The stage was set. It was parents vs heroes. Who would win? Conventional wisdom said the parents should have easily beat the heroes. It turns out the exact opposite was true!
The challenge, if you don’t know it, is a fun and instructive design exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.
The challenge seems simple enough: small teams have to build a structure in 18 minutes using 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and 1 marshmallow. The winning team is the one that can construct the tallest freestanding structure with the marshmallow on top within the time allowed. The point of the exercise is to collaborate very quickly in order to respond to the task. It reveals some surprising lessons about the nature of collaboration.
I had the the prior knowledge that our youngest group of heroes (age 5-7) had time and again proven they would beat CEOs of fortune 500 companies, so it was extra special to watch this play out in front of our eyes.
The challenge has been done hundreds of times across the country and the results are intriguing.
Who performs poorly?
Recent business school graduates. Why? They cheat and get distracted. They try to find the single correct plan and then attempt to execute that. They run out of time and when they put the marshmallow on top, it’s a crisis. Sound familiar?
Who performs well?
Kindergarten kids. Why? First of all, none of the kids spend time trying to become CEO of Spaghetti Inc.! More importantly, they start with the marshmallow and then build successive prototypes, all the time keeping the marshmallow on top until they find a solution that works.
The lesson learned from all this fun? The capacity to experiment and prototype is essential to success. (aka trial and error)
Younger children tend to be more collaborative and prototype their way to success. Notice our youngest heroes started with the Marshmallow on their structure immediately. This is a key to success and something that is a common thread when completed all across the country with Kindergarteners
Adults tend to start building right away, only to rush to finish at as time is called and throw the marshmallow on time, only to see their structure immediately collapse. This is exactly what happened with our challenge as well!
Our Findings With Our Experiment
Our youngest heroes won! They build the strongest and tallest tower.
What Can We Learn From This?
We all want to avoid the uh-oh moment when the marshmallow causes the structure to collapse. The Marshmallow Challenge teaches us that prototyping and iterating can help achieve success. It also shows that success is dependent upon close collaboration between team members. ALL things we encourage and work on at Acton Academy Lincoln.
As we saw with The Marshmallow Challenge, learning at Acton Academy Lincoln is much like a contact sport – you have to get your sleeves rolled up and get stuck in. Collaboration helps get everyone involved in the process right from the start so you can reach that ta-da! moment at the end.
By getting started and focusing on iterating the process, we can implement what works and quickly throw out what doesn’t work. This approach ensures that when we reach the end of the project, the marshmallow is sitting firmly on top. This is Acton through and through.
The Journey has begun!
What a week! From our launch party last Saturday with our founding families to completing our lip dub challenge. What a full amazing week as we launched our brand new alternative school in Lincoln, Nebraska!
This included the Acton tradition of the “Threshold Ceremony” where founding families symbolically choose Acton and to embark on a Hero’s Journey as they cross the threshold from the ordinary world into an extraordinary one.
After letting our heroes explore their new space we then completed a second Acton tradition of palm painting. Here we invited our founding heroes and their parents to leave their mark on the space.
Our heroes worked hard in their first full week. They took on many challenges and drank information from a firehose!
One of their team-building challenges was to create a lip dub video, after some initial failures they adapted their plan and put together this fun version of a Frozen song.
A Few More Week One Highlights
SHOULD EVERY CHILD HAVE AN IEP?
The following was originally posted by our friend Kori Stack, M.Ed. at Acton Academy Kennebunkport.
IEPs. This term has always bothered me; it never made sense why only children with learning differences have an IEP. After all, the term stands for Individualized Education Plan (or Program). Shouldn’t every child’s educational journey be individualized?
Individual Is Not Practical in Traditional Education
The problem is that in society, we sometimes do what is more convenient rather than what is right. It’s not practical in traditional education, i.e., the factory model, to individualize each learner’s educational plan. In traditional education, everyone learns the same thing at the same time for the purpose of efficiency. But, if you’ve ever met 2 people even with the same parents, living under the same roof (heck, even identical twins for that matter), you know just how different each individual is. So why do we insist on educating young people in the same way?
Individual Education for Each & Every Learner
At Acton, we believe in individualized education plans 100%, but for each and every learner! This is not to say that everyone won’t learn some of the same material, but the timeline of when that happens is based on who that learner is as an individual. We have learners of the same age in vastly different spots, but no one is ahead or behind, they are all exactly where they need to be for them because everyone’s development is unique. We work towards improvement and progress for each individual with an understanding that there is never such thing as “done” because learning and education is a life-long journey.
Learners Discover and Lean Into Their Passions
And what about passions? At Acton, we let our learners lean into their passions by first exposing them to a wide variety of trades and crafts and then letting them try out what fits for them with apprenticeships each year (starting around the age of 11). This allows them to try out a passion to see if it’s something they would like to pursue (as a hobby or career). Because again, we believe that each child’s educational journey should be, first and foremost…individualized.
