The Acton Network
Unsatisfied by disengaging and outdated educational options, Laura and Jeff Sandefer set out to rethink 21st Century learning.
Their goal? To create a new model for education that would truly prepare young learners for the future ahead.
In 2010, Jeff and Laura launched Acton Academy Austin.
Today, the Acton Academy Network has grown to more than 185 Affiliated Academies across 30 States and 20 Countries.
To understand Acton, it’s helpful to understand Acton terms.
Here are a few that have a significant means to us.
EVERY CHILD CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
We believe each of our learners will find a passion — something they love and have a gift to do. They will use this gift to serve others and fulfill a need in the world about which they are passionate. This may be by becoming a coach who sees the light in a child’s eyes and guides her to pursue a dream; it may be by becoming a father or mother who leads a family on a Hero's Journey; it may be becoming an entrepreneur or business leader guided by compassion and integrity, or it may be by becoming an artist or writer who brings beauty to people's lives.
We believe that life is full of trials and tests that, when faced with integrity and purpose, lead to a satisfying and fulfilling life. We also believe that each of our learners is destined to uncover their unique passion in life. In turn, our mission is to provide the right learning environment for our learners to discover their passion and prepare for the journey ahead of them.
Our work/play/maker-spaces are called studios - We do not use the term ‘classroom’. Our spaces do not have a traditional classroom feel and can vary significantly from one Acton Academy to another. They all feel a bit more like startup spaces… and the learners play a significant role in deciding how their spaces shall look and feel, as well as how they are to be managed. Studio Maintenance is scheduled time during which the learners perform tasks to help them care for their space (re-organization of loose materials, vacuuming, bringing the recycles out, sorting through lost and found, cleaning out the fridge, etc.).
We do not use the term ‘student’ in our studios.
We do not use the term ‘teacher’ in our studios. A Guide’s role is not to stand and deliver content for all learners to listen to in unison. Nor is it to be a subject matter expert with all of the right answers. Rather, the role of a Guide at AABC is to help our learners “learn how to learn.” Guides provide resources and support, but not lessons or answers.
Someone who can research questions, follow instructions, solve problems—admit that they don't know something and figure out a solution when they hit a roadblock without asking an adult for help — participate in discussions, and strive for mastery.
Learners with a Growth Mindset believe trial and error, rapid experimentation and perseverance, are the keys to success.
Discussions designed to enable learners to think critically about big topics, open their minds, learn/unlearn/relearn through thoughtful analysis, form their own independent conclusions, and defend their ideas.
A six-week session during which learners engage in experiential learning centered around a specific subject area.
Participating in a Quest allows a student to explore a topic in-depth using a variety of hands-on experiences.
Some examples of Quests are Chess, Electricity, Game design, Entrepreneurship, Athens, Gardening.
Acton Academy is Student-Led, which means that our students are involved in every step of decision-making processes from studio rules, scheduling, school systems, and even disciplinary actions. Age-appropriate freedoms, within reason, are given to students to the greatest extent. Students are responsible for setting their own goals, track their progress, navigate relationships, and reflect on their experiences.
Mastery learning focuses on mastering a topic before moving on to a more advanced one. This allows learners to work at their own pace and have a true understanding of a topic or skill before moving forward. While this shift in education would help all children, it is essential for gifted learners because they can often achieve mastery at a quicker pace and are therefore limited in a traditional academic setting.