The halfway points in marathons are usually the toughest. It is no different for our Eagles if we imagine each 6-week Sprint as a marathon. In the third week, they stretched themselves, both in their work and studio life. The stakes were higher, the challenges were tougher and there was less time too (we had a four-day-week, and we wish you all Selamat menyambut Awal Muharram!). There were moments where the studio fell into chaos. Yet, the Eagles ended the week with a four-course menu: bread, jam, butter, and cheese!
Here are some highlights of this stretched week. We are relieved for the long weekend!
- Growing through Launches
- PE Upgrades: Skating & Swimming
- Self-organization can be messy, and mysterious too
- Cooking & Chemistry: Buoyancy and pH experiments
- Brenda’s Hero Sharing
- Bake Out!
- Mindfulness Moringa
- Building Blocks
Growing through Launches
Both Elementary School (ES) and Middle School (MS) studios kicked off the week with powerful Launches. What is a Launch? Launch (also called Circle Time in ES) is a short intentional time where Eagles come together. They channel their energies through discussion to set the stage for the day or next activity. It is not about logistics, but a focused time of words & actions through Socratic dialogue.
The short-term goal is to learn how to stay focused for those short and intense 15 minutes. The Eagles do this by following the Rules of Engagement, a set of rules for respectful and effective engagement. These rules are often tested and voted in the beginning of the year. The long-term goal is clear thinking, reflected through words and actions.
On Monday morning, the MS Eagles were first showed videos of the discovery of x-ray and inventions, The question: What is more important, Discovery OR Invention?
Eagles had to take a stand. It started with nearly every Eagle chose Discovery, except for one. The “Discovery” Eagles asked the lone “Invention” Eagle for examples and proofs. He proved his point that inventions lead to discovery, e.g. the cathode tubes invention lead to the discovery of x-rays. Few more points got exchanged, with rebuttals after another. The points were convincing enough such that the “Discovery” Eagles changed their minds and voted for “Invention”.
The ES studio was no different too. Naomi read the case of whales and humans, separately trapped in Arctic ice. “If you’re the dispatcher for the icebreakers,” Naomi asked, “what do you do? Do you send them to save the ships or the whales?”
The Eagles called on each other, voted for their stand. After a few exchange of points, Naomi turned the heat: “There are 20 whales still alive in the ice and 1,000 people on the boat.”, and “These are the only twenty gray whales left in the world”.
The challenge for the young Eagles was not taking a stand, or debating their points; they were vocal and confident. Instead, their challenge was to stay focus on the Rules of Engagement. They would remind each other on straying from distractions, by themselves. Eventually, they had the final vote, with all except one Eagle chose to save the humans.
Most of these Socratic questions do not have a right answer. The perfect discussion is one where both parties changed their minds. The goal is not about having the “right answers”. Instead, it is about asking the right questions. Then, ponder those questions, take a stand, make your case, listen to others, reflect and do it all over again—exercising clear thinking with words and action.
PE Upgrades: Skating & Swimming
The MS Eagles finally got their act together and started their first session of ice skating. The expert skaters taught the beginner skaters—so everybody had their chance of experiencing some icy fun!
Meanwhile, the ES Eagles went on their second session of swimming. Advanced swimmers learned new strokes, while everyone improved themselves through drills and stroke correction. One of the promises they had was that if they could stay intentional for a certain amount of time, there is a water theme park trip during the coming holidays!
This is where we aspire to be: Eagles taking charge of their activities and uphold standards. One of our heroes in this journey is Coach Carpenter, who has led Acton Academy Austin for nine years. It’s a story of stepping back as adults and empowering Eagles to step up.
Self-organization can be messy, and mysterious too
Eagles often grouped themselves in various team activities. Sometimes, “I want to be in that group” creates tension, disorganization and wasted time. Sometimes, Guides deliberately place Eagles in challenging combinations so they learn how to work in different arrangements. But each scenario is an opportunity to practice respecting certain agreements and arrangements.
At the same time, certain challenges drive Eagles to work together.
In the middle of the week, the MS Eagles started on a project of great secrecy. I was sworn to not disclose what is happening! From what I can say, just stay “kuwte” everyone!
The Eagles evolved their own culture and identity through a combination of group dynamics and creative ideas. It could be mysterious at times…
Cooking & Chemistry: Buoyancy and pH experiments
The Eagles explored chemistry further, through concrete experiments. The ES Eagles investigated the buoyancy of eggs, while the MS Eagles did experiments to explore acids and bases.
Some of these concepts were rather abstract. Eagles had to figure out stories and explanations that make the most sense to them. One young Eagle said: “The water and salt mixture is denser because there are more “atoms” inside. Eggs comparatively have less “atoms”, so it floats.”
Again, Eagles worked hard so that they could qualify for the Thursday
cookout bake out challenge! One ES parent expressed “I’ve never seen my son worked so hard by his own before!”. Clearly, excitement was building up for Thursday!
Brenda’s Hero Sharing
Right before the Thursday “bake out” challenge, auntie Brenda shared her Hero’s Journey as a baker. She explained how she improved her cake making skills and showed pictures of her work to the Eagles.
Through the journey, the Eagles were exposed to the challenges and demands of a baker. Also, the ES Eagles got help for their bake out!
Then, the Eagles took the crazy challenge of cooking not one, but four items. While the ingredients were simple, every item involved going through a chemical transformation of motion and heat.
For each activity, Eagles followed the instructions, figured out how to adapt to the changing conditions, and of course, improvise on the menu!
Eagles made a simple but yummy Amish white bread using a recipe of bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, and water.
Eagles heated up milk, cream, vinegar and salt concoction. Then, they separated it via a muslin cloth. Tada! Cheese!
Whipping cream and salt in a jar, we shook it hard and that was it! The challenge was shaking it really hard.
Sugar and mashed oranges, heated up. Tada! Marmalade!
The result? Wonderful plates for brunch! And a satisfied bunch of Eagles too!
The MS Eagles continued their mindfulness activity with GloWithin. Despite an entire morning of cooking, they took the dive and engaged themselves in exploring their perceptions with Ms. Teng Yan in the park. After some exploration discussions, Eagles explored their tastebuds and sensations as they chew through a secret seed, which was later revealed as Moringa seeds.
“This taste sweet.”
“No, it’s bitter!”
“Wait a minute… It’s really bitter!”
Exploring the world and its wealth of sensations is an important element in an Eagle’s life at Acton Academy. The true challenge is not having exciting programs (although we do that). The real challenge for us is to forge character by encouraging Eagles to take the courage to make decisions and commitments. So they can take the step forward, to become who they are meant to be—their calling. That is in a small way, how we serve the mission of Acton Academy: to inspire each child and parent who enters our doors to find a calling that will change the world.
This is a partnership with parents, and one of our community activities include Building Blocks.
On top of all the cooking and work, we had a Building Block immediately after school. ActonKL parents gathered to discuss what Acton Academy meant for them, as well as the challenges they face in nurturing behaviors within the Eagles and themselves. Tips and methods were shared, and we ended the day with a letter to the future. Let’s see if we could all surprise ourselves in ten months time!
It had been a short but very intense week! Have a safe rest over this long weekend!