One of our five core beliefs at The Village School is our belief in the importance of a closely connected community of lifelong learners.
Because of this, our model supports a learning community as small as 10 and as large as 150-which, according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, asserts that humans cannot comfortably maintain stable social relationships with more than 150 people. Beyond this, there have been numerous studies that have shown the importance of close and trusting relationships for positive learning outcomes and overall well-being.
There are other magic ingredients too- multi-age environments, peer-to-peer learning, a trusted guide, and a framework for making sense of the inevitable challenges and struggles we all face. Size is important, but it’s only one small part of what makes our learning model work. True community in an Acton Academy, is formed with these key ingredients. With them, deep friendships can be forged, challenges can be embraced, and dragons can by fought and beaten.
Recently, we held our first annual “Celebration of Heroes”, in which a few of our Elementary Learners gave speeches highlighting their experiences from the year and various lessons learned. From these speeches, one theme emerged- community, connection, and friendship. Of all the things they had learned and mastered- from creating a business, planting a garden, designing a playground, to writing a pitch or a fictional story, it seemed the most important thing they had learned was that true learning and transformation is found in relationship with others- in a “closely connected community of lifelong learners.”
Below, is an excerpt from a speech given by one of our Level 5 learners.
“Before I came here I went to a public school, where I wasn’t the most loud outgoing person. I didn’t talk much, and I never really talked to anyone out of my friend group or spoke up when I had an issue. I know for a fact I definitely wouldn’t be giving a speech like this this, not because I had nothing to say, but because I didn’t have the courage to say it. And I know everyone, has definitely felt that way before. So as you could imagine, coming to a totally new school was nerve wracking, but now I can say with certainty that I don’t regret coming here one bit.
One of my favorite quotes is “Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” I have faced some dragons, and I know there will be more to come. So the thing is, how can we prepare for these dragons? The answer is simple- you can’t. Even if it was possible to prepare for everything you wouldn’t want to. Without the dragons, you wouldn’t learn.
So what’s the next best thing you can do? Make true friends. A true friend will help you through your hard times, and congratulate you on your good. In coming to The Village School, I’ve made many of these true friends, and I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it weren’t for them. Sure, I didn’t talk for the whole first week at school, but these friends showed me that there was no reason for that. I was so afraid of being judged, I didn’t even see how nice they were and didn’t give it a shot at first. But guess what happened when I did? I found the courage to face this dragon and I learned that you should spend less of your life worrying and more of it going for it. I know it may seem like the end of the world at the time, but when you get through it, you can look back at the view and see what it really was all for. Because after all it’s not as hard as you think, especially when you have friends with you on the journey. “