Monthly Archives: December 2013

Celebrating Our Last Friday Adventure for the Year

How do you motivate a hero?  That remains our overarching question for the year.

Often the Hero’s Journey is seen as a solitary one, a series of challenges for the individual.  But in truth, it’s almost always taken in community, and serving others brings a sense of satisfaction and joy that prepares a hero to reach even loftier heights.

Today, in our final Friday Adventure for the session, we put entrepreneurship aside to celebrate by caroling in the neighborhood.

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From Acton Academy elementary, to the train station, to a hospice, to an art gallery to a local church, our Eagles delivered songs and holiday cheer to our neighbors.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Welcome back Ellie!

One of the advantages of a 21st Century education is that once the learning community is formed and solidified, you can stay in touch with studio-mates and work from anywhere in the world.

Two of our Eagles have been on an around the world adventure for the last six months, working on Khan and journaling from the road and occasionally dropping in for a discussion via Skype.

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Today, Ellie returned, to cheers and hugs all around.

Welcome back Ellie – we missed you!



Feliz Eagle Bucks

Having a classmate ask for an Eagle Buck is a great way to remind a studio-mate to  follow through on his or her commitments in the Contract of Promises.  In fact, just as in the real economy, it’s difficult to imagine how civil society can function without a currency of some sort.

From time to time, however, excess of Eagle Bucks can build up in the system.  If there are too many bucks in circulation, they lose their value, and intentionality suffers.

Today Eagles were given the choice to redeem Eagle Bucks for: (1) sports equipment for the class; (2) a cookie party or(3) donating to the less fortunate.

Thanks to the generosity of the Eagles and the ingenuity of Oxfam America, two chickens, two goats, a sheep and assorted water cans are now on their way to less fortunate families in Africa.

What a great way to spend excess Eagle Buck liquidity.

Besting the Acton MBA’s

The air was electric with intentionality and seriousness.   Fifteen Acton Eagles had earned the right on Friday to prepare an Acton MBA case, and discuss it in the Acton MBA Socratic amphitheater.

Just before the launch, the Eagles learned the session was being taped and would be seen by the incoming MBA class, as a challenge to see who could have the most powerful Socratic Discussion. Game On!

Mason’s opening was crisp and on point.  Claire’s counter equally powerful.  Soon each Eagle was thoughtfully listening, responding, disagreeing or adding evidence.

The deep lessons from the Acton sims:  Robo-rush (bootstrapping); Lemonade stand (customer needs); Cha-Ching (sales funnels); Pricepoint (pricing); Fistful of Dollars (working capital and cash flow) and Galactic Zappers (assembly lines) could be heard in every comment.  So could the impact of the Acton MBA notes our Eagles had read and the entrepreneurship outings in the real world.

“My lemonade stand has a low break even and a rapid payout.”

“Should we price low or high?”

“What other substitutes would satisfy the same customer need?”

“Should we use an artisan production process or an assembly line or the Toyota cell method?”

“How do we defend against competition?”

Any class of Harvard or Acton MBA’s would have been wowed.

But the most impressive comments were those at the end of the day:

“When can we do that again?”

“That was the best adventure so far.  We should earn the right to learn like that again.”

“Can we create a makeshift Socratic amphitheater at Acton Academy?”

“We need to work harder on our own intentionality and Socratic process.  Can we start preparing cases for Civilization.”

“I’ve never had an hour and a half fly by so fast.”

“That was so much FUN!”

Stop and ponder this for a while.  Middle schoolers so excited about thinking and learning that they were begging for more work to do.

It just doesn’t get much better than that.


The Keys to the City States

Today, inspired by the Eagles, we embark on a new governance experiment.

The Council has appointed six mayors, each with jurisdiction over a geographic area of the class.

Mayors must enforce the general rules of the studio, including: “No horseplay or running;” “ No noise or behavior that distracts from intentionality in other areas” and “No snarkiness towards people in other areas.”

Any additional rules and consequences must be posted and mayors have the right to ask serial offenders to move to a territory.  A neighboring Mayor or Council Member may ask a Mayor for an Eagle Buck if the behavior of his or her citizens negatively impacts others.

Mayors serve at the pleasure of the Council, and may be asked to resign at any time, for any reason.  Of course, Council Members are subject to recall too.

In Civilization we are finishing our sequence on 19th century America, including the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Today we placed the Eagles in the shoes of President Andrew Johnson, and asked what they would have done to bring reluctant Southern States back into the fold, while protecting the rights of minorities.

