Monthly Archives: November 2014

Homemade Ice Cream Flu

Quite a few MS and LP Eagles seemed to be a little “under the weather” last week. Is the problem some sort of bug, we wondered?


And then we traced the mysterious aliment to a hidden treasure: Homemade Ice Cream.

One of our young Eagle Entrepreneurs has a thriving business selling homemade ice cream by the quart.  Problem is, it’s so good that his studio-mates can’t seem to stop at a bowl or two.

Homemade Ice Cream Flu.  Because some lessons simply must be learned the hard way.

Heroes, Victims, Drones and Poseurs


We ask a lot of our Middle School and Launchpad Eagles. Each has to self manage over a dozen badges per year – some of which seem like drudgery if you subscribe to the “teacher  in charge” mode of learning, rather than imagining badges as ways to collect, communicate and celebrate hard work, growth and achievement.

In a recent launch we discussed four types of learners: Drones, Victims, Poseurs and Heroes.

As the Eagles put it during the discussion:

Drones do a task because someone says they have to. They wait for instructions and grudgingly go through the motions.”

Victims get paid in pity. Until you realize they are just looking for excuses. Then you  stop listening.”

Poseurs are looking for cheap rewards. They fake their way through life.”

Heroes get knocked down and get back up.

We explored ambiguity and the courage it takes for heroes to move forward in the face of uncertainty.  We discussed the difference between hollow promises and getting the job done.  We debated the real meaning of rewards and badges for heroes.

Yes, each of us will play the part of a Victim, Drone or Poseur on an off day.  But Acton Eagles quickly discard these false masks.  Because each Eagle knows what it means to be a hero who is determined to change the world.

A Passionate Case of Profiling

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We believe strongly in following your passion at Acton Academy.

One Launchpad Eagle is on a personal quest, digging deeply into the psychology of lying.

This week, she wrote in an email:   “I just had the most amazing 30 minute Skype with Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent who is the author of several books on body language and psychology and my current Science Hero…. It was incredible: he could tell exactly how I was feeling based on simple things like my lips and hand gestures. I’m definitely more motivated to work in science after speaking with him.”

Keep in mind that this isn’t an official Launchpad Quest – at least not yet.  This Eagle also is simultaneously working on this personal quest,  creating a separate Biology Quest and working in an apprenticeship.

She adds: “I’m extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to attend a school that encourages us to look for heroes — and I’m happy to say I just found one.”

Textbooks or heroes. Which one do you think encourages more passion for putting science into action?


Using Stories to Sell on the Internet

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“Imagine this, you are a fourteen year old…”

So began the pitches of our Middle School Eagles, each using storyboards to convince successful real world entrepreneurs that his or her website needed to be build.

Our judges were experts in Entrepreneurship, Sales and Sales Funnels

  • Bill Jones led a project to build the largest mine in the world in Australia, and leads Acton MBA discussion on how to launch successful businesses;
  •  John Lawson used the sales funnel he built to sell over $15 billion in insurance to some of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in America.
  • James Jones used a sophisticated telesales and online sales funnel to buy millions of dollars in oil and gas mineral interests.

Each Eagle’s pitch moved from: (1) hooking the customer to (2) increasing the level of desire to (3) presenting benefits to (4) qualifying and closing.

Powerful images and phrases told each story with as few words as possible. In many cases, Unit Economics measured the risk and return of the sales funnel. In the end, the goal was clear:  would customers make a purchase?


In the semi-finals, groups of eight presented to one of our entrepreneur judges. One or more Eagles advanced to the finals, once again pitching to see who would be selected as the overall winner.

Telling powerful stories.  Mastering 21st Century technology. Learning a critical skill like internet sales.   A blend of old and new learning at Acton Academy and a fitting end to our second session.


Discovering Customer Needs – In the Wild

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Our Quest this session is: “Designing a website that uses stories to sell.”

As part of this challenge, Eagles have learned the basics of entrepreneurship through four online Acton MBA simulations on bootstrapping a business; creating a Sales Funnel; recognizing and satisfying customer needs; and competitive pricing.

Eagles also have been researching websites that use storytelling to sell and honing their own blogging and storytelling techniques to create storyboard pitches.

