to ensure no major learning gaps are taking place, but we never teach to the test!


I’ve learned that most of America’s inventions and advances haven’t come from studying traditional academic theory but from the curiosity and tinkering of mavericks—Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Curie, Edison, and thousands of others.
— Jeff Sandefer, Acton Academy co-founder

A LEARNER DRIVEN-COMMUNITY

Our Elementary studio is what we call a learner-driven community.

  • Eagles create and sign contracts and covenants describing how each individual will act and the consequences for violating community norms

  • Running partner relationships between students develop the interpersonal skills of listening, affirming, and being accountable

  • “Learn to Be” badges celebrate character and leadership

  • Town hall meetings and teamwork build a tightly bound community where authentic relationships and respect flourish


DAILY SCHEDULE

Below is tentative schedule for a day in the Elementary Studio.

8:00 – 8:30am – Eagles arrive
8:30 – Fresh start morning physical activity and mindfulness
9:00 – Morning launch & core skills (reading/math/writers workshop/languages)
11:00 – Lunch & recess
12:30 – Afternoon launch & Quests
2:00 – Afternoon activity (Sports, Music, Art or Drama)
3:00 – Studio maintenance
3:15 – Daily close & reflection
3:30 – Dismissal

*Recess is not scheduled during the morning or afternoon, but Eagles are free to take a breather, grab a snack, or even take an exercise break whenever they need to.

 


The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.
— John Lubbock, English banker, Liberal politician, philanthropist, scientist and polymath

Confused about some of the terminology we use? Have more questions about our approach? Check out the APPROACH FAQ page for more information!