Now Eagles get to put their ideas into action.  Will more lenient Mayors attract a larger number of citizens or will a lack of intentionality lead to a collapse of an entire district?

Let the experiment begin.

“Coffecake is for Closers”

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“Coffecake is for closers!”*

Why are these Eagles smiling?

First, each qualified for this week’s adventure by completing a difficult weekly Challenge Envelope; only four Eagles out of twenty four made the cut.

Secondly, each earned a treat by having the courage to peddle their Bestselling books, approaching. pitching and closing complete strangers at the local mall.**

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Reading, writing and mathematics, valuable skills in today’s world.  The ability to create, communicate, critically think and sell – priceless!

* Extra credit if you can identify the movie that inspired this quote.

** Don’t worry, Guides were keeping a watchful eye.

Lord of the Flies Returns

Today was complete chaos in the studio; Lord of the Flies; a lack of intentionality.

It was cold and wet Eagles couldn’t burn off energy outside. We were coming off the difficult American Revolution experience; Colonists had lost and there was lots of “bad energy” in the classroom. Even worse, a group had earned the right to another “roll of the Revolutionary Die” by doing extra work, and had lost a second time.  Emotions were  high, the Eagles on edge.

On Eagle failed to turn in an assignment on time and a Council member intervened on her behalf, pleading for leniency because of a computer glitch.  Several Eagles protested that an exception would be lowering the standards; the vote was close to protect the standards.

The Intentionality Champion tried to reign in the Eagles but was ignored, partly because he equivocated and rambled.  The studio become noisier and more chaotic.  One Guide stepped over the line by refusing to show a visitor around the studio, because the chaos was embarrassing.

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Then something miraculous happened.  The Eagles began to self-reorganize.  A new curtain was used to separate the room (one Eagle compared it to the Berlin wall.)  Eagles, having found during the Revolutionary War that desks separated from each other seemed to lead to more intentionality.  Individuals began moving desks into private clusters.

Eagles got back to work; the noise level dropped to a whisper.  One group later requested to be allowed to leave for the High School to establish an even more intentional space.

The lessons? Almost too many to count:

  1. Hard cases make for bad law.  An unfair case, especially one that makes you want to bend the rules as a leader, can lead to a conflict between Justice (treat everyone the same) and Virtue (do what is right). A real world example of the Moral Frameworks we discussed last week.
  2. Leaders must be clear, tough and uncompromising; but this is hard to do when you have to make rulings about your friends.
  3. State’s Rights versus Federal Rights.  Exactly what we have saw in the Civil War.  Having small groups experiment leads to new discoveries, but risks fraying the principles that hold our Eagles together.
  4. Above all, self rule by the Eagles may be the most important learning experience of all, if a Guide can ask the questions that lead to deeper lessons.

What should a Guide do?  This is where being a Guide becomes an art.

  1. Praise in private.  Praise the leaders who took tough stands. Applaud their courage in holding the line. Encourage them to step up even more.
  2. Constructively criticize to unveil the principles at stake in private.  The Eagle who wanted to bend the rules for a friend needs to understand where this could head.  The Eagle Champion who equivocated and rambled needs to understand how this affects his power.
  3. Encourage Eagles to return to their frameworks and contracts when in doubt.  Appeal to identity.
  4. Set forth the historical examples above, and ask Eagles to describe the parallels in the studio.  But don’t push too hard.  Ask questions that demand difficult choices; don’t give answers.
  5. Point out the power – and the danger – of separate communities.  Encourage Eagles to protect the individual rights of the group without diluting the principles that make them a powerful learning community.

Tomorrow should be a day of deep discovery.  Because being willing to endure chaos led to even more self rule, which will lead to more powerful revelations that a Hero can use. The Eagles earned their lessons.

From a Bestselling Book to the Academy Awards

Frank Eakin and his family rediscovered the nineteenth book 12 Years as a Slave and helped turn it into an award winning movie.

12 years

On Friday Frank Eakin shared his Hero’s Story with our middle school Eagles via Skype, giving tips such as:

  • Make sure your book is different and stands out.  99% of books don’t sell more than 1,000 copies.
  • The right cover art and extras help a book sell itself.
  • Use inexpensive E-book editions to encourage first adopters.
  • Having a celebrity like Brad Pitt or Louis Gossett Jr. take an interest in your project can help spread the word, without advertising.

Maybe one day soon we’ll be walking down the red carpet with one of our Eagles!

