Acton Academy Omaha

The obstacle is the way

It’s studio maintenance time in the elementary studio. Some heroes are rushing to get their jobs done on time, while others are enjoying the comradery of working together. One 8-year-old girl lets out a shriek! An 11-year-old boy had just sprayed at her with their 7th Generation Surface Spray. Right away she went over to where the hero bucks were kept, filled out a slip, and presented it to her friend, convinced that he had broken a studio promise. She was taken aback when this time, he chose to disagree, saying that it wasn’t a good reason to ask for a hero buck. They let it go and went on with their day, knowing they would allow the Hero Buck committee to deliberate and decide on this one.

Although at first the guide stepped in and asked for the chemicals since they weren’t being used safely, she then stepped back to see how this would unfold over the next few days as the Hero Buck Committee would meet and decide on what they would allow in the studio.

The thing is, this girl who was sprayed happened to be my 8-year-old daughter. As a mom, I felt violation rising up inside of me and a desire to rescue! And yet, I knew I had to step back and support her at home by asking questions, staying in a friendly state toward her, her peers, and the studio as a whole. “I wonder what the chemical bottle actually says on it – most have safety warnings. We should look. Maybe that boy didn’t realize that it could actually hurt someone. Do you feel comfortable having it sprayed at you? What other studio promises do you feel he is breaking? What are you going to do about it?”

And you know, this young girl went back to the studio the next day feeling empowered. A few days later when the Hero Buck committee met, she received some surprising news; the hero who had sprayed her had been able to convince the Hero Buck committee that it wasn’t a big deal and to let the hero buck go. As surprised as she was, she didn’t back down.

When she was reminded of her right to risk two of her own hero bucks to appeal to the guide, she felt nervous. She weighed in her head what she believed was true and if there was enough evidence to support it. She thought about how much she never wanted someone else to be treated in this way – and how she would be in the hole with her hero bucks if she lost. With a deep breath of courage, she moved forward to risk her two hero bucks and appeal it with the guide.

The next day, the studio became a courtroom and the morning discussion a trial – all to uncover the Hero’s perception of Truth. The discussion opened with the question, “Is truth something we create or something we discover?” and the studio was split. They imagined and explored a few real-world situations, like how a person’s thoughts can create their future, and how truth can be discovered by detectives when there are no live witnesses to give testimony. They remembered how they found evidence by sweeping for fingerprints and analyzing shoeprints and handwriting the past few weeks in their Detective Quest.

And then came the question… “When the hero buck committee met, did they create the truth or discover the truth? What evidence did the Hero Buck Committee use to base their decision on?” And after a discussion, they realized that no evidence was analyzed – just the testimony of two heroes who said they never were hurt when they had chemicals sprayed near them in the past. And then they remembered that two people’s experiences isn’t enough to assume the same result for the rest of the population – as discovered in another survey experiment they had explored just a week earlier in Quest.

Further new evidence was shared by the Guide, reading the 7th Generation company’s statement for use of the product, saying that it is against the law to use it in a way contrary to the instructions, and how it could damage face and eyes.

Another article was cited, saying that disinfectant ingested through breathing over time could cause disease in humans.

And finally, the Studio Promises were read and analyzed, and the heroes found a number of promises that were broken by the hero’s action.

They realized this wasn’t just a safety issue – it was also a respect issue – and that the Hero Buck Committee had not upheld their promises.

“What happens when a person of the law, like the Supreme Court or President, do not uphold the Constitution in their rulings?”

After a brief discussion, the Hero Buck Committee was impeached that day, with the decision that for the next week there would be no Hero Buck Committee for one week to allow all Squads to practice investigating the truth through role plays before stepping into the role again.

Parents at Acton value children learning for themselves – even if it takes mistakes and reflection to get there. As much as I had wanted to step in and declare, “This is a safety issue! Never do that again!” I knew that would rob my daughter and the other learners of this very important experience – to stumble over that truth for themselves. She proved to herself that she could step up and use her voice to effect change – and how sometimes the risk is worth the impact. She chose the road less traveled – and stood for her beliefs even when others said no – even risking all the Hero Bucks she had to make a change.

The best part? She came out changed herself, with increased confidence. This is the value of a learner-driven community. When truth is discovered, it is transformational – not just obeyed. We are creating leaders who critically think and use their voice and creativity to solve problems.

The obstacle – as much as I had wanted to make it go away – IS the way for transformational learning!