Kori Stack, M.Ed.
Acton Academy Kennebunkport
The Vogels Journey to Acton
"I finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for."
The following is an open letter penned by Kash's Mom, Jessica Vogel, to prospective parents after her family discovered Acton Academy.
Long before I ever had kids, I had spent 2 years working toward a degree in childhood education (I wanted to be a 3rd or 4th-grade teacher). As part of the degree program, I spent 80 hours assisting in a 4th-grade classroom. What I learned during that time, was that the public education system is designed to keep the ‘average’ kid moving forward while the above or below average are forced to simply comply with the status quo. I could go on and on about my opinions as to why I think the system is flawed, but ultimately I just concluded that it wasn’t a good fit for me and likely wouldn’t be a good fit for my children.
Once Kash was born, I started looking into local private schools, but frankly, I didn’t feel that Lincoln had very strong alternatives. This left me feeling a little defeated, and I started mentally preparing myself to send Kash to LPS. I actually went as far as enrolling him. Then COVID hit. Which made public education feel even more constrained than before. I decided to register as a homeschool parent at about the same time that my friend told me about Acton Academy. I watched the videos on the website, scheduled a meeting with Zach, and then read The Courage to Grow. I finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”. This clearly aligns with Acton’s belief system.
While waiting for Acton Lincoln to open I was forced to figure out a homeschool ‘program’ that would fill the gap. In the beginning, it was a total nightmare for both Kash and I. Why? Because I was doing exactly what I was trying to protect him from. I had put up a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution on the wall behind his desk, and I was trying to force him to follow along the Hooked on Phonics program at a pace that I had pre-determined, rather than letting him work at his own pace. We were both miserable. And I was teaching him that learning is a negative experience. It was the opposite of what I wanted for him. So, I reflected back on “The Courage to Grow”, and decided to reframe things based on that book.
"I am truly grateful for what Acton has already done for our family, and I look forward to seeing what will come when Kash spends his days immersed in an environment that is designed to help him discover his inner genius."
The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Consitution were replaced with photos of him with friends and family, drawings that he created, and awards that he had earned. I even created a chart (at his request) that allowed him to track how much we had done that day and how much was left. I stopped following my own, arbitrary, pace of learning, and started following his lead.
Kash is now excited about reading, math, and most of all science. We have come to enjoy the time we spend learning together and I truly do owe that to Acton. Even though we haven’t “officially” started yet, Acton has already transformed our ideas of what learning should look like (more so than I expected going into all of this). I am truly grateful for what Acton has already done for our family, and I look forward to seeing what will come when Kash spends his days immersed in an environment that is designed to help him discover his inner genius.
By this time, you might have the impression that Acton Academies are really different from traditional schools. Like, REALLY different.
You’re right. Acton Academies are off-the-charts different. On purpose.
But if you think Acton students have limited options after graduation, think again! In their years at Acton, students learn to be independent thinkers and self-starters. They launch real businesses. They learn practical, marketable skills. They find their calling.
Acton graduates, from around the world, who apply to college are attractive candidates, displaying responsibility, maturity and a diversity of experiences that is rare among their peers.
Graduates who start their own businesses have a leg up on the competition because, by the time they turned 18, they’d already started and ran several businesses and completed dozens of internships.
There are no limits for Acton graduates – they are ready to follow whatever path they choose.
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Soon, there will be a new school opening in Lincoln.
This story is from KOLN - 1011 News in Lincoln. Read the full article on 1011now.com
Soon, there will be a new school opening in Lincoln.
It’s called Acton Academy and is an alternative for parents who don’t want their kids to follow traditional K-12 learning.
The room it will be in is going through renovations right now but soon it will be a place for nearly a dozen kids to learn.
“Our families are really excited to join, and build this with us as we learn too,” said co-founder, Zach Harsin.
Kids who would be in grades K-5 will all be in one room learning together. Right now, there’s ten enrolled.
“They’re learning how to be students in the 21st century and that requires problem-solving skills, that requires interpersonal skills, that requires communication and interviews and how to go out and solicit to get a job,” said Harsin.
Read the full article at 1011now.com
New Launch Date Announced!
We are excited to announce our new launch date of November 16th, 2020 to meet the needs of our founding families in this current moment.
My wife and I originally envisioned opening in the Fall of 2021. This aligned well with our daughter starting Kindergarten next fall and as busy working parents of three little kiddos, the idea of 18 months of planning sure seemed much less daunting.
As we started speaking with our founding families, we quickly realized of all the years for these families to sit and wait for their dream school, this was NOT the year.
We decided to see how we could speed up our time table and meet their needs. We immediately began a hiring search while also looking for the perfect location. Within weeks we had hired our rock star guide and found our ideal location, but it still wasn't how we envisioned launching.
