Experience-Driven Learning in Our Own Backyards

For the first week of Session 6, Spark heroes and guides found themselves working out how to best navigate a virtual landscape. Confined to our houses, we interacted by Zoom calls and did our best to carve out space to learn in our living and dining rooms. Under these circumstances, how does a school that uses real-life experiences to explore the world carry on with this crucial component of our learning design?

The answer for Spark Studio lies in our newest project series—the Backyard Biome. Through this unit, we use experiential learning to examine the parts of the ecosystem that interact to create the natural world. We use magnifying glasses and binoculars to observe the plants and animals in our neighborhoods. We record our findings in nature journals. We dig our fingers into dirt as we learn about its many layers. We plant seeds and watch as they use the energy of the sun to grow throughout the session. We collect the different elements of the ecosystem in jars—plants, animals, soil, water, air, and sun—and ponder how they all might work together. All the while, we are having fun and getting our hands dirty in the truest sense of the word!

By doing this, heroes see, experience, and think about the environment in new ways. We also subtly integrate other topics important to their learning and development. As we turn on all our senses to experience our environment—sight, smell, hearing, touch, and (occasionally) taste—we are grounding ourselves in the present moment, practicing the mindfulness we talk about so often. We learn alongside our parents and siblings, which helps us deepen and expand our family relationships. And the heroes work on writing, drawing, vocabulary, critical thinking, and their powers of observation. It’s a truly multi-disciplinary way to learn, and we can do it all from home!

ES Quest: Session 4 Week 5

This week was all about putting the finishing touches on the heroes’ 3D models of their Acton Academies. They livened up the outsides with ball pits, basketball courts, and trees made out of pipe cleaners, while decorating the insides with Lego pieces and windows made of aluminum foil.

And for a very special hero talk, the famous architect Ben Mickus joined us via Skype to talk about his career. We learned all about his biggest accomplishments, including a building he designed on rollers to safeguard it from earthquakes, as well as a renowned concert hall in New York City that took six years to complete.

ES Quest: Session 4 Week 4

Last week in Quest, learners started building 3D models of their Acton Academy designs. They began by drawing out their floor plans on foam board, then crafted walls using chipboard and scissors. It was tricky to keep the walls standing while the glue dried! They also explored the concept of landscape design. It was fun dreaming up the outdoor green spaces that would surround their schools. Through it all, the heroes talked about the importance of staying flexible and confident, especially when we are forced to change our plans.