Engaging projects, authentic relationships, outdoor adventures, science experiments, art exploration, building & designing, and personalized learning for reading, writing and math. Oh, and plenty of time to play, which we feel is super important.
Children learn best by doing. Whether it’s launching their own business, creating a tide-pool habitat, inventing a new musical instrument, painting a mosaic, or programming a robot, students will build real-life skills every day.
Rather than march along to an inflexible curriculum, we adapt to the children's interests. Inspiring a love of learning is important to us. Your child will get to explore their curiosities, discover what they love, and have fun learning!
Children progress through academics at their own pace, building a solid foundation – without gaps – and without waiting for classmates. This caring and collaborative learning environment is designed to foster responsibility, goal-setting, and teamwork. Children will reason, question, develop ideas, experiment, and problem solve, as well as make choices and grow their independence.
We believe the learning experience is much richer when the teacher acts as a "Guide" offering hands-on learning challenges. No boring sit-at-your-desk lectures here! Using the Socratic method, children hone their critical thinking skills and learn to bring their own unique genius to a world that needs thinkers and leaders.
Forging a strong character is a cornerstone in all we do. We encourage personal virtues such as honesty, hard work, responsibility, kindness and empathy. Fueled with purpose and pa change the world.
“True learning – learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning – can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.”
— John Holt, American author and educator
Adapting to children's interests versus marching along to an inflexible curriculum enables children to explore and accelerates learning faster than you can imagine:
How do you deliver hands-on, real world skills, in a way that motivates young Heroes?
The answer: Quest-based Projects.
Start with a series of individual and team based real-world challenges. Tie them together with a compelling narrative, where you feel as if the fate of the world rests in your hands. As you compete individually or in a team, you must conquer one challenge to move forward to the next, ending with a high stakes public exhibition that’s led 100% by you and your fellow students. Now you have a compelling Quest.
A Guide’s role is to ignite the imagination, instill a love of learning, and provide processes to help young learners figure out how to overcome challenges on their own.
"Socratic" means you're not given the answer. Guides discuss perseverance, grit, working in your “challenge zone”, and strategies for problem solving, getting unstuck, and handling frustration. Then Guides step out of the way as you figure out how to solve problems on your own and with each other, progressing at your own pace through a collection of game based adaptive math programs. With this approach, it's not uncommon to progress multiple grade levels each year. More importantly, you'll learn the valuable lifelong lesson of “learning how to learn”.
➢ Guides ask questions, tell stories, and equip learners with problem solving strategies. (Guides never lecture)
➢ Guides listen to you, finds what interests you, and provides you opportunities to further explore your interests.
➢ Guides act as role models.
➢ Guides speak only with respect, encouragement, and truth.
➢ Guide’s use only Growth Mindset language.
Learn how Guides support your child's growing spirits in this post on the Blog for Acton Parents.
Leadership grows when ages mix.
You won’t see rows of desks organized around a teacher’s blackboard, because the most meaningful learning happens peer to peer. You also won’t see children separated by age. Children learn how to work together in a multi-aged community.
From the book, The One World Schoolhouse:
“There is nothing natural about segregating kids by age. That isn’t how families work; isn’t what the world looks like; and it runs counter to the way that kids have learned and socialized for most of human history. Even the Mickey Mouse Club included kids of different ages, and as anyone who’s ever spent time around children can tell you, both younger and older kids benefit when different ages mix. The older ones take responsibility for the younger ones. The younger ones look up to and emulate the older ones. Everyone seems to act more mature. Both younger and older rise to the occasion. Take away this mix of ages and everybody loses something. Younger kids lose heroes and idols and mentors. Perhaps even more damagingly, older kids are deprived of a chance to be leaders.”
Children care about solutions they come up with.
We believe young people deserve to be given the freedom to come up with their own solutions. Children at Acton collaborate and negotiate with each other on how the studio should be governed. As issues in the studio inevitably arise, they work together to come up with solutions.
