Monthly Archives: October 2016

Earning the Ranch Trip

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Should celebrations be enjoyed by the entire Tribe, regardless of effort or reserved for those who earn them?  Are celebrations a time for play or rest and reflection?

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This week sixteen of our thirty one Middle Schoolers traveled to a ranch for high spirited games, fellowship and fireside smores.  We celebrated a new dawn with gratitude and new commitments.

The requirements for earning the trip were set so all could earn them, but five or six Eagles stumbled or chose not to invest enough effort.  Many more stayed back to work on Children’s Business Fair ventures, too busy to take time off for fun and games.

Those who made the trip had great fun; but we missed those not present.

 

 

 

To the Moon!

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Imagine you want to send a rocket to the moon, which is located directly overhead, and because rocket fuel is expensive, you want to do so with as little energy as possible. 

 Would you fire the rocket “straight up” or at an angle towards the horizon?  If at an angle, what angle requires the least amount of fuel?

Sound like an easy problem?  It’s not.   In Launchpad, some of us thought we had the “answer” several times, but this just led to more Richard Feynman-like questions.

In fact, we have a hunch that a thorough explanation of this query will reveal why Einstein’s Theory of Relativity clashes with Newtonian Physics, yet they are both right.

Real Science requires childlike curiosity and sustained effort.  Far more difficult than memorizing answers for an AP test, but far more rewarding and life giving too.

 

 

Hope for the Future: The Children’s Business Fair

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On a perfect autumn day, over two hundred young entrepreneurs and thousands of visitors gathered for the Acton Children’s Business Fair and  the Rising Entrepreneur’s Fair (for older teens).

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Some days it’s easy to despair over the state of the world.  Then you realize the incredible wealth of talent soon to be unleashed, and that with the freedom to create, a few will always rise to rescue the many.

Learning Arcs and Lessons Learned

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Traditional schools have semesters, textbooks and standardized tests; Acton Academy offers Learning Arcs, real world challenges and lessons learned instead.

What is a Learning Arc?  It’s action packed sequence of “learning by doing;” a series of challenges, launched with a bit of mystery; linked by compelling narrative; stuffed full of real world puzzles,  challenges and dilemmas;, culminating with a public exhibition and followed by reflection and “lessons learned.”

We recently completed the Entrepreneurship Archetype Quest in the Middle School Studio.  Here are one twelve year old Eagle’s lessons learned, in her own words:

Lessons learned:

  1. If you take everything slowly and carefully, making it your best work you will get loads farther than if you just rush through it thinking “They’re only deliverables.” Slow and steady wins the race. I will improve to make it “fast and steady wins the race.”
  2. It is important to watch out for competitors. If you ignore them, they are likely to keep lowering their prices until they steal away many of your customers. If they keep lowering their prices, you might want to lower yours, because it will get you more customers. But be careful; if you price below your variable costs, you will bleed cash with every sale.  Watch out for price battles because they can get intense!
  3. Sometimes pricing high and skimming the market is better than pricing low and penetrating. When you price high people think that your product is worth more. If you sell wands for a few cents each people will think they are low quality. If you sell them for $5 or so people may think they are high quality, even if they are  not.
  4. It is never too early to be an entrepreneur. If you try your best, you can make things and sell them and actually make money. You could become an entrepreneur.
  5. Sometimes you have to take risks. If you play it safe every time you will have less fun and may make less money. In the girl’s bathroom in the MS, there is a picture that says “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably won’t lead anywhere.”In my first Children’s Business Fair, I had a booth called Spooky Sacks. I was in it with my brother and we were selling Trick-or-Treating bags. We had too many variable costs and not enough customers. The only person who bought our product was one man who did it just to be nice. We lost $80. My parents were nice enough to share the loss with us. Sometimes you shouldn’t take too many risks.

If you are an entrepreneur, you will recognize priceless truths in these reflections; learned the hard way and deeply embedded through trial and error.

Semesters, textbooks and standardized tests are no match for Learning Arcs, real world challenges and lessons learned, because a soulless bureaucracy is no substitute for a fulfilling Hero’s Journey.

 

 

Out into the Real World of Entrepreneurship

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At the end of each exhibition, we take time to reflect and celebrate.  As part of our celebration, Launchpadders on Friday toured the Capital Factory, an entrepreneurial incubator.

