Category Archives: Badges

Launching LaunchPad

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Two weeks ago week we announced at a parent meeting our plans for LaunchPad, the name Eagles have given to our new high school, which will open in the fall of 2015 (though the most advanced middle school Eagles already are working on the model, and will be experimenting with the curriculum next fall.)

LaunchPad will allow Eagles the freedom to choose their own adventures, while preserving the option to attend a selective college.

During the Launchpad years, Eagles will dig into advanced reading, literary analysis, writing and communication skills, tackling advanced Math concepts, serious Socratic discussions in Civilization and even creating Quests for the lower studios, as a way of doing deep explorations into Science and the Arts.

Longer term, serious, for pay apprenticeships will play a big role in LaunchPad as well, giving Eagles a chance to test their skills and thirst for a calling in the real world, long before most young adults make a blind choice of a college major.

And, on top of these accomplishments, LaunchPad Eagles will assume many of the responsibilities for running the lower studios, earning Learning Badges that would qualify them as exceptional leaders in the world’s leading companies and not-for-profits.

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How will we accomplish all of this?  Two secrets:

  1. Our Eagles can work at 10X the normal rate, when absorbed in something they love.  Allowing individual choice leads to an exponential increase in the quality of work and the number of skills mastered.
  2. Arranging Quests as a series of badges that demonstrate competence and mastery, allows us to sequence challenges in a way that delivers real world skills, while still preserving the ability to map these badges into a more traditional (and artificial) traditional high school curriculum.

How do you create a portal into the real world that equips and inspires young people?

Start with a blank sheet of paper; embrace 21st century learning; combine with ageless wisdom; and above all else, ask the young heroes to help you build it.

Newsflash: A Guide is About to Answer a Question!

But first, a congratulatory shout out to the nine Eagles who earned their Independent Learner Badges over the past month.  We celebrated them in a special school-wide ceremony Friday morning.  There are only 7 pictured below because two were pursuing dreams off-campus that day; Eagles lead busy lives!

Though there will never be homework assigned at Acton, completing the missions and challenges to earn the Badge involved making time at home for things like baking bread and doing research to pitch a trip, garden or new pet to their family.  These Eagles have proven their ability to work independently, analyze information, solve problems by themselves, and follow instructions carefully.


These nine now join seven other Middle School Eagles (and one in the ES!)  in working towards earning the next badge in the series, the Running Partner Badge.  They will learn how to help others set goals and identify and reach for their greatest dreams; they will learn how to have difficult conversations, how to set a relational covenant, and much more.  Some of this work will be done while guiding younger Eagles in the elementary school, an exciting development for our student-centric community.  The Badges are a crucial part of the work Eagles do at Acton.  If you haven’t, consider asking your child which badge challenge they’re currently working on, which has been their favorite, which has been the hardest.  The standard for “passing” each challenge is that the Eagle certifies they’ve done their very best work.

Okay, so about that question mentioned in the title.  In the middle school you’ll hear, “Guides don’t answer questions,” sometimes many times each day.  A bit sassy perhaps, but never meant to be discouraging or indifferent.  The polar opposite, in fact:  it’s a gesture of deep respect.  In the studio on Friday, Eagles discussed the role of Guides.  One offered that the most important thing a Guide can do is “to set up guidelines then sit back and let the classroom function on its own”.  Another wrote that Guides should “ready us so we can turn the classroom into a student-run studio”.  Many thought that for Guides to keep their promises to the Acton students and parents was the most important thing.

One promise we make to the families is that we believe each child is a genius capable of changing the world in their won unique way.  But answering a question says that we don’t trust them to be able to come up with their own best answer, to engage in the potent thinking, research and analysis we believe each of them are capable of, or to learn from their mistakes.

Eagles, the number one reason WHY Guides won’t answer your question is…. drum roll, please…. we absolutely positively 100 percent completely respect your intelligence.

( Okay Gage, you got me.  I answered that one.  But never again!)

Celebrating a Milestone

Friday morning, we gathered along with the Elementary School to mark an big milestone achieved this summer by four Middle School Eagles (and one highly motivated fifth grader!)- the completion of the Independent Learner Badge.
While Eagles don’t suffer homework “assignments”, at Acton they must teach themselves to manage their time, juggle projects, and prioritize. The work involved in gaining the Badges is completely up to the Eagles to organize, and make time for, or not. One  aspect of our over-arching Motivation Question for the year will be to explore what motivates them to work so diligently to accomplish the Badge Challenges.

One prediction: witnessing the pride on the faces of those who’ve mastered the Challenges, and the wonder and honor on the faces of their peers as their efforts are applauded by the whole community.