For adults, our natural instinct is to want order and it can be difficult to resist offering input when witnessing children struggle with a problem. Yet young people are far more resilient, adaptable, and capable than we adults often realize.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve been tempted to step in and help solve an issue the young learners were having, only to step back and moments later watch them come up with a solution on their own. A solution they cared about and took ownership of, all while experiencing the invaluable lessons of self-governance.” - Scott Taylor, owner Acton Academy Brighton
In a mastery approach that's designed to encourage a growth mindset, assigning grades is just not relevant... or helpful.
Letter Grades attempt to serve two purposes: to provide motivation and to track progress.
For motivation, self-set goals, peer accountability and group celebrations are better motivators than teacher assigned grades. Quality of work is measured by peer critique plus comparison to previous work and world class examples. We have found that these real world yardsticks deliver rigor and excellence far better than an assessment given by an adult educator.
For tracking, grades represent gaps at a given snapshot in time and reinforces a fixed mindset. In a mastery approach, a student stays on a topic until he or she understands it. Topics are either “mastered” or “not mastered yet”. Tracking this way reinforces a growth mindset. Assigning letter grades is no longer a relevant way to measure progress.
We believe life is the big homework assignment.
With us, there is no (need for) assigned homework.
School is one important piece of the learning experience in your child's life. But there is much to discover in the freedom of having time and space to explore, to play with friends, to compete in sports, to write a book, to memorize a song, to join a club, to play games, to be alone, to master an artistic discipline or to dabble in a variety of activities. Acton students may choose to continue their work at home and clearly a lot of reading is going on within Acton homes. These are wonderful things when chosen freely. We honor and embrace the fact that the lives of our students and their families are rich and full.
When the question about homework arises from prospective parents, their main concern is that without homework, how will children learn time management? One of the life skills taught at Acton is how students must manage their own core skills and work time in order to reach their goals. Part of this is considering the cost/benefit tradeoffs and small decisions that they make each day about how to use time and how these decisions impact progress towards excellence and ultimately mastery. This is a daily discipline.
Learn more by reading this post on the Blog for Acton Parents:
In the 21st Century, curiosity, character and mindset are ten times more important than memorized facts.
In an age of Google, it makes little sense to build a curriculum around recalling correct answers. Instead you'll focus on real world challenges that matter to you. And you'll engage in Socratic-style discussions that invite you to form new ideas instead of simply recalling answer. We believe that solving difficult problems and making tough choices leads to better life-long decision making.
People learn at different rates.
"Some people seem to catch onto things in quick bursts of intuition; others grunt and grind their way toward comprehension. Quicker isn’t necessarily smarter and slower definitely isn’t dumber. Further, catching on quickly isn’t the same as understanding thoroughly. So the pace of learning is a question of style, not relative intelligence. The tortoise may very well end up with more knowledge – more useful, lasting knowledge – than the hare.
“Moreover, a student who is slow at learning arithmetic may be off the charts when it comes to the abstract creativity needed in higher mathematics. The point is that whether there are ten or twenty or fifty kids in a class, there will be disparities in their grasp of a topic at any given time. Even a one-to-one ratio is not ideal if the teacher feels forced to march the student along at a state-mandated pace, regardless of how well the concepts are understood. When that arbitrary “snapshot” moment comes along – when it’s time to wrap up the module, give the exam, and move on – there will still likely be some students who haven’t quite figured things out. They could probably figure things out eventually – but that’s exactly the problem. The standard classroom model doesn’t really allow for eventual understanding. The class – whatever the size – has moved on…
“Lessons should be paced to the individual student’s needs, not some arbitrary calendar; and that basic concepts need to be deeply understood if students are to succeed at mastering more advanced ones.”
Excerpt from his book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined
By Sal Khan, creator of KhanAcademy.org,
Our biggest point of separation is the decision making ability offered to the children.
When adults serve as authority figures, much potential learning is lost. However when children are given room to figure things out on their own, and have support from mentors, peers, and guides who know them well and holds them accountable, they learn far more than we can imagine.
“I believe that learning should be fun & exciting – an adventure that challenges your child every day and helps them uncover life’s important lessons. Cally and I are excited to be able to offer this to your children and our own.”
Your questions are always welcomed. Please feel free to call, text or email us,
Scott & Cally Taylor
c: 586-337-9300 or scott@ActonBrighton.com
We look forward to meeting you and your family!