Each Friday Eagles can earn a special outing by completing all of the week’s activities.  This Friday, eleven brave Eagles earned the right to spend lunch interviewing customers at a nearby park about the specific needs and desires that correspond to the products their websites will be selling.

Would you have had the courage to do this at age twelve?



Launchpad Biology


How will a small group of young men and women learn Biology in a self directed way, well enough to deliver a series of science challenges to others?

This was the difficult problem assigned to Launchpad Eagles, who must not only master High School Biology, but design a Quest for Middle and Elementary School Eagles.

For the last several weeks  LP Eagles have been immersed in an overview of Biology, with one test group  devouring forty Crash Course Biology videos and a second test group diligently working through a thousand page Biology textbook.  Three times weekly , each group is meeting to discuss lessons learned, heroes discovered and questions unearthed.

Why such intense work, under such ambiguity and pressure? Because as future leaders our Eagles will tackle difficult assignments under great ambiguity, where they’ll need to survey a broad area of knowledge, searching for information to use or the skills they will need to take action, before diving deep into a specialty or crafting a solution.


Much like an airplane pilot training in a simulator for unknown and unknowable emergencies, they are learning what it feels like to survey and synthesize a broad subject;  identify areas of interest; and then to take action on a real world problem.  They also are learning to document and keep track of their work and the important questions that have been raised, just like real scientists.


Proving Competence

Last week, we had our first major review, a Cambridge style Socratic exam with questions like:

Is life on earth all about organisms “not dying” and reproducing? If so, do philosophy, art and spiritual questions matter at all? If not, how do these areas relate to Biology?

Has the theory of evolution been proven? Be as specific as possible.

Who have been the three greatest Biology heroes you have discovered, and what made each a great scientist? Was it a special gift, early childhood, a chance occurrence or just being in the right place at the right time? Which parts of their “callings” would appeal to you? Which would not?
What is the best way to think about the field of Biology:

  • Important systems that interact
  • Early to late evolution
  • Small to large organisms
  • Similarities and differences between life forms.

What is the most amazing Biological discovery or theory?

  • Darwin and natural selection
  • DNA
  • Something else.

What’s the most important Big Idea in Biology and why?

Big Idea 1: The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.

Big Idea 2: Biological systems utilize energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain homeostasis.

Big Idea 3: Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.

Big Idea 4: Biological systems interact, and these interactions possess complex properties.

What skills or knowledge does the average person need to know about Biology to enrich his or her daily life?

If you had to spend the next ten years studying a one area in Biology, what would it be?

The Results

While our Eagles do need a basic vocabulary in Biology, we do not expect them to memorize hundreds of technical terms or facts.  Far more important is developing an understanding of the basic processes, systems, relationships and analogies – and most importantly – interesting areas and questions for further research.

How did they do in the oral examination?  Better than expected, with lots more work to come.

Coming next: Each will choose a Biological Specialty and dive deeply into it, as we begin to work on the Quest.



[1] Note: memorizing these questions won’t help– the actual questions will differ.


A Fall Celebration: The Ranch Olympics


Work hard; play hard. Celebrate. Bond the Tribe.  Make new commitments.

For the last six weeks, our Eagles have worked extremely hard.  It was time for some well earned play.  So we piled into a mini-bus for the Ranch Olympics, a twenty four hour celebration held forty miles west of Austin.

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We divided into four teams, each fancifully named by their members.  The first competition was paintball accuracy, eventually including a few volunteer Eagle targets.

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Next came two rounds on a punishing obstacle course.

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Then, a raft building contest, where each team had to build a raft and paddle it across the lake and back without sinking.


Along the way, we did have a few transportation mishaps, which led to the new sport of Car Surfing.  As one Eagle exclaimed: “Try this at a real school!”

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Then, telling Ancient Stories by the campfire,  followed by flashlight tag, capture the flag and a movie.  That night, some slept in bunk beds; others in sleeping bags, and the most adventurous in hammocks in the forest – soon to be roused by a late night thunderstorm.


The next morning, we watched the sunrise together from a mountaintop, a reminder of how far we have come, with hints of great struggles and adventures to come.

One Tribe.  Each member on a Hero’s Journey.