We still needed a handful more families to join us on this journey and there was still about six months of prep, planning, and training to fit into the next few months.
Yes, we want to deliver on all our promises, yes we want all the pieces to be planned exactly right, but we also realized, we wouldn't be true to the Acton spirit if we waited until the timing was perfect and all our ducks were in a row. This is our own hero's journey after-all!
No hero, whether it be George Washington, Anne Frank, or even Harry Potter feels truly prepared when they are called upon. What's worse, had they waited they would have missed their chance to change the world.
We know it won't be perfect, we know there will be bumps in the road, but we are excited to meet our call to adventure and cross the threshold into the unknown with a small group of founding families by our side!
The Specifics of our New Launch Plan
The Hero's Journey And the Acton Experience
Curious to learn more about the Hero's Journey and how it fits into the bigger picture at Acton Academy Lincoln? Read More...
Meet The Andersons
A FOUNDING FAMILY WHO WAS ON A JOURNEY TO FIND A BETTER SCHOOL OPTION FOR THEIR SON HERE IN LINCOLN
This is an open letter penned by Tori Anderson to prospective parents after her family discovered Acton Academy.
When we found Acton Academy Lincoln we were on a journey to find something different for our oldest son. He had done private school for kindergarten and then public school for first grade. Each year we were told he was a good kid but just wasn’t doing the things he was asked to do. We were seeing a completely different and curious kid that would come home from school defeated and upset. Even going to the library and checking out books at school wasn’t enjoyable to him. He had a perfect idea of what books he wanted but was told he had to do one fiction and one non fiction when all he wanted was non fiction books.
When COVID hit we, along with everyone else, were forced to become the teacher for our kids. But Elijah struggled. It’s not that he didn’t want to do the work but it’s that he didn’t want to do it in the way they had set up. He knew the answers. He could pass the tests and do the homework. He was just bored. But once we loosened the reigns and let him make his schedule and follow his lead he began to become the curious little boy we knew he was. He spent hours learning about the seven wonders of the world, exploring how to build things, and learning about the ins and outs of large semi trucks.
The first thing I heard was 'we believe all kids are geniuses and will change the world' — I cried. That was something we believed about him but just didn’t know how to cultivate in the school setting we had chosen for him.
Then enter Acton Academy. The first thing I heard was “we believe all kids are geniuses and will change the world” — I cried. That was something we believed about him but just didn’t know how to cultivate in the school setting we had chosen for him. We see Elijah thriving in Acton—not because of the freedom but because the box he was told he had to fit into will be removed and he can be anything he wants to be. It will be hard work, he knows that, but he’s ready! He’s eager to start and learn anything he can get his hands on!
Harsin Family starts Private Micro School in Lincoln, NE
I could hardly contain my excitement as I wrote out a text to my wife after finding the answer to our prayers. “You HAVE to watch this. I desire this for our family. This makes my heart happy”....
We had long felt angst whenever we tried to make a decision for our children’s education. No option ever felt quite right. From homeschooling to private schools and even moving to a small town, all possible options crossed our minds. As we continued to wrestle with what to do, one thing became abundantly clear, parents all over the world wrestle with this same thing. They all want what is best for their children. They are willing to buy a house in the ‘right’ school district, sacrifice financially to send them to private schools, or even devote themselves to homeschooling. Regardless of how it manifests itself, they are all doing what they believe is best for their family and their children’s futures.
As I wrote out a second text to my wife, I was writing a statement I never thought I would write, let alone be announcing to the world a few months later. The end of the text read; “We are going to start a school.” 😳
Yes, we are crazy. Yes, we have no idea what we have just signed up for. But within hours of stumbling upon Acton Academy, an 11-year-old micro-school model in Austin Texas, I had already written those words “We are going to start a school.”
I believe with every fiber of my soul that this is not only right for our family but, with its entrepreneurial spirit, something Lincoln will embrace with open arms.
The Video that Changed Everything!
Acton Academy Lincoln will simply be a community of like-minded families seeking a modern approach to education, one that will help equip their kids for the 21st century (using a blend of Montessori elements, Socratic questioning and learner driven learning), discover & develop their God-given passions and unique calling on their life, learn through quests and apprenticeships, and develop mastery of reading, writing, and arithmetic using the latest technology through self-paced learning!
Yes, just call us crazy. But we join 275 other Actons in 20 countries around the world who are all on this journey together. So the only question is, are you crazy enough to join?
Even if you don’t have school-aged kids, or you are more than happy with your current education path, we ask that you join us in praying for / assisting in our search for these three things to set Acton Academy Lincoln up for success:
Finally, if you are a parent who can identify with our struggle to find the right fit for your family, I ask you to watch this video. This was the video I stumbled upon that first stirred something inside me. My hope is it will resonate with you as well.
Acton Academy Lincoln Founder
PS- Please feel free to message us on here or text/call 402-858-5151. We would love to hear from you and learn more about your family!