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Afterwards, a Capital Factory Director wrote: “And I was just talking to my husband about you and your students. The CF team of entrepreneurs truly enjoyed their time with you. In fact, they were blown away by them … even remarking that they were the most poised and intelligent high school students they had met yet.”

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Just wait until we unleash them on the real world!

The Entrepreneurial Archetype Quest Exhibition

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On Thursday our Middle School and Launchpad Eagles welcomed parents and visitors to the Entrepreneurial Archetype Quest Exhibition, where our guests would decide which business ventures would qualify for the Austin Acton Children’s Business Fair (for pre-teens) and Rising Entrepreneur’s Business Fair (for teens) set for October 22nd.

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As usual before an exhibition, Eagles were hard at work, with many continuing rehearsals and final preparations far past normal bedtimes on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

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On Thursday afternoon, the event was entirely run by Middle Schoolers and Launchpadders, beginning with a welcome and the sharing of Hero Stories crafted by Eagles after interviewing their favorite entrepreneurs.

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Next visitors were invited to tour each Eagle’s booth, to hear a pitch for an entrepreneurial venture, including the customer’s need, Unit Economics and preferred Entrepreneurial Archetype.

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A panel of successful Entrepreneurial Sharks listened to pitches and grilled rising entrepreneurs about their businesses.

We concluded with final lessons learned from guests and Eagles, and announcing the winners of the Business Fair booths.

Thanks to over twenty difficult challenges, ranging from Unit Economics to trading Red Paper Clips to running an assembly line to make sandwiches for the homeless, our budding Eagle entrepreneurs are now ready to take on the business world.

 

 

The Yacker Tracker

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Welcome to the Yacker Tracker, an invaluable tool allows Middle School Council to ask everyone in the studio for an Eagle Buck when the noise exceeds a preset decibel level.

Draconian?  Perhaps. But the Middle School Eagles would prefer using the Yacker Tracker to quiet the studio than to be red carded (asked for 32 Eagle Bucks) by the Elementary Studio downstairs.

No one wants to answer to Elementary Overlords.

Deliberate Practice

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We need to fortify the habit of Deliberate Practice at Acton Academy, the serious dedication it takes to hone a skill, through repeated and measured trials, under expert instruction, with serious reflection.

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We hope soon to be working with Anders Erricsson, the intellectual father of Deliberate Practice and famous for “10,000 hours to mastery.”

As a prelude, during a recent Acton Parent’s meeting we focused on GRIT, the courage and dedication it takes to cultivate perseverance.  At the end of the session, nineteen parents pledged to take on a skill to deliberately practice for the fall, from mediation to tennis to baking pies.

Our children may not listen to what we say, but they do watch what we do.  So if we want them to become grittier, we must first become grittier ourselves.

Time is relative in our studios

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Our Elementary Eagles frequently work hard, but curiosity and exploration are more important to us in early years.  In Middle School, the work becomes far more serious.

One Eagle, who recently moved from the Elementary to Middle School studio put it this way: “In the Elementary Studio, often I felt I was killing time. In Middle School, I have to cling tightly to time, or it will slip away and I won’t have created anything of value.”

An eloquent description of the act of growing up.

Would you dare haggle with an Asset Fox?

 

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Week Four of the Entrepreneurship Quest was action packed.

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Eagles played the Red Paper Clip trading game; took on the Rich Uncle Valuation challenge and competed in an MIT Negotiating Role Play, testing out their skills as Asset Foxes.

By Friday, it was time for a some real world competition.

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Launchpadders took on the Acton MBA’s in a no-holds-barred eighty minute Socratic discussion of the Harvard Business School Caribbean Café case study, emerging victorious in a closely matched battle.

No mean feat, since for eight of the last eleven years the Princeton Review has named Acton’s students as The Most Competitive MBA’s on the planet.

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Friday afternoon, Launchpadders and Middle Schoolers descended on Austin storekeepers, haggling even the most hidebound merchants with “Is that the best you can do?” and “Are you sure that’s the best you can do?” until we had secured cumulative discounts of more than 40%.  Few Eagles are likely to ever pay retail again!

Next week – it’s time for the Exhibition.