Acton Academy Omaha

What are we building?

Ring Ring! As the transition leader rang a little bell to signal the end of our peaceful D.E.A.R. time, everyone began hurriedly putting away their books and yoga mats. “It’s Quest time!!” the heroes spoke to each other with excitement, like a ping pong ball bouncing across the room from person to person. “It’s my FAVORITE part of the day!!” one exclaimed, with a smile so big it squinted his eyes and produced a hop in his step.

It was time to begin building their arcade games using simple machines. The past few weeks their teams had been preparing through smaller challenges as they built a lever, a pulley, and an inclined plane. Now it was time to put it all together. After our launch, they broke into teams and got started making their plan.

As I looked around, I saw teams busily at work, with excited, focused energy. Some were making quick progress – they knew exactly what simple machines they would use and how they would use it. Other teams were researching in books to refresh their minds and gain ideas for what they would build.

In this moment I couldn’t help but notice the peaceful, productive hum of energy; I was seeing their love and ownership of learning coming to life.

Yet it isn’t always this way. Arcade games aren’t the only thing we’ve been building during the past few weeks.

In a learner-driven environment, learning can be messy at times. Guardrails have been tested. Promises made aren’t always kept. Sometimes the learners are tired of holding each other accountable… and so they keep quiet.

Instead of focusing on these issues during our morning launch, I decided to raise their sights and invite more clarity as to why they are here – along with a recommitment to the vision of what we are building together. We brainstormed why they thought Acton existed, and why they enjoy coming each day. It was eye-opening. They said Acton exists to:

“Help us be world changers”
“Make a school that is actually fun to go to”
“Help us learn more”
“Help us discover our gifts and calling”
“Help us learn fun stuff”
“Big boy learning”

This last comment was shared by our oldest boy. He kept trying to describe what he meant, saying, “learning stuff that actually matters for real life – like building a business, and what we talk about” – and then he finally just said, “Big boy learning!”

Unanimously, they also agreed, “We LOVE Lunch here! Because people respect each other and aren’t yelling and going crazy! And there aren’t lots of teachers walking around and always looking down on us and watching so much.”

To feel respected, empowered and entrusted with the responsibility to learn and do real things that matter – this is why they love coming each day. This was special to hear.

The vision we set out with three years ago when we first began the journey to start Acton Academy Omaha – this vision was coming to fruition in their very words.

We went on to brainstorm what traits they believed made someone an Acton Hero – and how they would know if someone would be a good fit in our community. This process drew them together even more as the founding heroes of an important mission.

Through vulnerability and vision, so often I’ve witnessed the hard moments transforming into growth and beauty. This is the most special building process of all.