The Revolt of the American Colonists has been suppressed. Long live King George!

What’s the difference between a revolution and a revolt?  Between Patriots and Rebels?  Whether you win or lose, for victors write the history.

Today, the revolt of the American Colonists failed.

We began the day reviewing other revolutionary heroes and revolutions:  Mahatma Gandhi; Martin Luther King; Kent State; the Fall of the Berlin Wall; Tienanmen Square.

It started to sink in that revolutions weren’t fun and games – not at all.  Real people, brave people, fought and died; sometimes it seemed for nothing at all.  Often they were students.

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Our Eagles grew increasingly uncomfortable as King George III’s edicts became more burdensome.    Even those loyal to the King grew disenchanted with his continually rising taxes and irksome demands.  Requiring Eagles to put their desks in rows was the last straw!

Given the real world consequences, Eagles learned that defying a Royal Edict would result in solitary confinement (behind a cardboard partition;) left only with a pen and a sheet of paper, like Reverend King and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Any violation of the rules of solitary confinement would result in being sent home.

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Several Eagles eventually did draw the King’s wrath and enter solitary confinement.

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Finally the Continental Congress submitted its Declaration of Independence.

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After several passes the brave Rebels  mustered a two thirds majority who pledged pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.

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It was time to roll the die to see if the revolution had succeeded or failed.

The roll – a 4.  The revolution had failed.

A second roll, to determine the length of time the King’s war reparations would be endured by the Colonists.  A 6 – the maximum sentence of seven months.

The revolt had failed, put down by the Redcoats.

But the lessons endured.  Because no matter how brave the heroes, it’s not about winning or losing, but having the courage to give it your all, no matter what the outcome.



“Sire, the colonists are revolting.”

Today, the revolutionary plot thickened.

One by one, edicts restricting educational freedom arrived from King George III.

Edict One:  On hearing the Royal Buzzer, subjects must assemble within one minute.

Edict Two:   Before breaks in the schedule, line up in order of height and sing “God save the King.”

Edict Three:  One Khan Academy skill must be mastered per day – from home — or a tax of one Eagle Buck must be paid.

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Each Eagle did deep research on three eighteenth century American colonists: two Patriots and one Loyalist. Then choosing to stand in the shoes of one of these revolutionary leaders, wrote a petition to the King, asking for the edicts to stop.   Some letters were respectful; others threatening; all were critiqued by the group and the most historically accurate and powerful letters chosen to post.

Soon the class learned that they could pass an Educational Declaration of Independence by a two thirds vote.  But declaring such a revolution would lead to the rolling of a six sided die:  a roll of a 1 or 2 and the revolution would succeed and all educational freedoms would be restored; a more likely 3, 4, 5 or 6 and the revolution would fail.  If the revolution failed, a second die would determine whether a onerous set of penalties would be imposed by the King for as short as three weeks or as long as seven month.

The Eagles were in a bind; just like the American colonists of 1776.  Yet the edicts kept coming.

Edict Four required Eagles to remain silently seated at a their desks.

Edict Five asked Eagles to raise a hand to ask permission from a Guide for even the most trivial request.

Edict Six meant a one Eagle Buck tax on lunch.

The usually light atmosphere became oppressive.  The furious colonists began to fight amongst themselves, suggesting traitors in their midst (some did try to sell out to the King, asking for special treatment.)

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Some Eagles put on war paint to prepare their own Tea Party.

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Revolutionary committees formed and emotional speeches rang out.

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Eventually six delegates were elected to the Continental Congress;  some intent on war; others recommending careful negotiation.  All hid their identities when a representative of the King appeared, fearing retribution from the monarch.

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The day ended with no resolution and more edicts expected tomorrow – perhaps even a revolution and a fateful roll of the die – especially given this final silent Mocking-jay protest against tyranny (you have to have seen The Hunger Games to get this one!)


The British are coming! The British are coming!

A brief report from the American Revolutionary Front.

As if our Middle School Eagles didn’t have enough to do, today an edict arrived from a mysterious character named King George III, taking away some of the freedoms in the studio.

All Eagles are hard at work digging into early American history, researching the roles they might take as Patriots or Loyalists to address this threat.  There is talk of a Continental Congress to draft an educational Declaration of Independence.   Other Eagles seem to be currying favor with the King’s representatives.

Apparently King George III is making mischief in the Elementary studio as well.

Stay tuned for more news as it develops.  Until then, beware.  There are spies everywhere.