Hello Spark parents! Welcome to Session 2!
I had a good reminder this week that I am extremely blessed to be at Aim every day, and I get to experience what these young minds are capable of. I get to watch them grow and stretch in every way imaginable. That being said, they are 5-8 year-olds, and that usually means they still aren’t always the best at communicating about what goes on each day at school. So, my goal is to be better at sending out email updates to all of you!
It has been a powerful week in the Spark studio, full of ups and downs in their individual and whole studio’s journey. As Aim continues to grow and change, we’ve realized it has come with some unexpected heartache. Our learners have been used to a single, tight-knit community the past couple of years due to our small size. As we've grown, Aim has begun to transform into how an Acton model truly functions. Normally the Spark, Elementary, Middle School, and Launch Pad are completely separate studios. We’ve been spoiled by the amount of time the different age groups have interacted over the last 2 years. This has brought a lot of emotions to the surface as some of the studios have had to say “goodbye” to a member of their tribe that is now joining another. Just as the studios have differentiated themselves, so have the privileges that come with each one.
So what does that mean for the Sparks? Last year we tested out badges and badge plans for them. We found that while it gave them a direct path of what needed to be accomplished, it lacked the love of learning aspect. It was more like a checklist that they were attempting to race through, rather than truly trying to master and study the works at their own pace. It also wasn’t cultivating independent learners the way we had hoped it would. So, we pivoted and decided to pull badges and the title of quests from the Spark studio. We will still be doing “quest like” projects, but official quests will be something they have to look forward to in the ES studio. The Sparks are still challenged to master the works within the Montessori room. The beauty of Montessori is that it already has a natural flow, and they can see what needs to come next on the shelves. This also allows them to be independent learners and gain a love for learning, which will greatly prepare them to enter the ES. Once they are ready, along with their parents and the guides, we test their reading, writing, math, etc. to be completely sure they can handle the rigor of ES. We are also in the process of developing an Independent Learner badge for them to earn as a pathway into ES, but that framework is still in the early stages. Something that's simple for us, like opening an email, reading and understanding it, and responding, can be very intimidating for a new member of the Elementary Studio. It's things like this that we hope to prepare them for the best we can.
What we are trying to cultivate is excitement and motivation about what’s to come, but also learn to have joy with where you are at. We had a powerful launch this morning as a whole school. Lance sang one of my favorite songs from growing up, Landslide, on the guitar. We talked about how we have built our lives around each other over the last few years at Aim Academy, and that change is the hardest when it involves those that we love. At the same time it provides an opportunity to grow and stretch even more on our Hero's Journey.
Today the Sparks took on a difficult challenge of their own, and humbled me with their well thought out plan. We have not introduced an accountability system to the Sparks, other than the studio contract they all agreed too and signed. The kind reminders to adhere to the contract have proven inadequate as we get deeper into the school year. Some of the Sparks were really struggling with this today, and getting frustrated with their fellow travelers who weren't listening to their pleas to follow the contract rule of not distracting themselves or others. We called an emergency meeting where a plan unfolded quickly. They came up with this idea all on their own, and voted on it unanimously as a tribe. These little geniuses decided to start each week with 5 gold coins. If they break a contract rule, and are held accountable by a fellow traveler, they have to give up one of their gold coins. If they feel they were wronged, they can choose to take the issue to committee. The committee is made up of three members who will listen to both sides of the story and decide if a coin should be given up. If they have at least 3 coins by the end of the week they get to visit the treasure box. So, if any of you have great ideas of what to fill the treasure box with to motivate your children, send those ideas my way!!!
I could go on and on about how incredible these Heroes are. I remind them often that the Spark studio is the best studio in the school! I am a bit biased, but I do adore each of these children and all that they bring to the table. Hopefully my next email will not be this long, but when you work with amazing children, you get amazing results that need to be shared! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!