Have you heard about our Infinity School? It is an Acton Academy program started in London, ON last September by Andrea Loewen Nair (a psychotherapist/ parenting educator and school administrator) and Dr. Vineet Nair (a family doctor).
What is an Acton Academy? The short answer to that question is that this education program is essentially a one-room schoolhouse for the 21st century. We use all the latest game-based technology, hands-on projects, plus apprenticeships in a positive, student-centred, self-paced environment. This program is delivered in a tightly bound community of life learners with a focus on forging character, and a deeply held belief that every person who enters our doors deserves to find a calling that will change the world.
The title of Laura Sandefer’s upcoming book (she is the co-founder of Acton Academy) explains a lot about the program — Courage To Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down. In her book, she tells how a tiny one-room schoolhouse sparked a worldwide revolution! The book is a testament to the magic unleashed when children take control of their learning.
In terms of our Infinity School, if you have been following us on our Facebook page, you likely have noticed that, as time has progressed, we’ve been adding programs to our school. Here is a brief overview of those programs:
Early Learner Studio: Ages Four to Seven
We are thrilled to let you know that we have hired an amazing Guide (that’s what we call our teachers) and have created a beautiful, bright learning space for children ages four to seven. The program for these young ones is called our Early Learner Studio (ELS).
The system we use for our younger children is predominantly a Montessori approach to early learning with some introductions to the Socratic, problem-solving, mastery-based systems we use in the Elementary Studio.
In ELS, our young students gain mastery of early reading, writing, math, and problem solving by following a fun, play-based program. The children progress independently so they can zoom through this program into our modular Badge programming, or take as much time as needed to gain mastery of each of the skills.
Our younger learners are also part of the entire Infinity School group for their project-based learning, play time, and school operation committees like “Town Council,” and “Conflict Resolution.”
Elementary Studio: Ages Eight through Twelve
The Elementary Studio is for those children aged eight to about twelve-years-old. They follow our Acton Academy badge system up to level five. Once they have completed their level five badges, they move on to the Middle School program.
Middle School: Ages Twelve through Fourteen
In Middle School, the badges and project-based learning becomes more intricate and in some cases use graduate-level thinking! We also introduce apprenticeships at this time. Some of our current middle school students are actually younger than twelve because they have achieved mastery learning up to level five at a younger age.
The students in our middle school studio enjoy being who they are and the fact that they can be at a school without the many challenges those their age face: “mean” girls, bullying, undue peer pressure, and overwhelming homework (we don’t need homework here).
Launch Pad (High School): Ages Fourteen and Up (TBA)
Our Acton Academy Launch Pad program has not yet started at Infinity School. We will roll this program out as our Middle School students complete the requirements for mastery at that level. We anticipate our Launch Pad will begin September of 2019.
Here are a few things to consider if the Infinity School program is right for your child/ family:
- We have a positive environment. Due to the small class size, positive discipline, and the conflict management training all our staff receive, behaviours like bullying, shaming, and teasing are very rare. This can be said both of the students and the staff. Our adults don’t ridicule or use negative punishment (like taking away recess, sitting on the wall, or lines) to help our kids improve their behaviour.
- We are focused on the process of learning, not the content of it. The technology available to us now makes it less important to Learn to Know –we can look anything up at anytime. Learning to Do and Learning to Be have become more important as our children face a future we can’t even imagine. We don’t force children to learn or memorize content just for the sake of knowing that information.
- Students learn at their own pace with the goal of mastery. Our Acton Academy program includes module-style learning, which allows the children to gain competence in a skill, or reach a learning benchmark, before moving on. This contrasts being dragged through a (sometimes redundant) quickly-paced math curriculum!
- There is NO HOMEWORK or a need for tutors or supplemental education! Why don’t you read through this point and the three above and see if your child would like to come to our school? Most kids we speak with throw their hands up in a “hurrah” when we mention that there’s no homework. Research still fails to prove that homework is helpful and necessary, and is often a great source of stress for families. We have designed our program so that the students have ample time for their work during the day and don’t need to take anything home (although they may choose to if they’re really excited about something we’re working on!).
- We use real-world apprenticeships and project-based learning. In apprenticeships, the students have the opportunity to get out into the community to learn valuable and practical skills. In addition to their personal core-skills learning, the students work together on solving challenging real-world problems in their Quests.
- We use adaptive technology – each student gets a Chromebook and there are other computers to use on site. According to the Acton Academy co-founder, Jeff Sandefer: “Acton isn’t pro-technology, but we use powerful game- based programs for areas like Math, as well as relying on the internet to bring experts and the world to us. We don’t dismiss technology out of hand. If it’s a useful tool, process or habit, we use it, whether its Khan Academy or a walk in the park.”
- We grow critical thinking skills using the Socratic Discussion method. This is a style of discussion where the participants are challenged to make tough decisions, take sides on a particular topic, and be able to verbalize what they are thinking. The adults don’t lead these chats: they facilitate the discussion to help the students come to their own conclusions. Critical thinking skills will be imperative in the world we are preparing these children for, as mentioned in this recent Toronto Star article: Teaching kids to think critically is crucial for their future.
- We have a student-centred schedule. The kids are given many opportunities to get into the flow of their work as well as take necessary breaks to keep the learning juices going. In addition to a great daily learning schedule, we use a “modified year calendar” so everyone has much-needed breaks throughout the year.
- We have created a modern one-room schoolhouse environment. Our school is a “micro-school” where children from a range of ages spend time together – there are many benefits in doing that including giving every child a chance to be mentor to younger Eagles! Our small group of kids allows individualized attention and support. We have a great adult to child ratio: no more than eighteen children to one adult.
- We use the Hero’s Journey metaphor to help each child find his or her calling. This is a concept developed by the great scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell. We talk about the various stages of the journey and use the metaphor to help the children be more prepared for the life ahead of them: failures, successes, times of trial or transformation, and where to look for mentors along the way.
- Our school is a student-led (learner-driven) environment. There aren’t teachers up at the front of the room conducting boring lectures! The students are provided with experiences and a framework in which to learn; they then become responsible for their own learning which will be a key skill that will serve them well for the long-term.
There are other key parts of the school to learn about and we invite you to visit our Facebook page to get more of a day-in-the-life feel of what goes on here. Our events open to the public are posted there as well.
Please do read through our website and consider if your child would like to come spend the day with us to see if our program is a good fit for your child. In addition to four to seven-year-olds, we are also accepting applications for children up to age twelve.
You can click here if you would like us to contact you or if you have some questions. Please click here if you would like to apply for the 2017-2018 school year — we will continue accepting applications until our program is full, and students can begin at the start of any of our blocks as outlined on the school calendar.