Experiencing history is not easy…..is it worth it? (3/26/22)

It's been pretty amazing how our school has taken on a life of its own this session as it evolves in its feel and energy to match the events and challenges of the time periods we are learning about. It's been an exhausting and emotional roller coaster coming off of the unbelievable victory the eagles had in regaining their freedom. We are learning together that there are several varieties of sacrifice associated with the price of freedom. Courage to rebel. Patience, humility and wisdom to compromise. And love and determination to unite. The eagles had a hard lesson to learn about how the nigh unbearable excitement and jubilation that came from beating an oppressive common enemy is a once in a lifetime experience. Subsequently, the eagles had to adjust their expectations about what it meant and felt like to obtain a victory over diverse and wholly unique challenges. You might need to similarly adjust your expectations about the rest of this update...

After returning to the school removed of its tyrants, the eagles returned to a question that pervades much of our model at Aim. What will you do with freedom? The contract had been torn up. The tribe split apart (into Spark, ES, and MS/LP). Townhall, gone. It was a new blank page. Much like the early colonists. Surprisingly to many of the eagles, some of the hardest work lay ahead.

The next two weeks focused intensively on the historical time period of the writing of the Constitution, while the eagles simultaneously went about rebuilding their tribe. The eagles heavily debated their own founding documents. The ES set out almost immediately to resurrect many of the systems that had become familiar to them--with a few changes based on their newly acquired knowledge. The older students took the opportunity to reformulate almost everything about their tribe. Most of the old systems were thrown out and they began building their tribe from scratch.

Happening alongside this, was a mini quest within the quest. The eagles were participating in daily debates in a Constitutional Convention. The eagles were divided into states, who sent forth delegates to debate. Each of them was individually given secret slips of paper containing special policy assignments they were to attempt to get into the final version of the Constitution with EBs on the line. The catch was someone else was given the opposite assignment. If one eagle needed the president to have ultimate veto authority, another needed to stop it. To complicate matters further, if the delegate wasn't representing the other state members' interests well, that delegate would likely be voted out to be replaced by another eagle in the next session. Furthermore, there were EBs on the table for all of the eagles if they could get a document signed at all. The debates were often both hilarious (one girl debated passionately to exclude women from being able to vote in order to accomplish her secret assignment) and fierce (such as a multi-day argument over whether the president should get a salary). 

The whole exercise really drove home the miracle of the Constitution. WIth so many egos, opinions, and perspectives, the fact that the Founding Fathers were able to create a document that has lasted for hundreds of years, over incredible population growth, and unimaginable societal change, is stunning. The other takeaway was more personal. How do you know when to compromise? And when should you hold strong? I think many of the eagles are still figuring this piece out. Thankfully, with a model like this, they will be given ample opportunities to explore this reflective question in the future. 

On top of all of this, the economic game continued to progress. New rules are frequently added--testing strategy, endurance, and teamwork. Rather than highlight a few, perhaps you'd enjoy a look yourself at the living document that is updated almost daily. 

Ultimately, creating the studios' founding documents, and the mini quest's Constitution, proved to be more challenging than the eagles may have anticipated. The lack of an obvious villain to unite against certainly compounded the difficulty. The deadline came and went without the challenges being complete.

This led our school into this week where we moved forward in time several decades and began what I'm sure all of you have heard about at this point--the Civil War. This was not a war against a common enemy, nor a war of ideas and principles. This was a war against each other. 

We kicked off the week by asking the eagles to find a close friend that they could really trust...then told them to say goodbye to this eagle. They were not to communicate with this friend because they had just been assigned to the opposite side of the war. If either eagle in the pair caved and spoke with the other, that partnership would be eliminated from this challenge. The last pair standing would get to bypass any milestone on any badge of their choice. Some friend pairs were out before the end of the morning launch. I believe a few are still going. All have learned a great deal about friendship. 

The Civil War also meant that each tribe was being divided in two. There were daily battles between friends with physical challenges for the loser. There were forced battles within the game causing great casualties. The tribes were physically separated by whiteboards and walls. Several heavy concepts related to the Civil War naturally came up as the eagles dove into quest challenges in their independent learning this week too. Slavery, war, truth, death, God, friendship and more were discussed in launches as well. I am very grateful to have such a safe space to approach such sensitive topics. I have begun to realize there is a very tangible, if subtle, maturity that is developing within this group of young heroes. It's as if they are slowly stepping into the mantle of the mission of the school as they are beginning to gain a sense of understanding and purpose as it relates to finding their calling in life and changing the world. It really is unlike anything I have ever seen in a group of kids this age. 

The way to end the Civil War was simple in task, difficult in practice. The eagles were given a series of questions that they had to answer privately by themselves. Their answers were then tallied and if everyone within the tribe answered the same, they would prove their unity and the war would be over. 

Some examples of the types of questions used are in this document.

The division was killing them, but slowly, painfully, surely, the answers submitted began to be more and more united. But never unanimous. After each loss, the eagles debated everything from gaming the system and just choosing an answer alphabetically based on the first word of the multiple choice options, to pinpointing a moral/ethical framework they could all adopt, but unity still evaded them. It was at this point we tailored the challenge to the ES studio. Instead of being unanimous on a Dilemma Question, they needed to be unanimous in signing their founding docs they were still working on. On Friday, they got extremely close. It looked as if they would accomplish it, until the question came up of whether or not it was appropriate to listen to music on headphones (when the eagles had earned that freedom) if the songs contained swear words. The majority thought that wouldn't be treating the studio like a sacred space, but a small few saw it differently. We will see if the issue is resolved next week. 

In the MS/LP, as Friday drew to a close, the eagles were spent after attempting at least half a dozen Dilemma Questions. They knew they had enough time for one more. By a communication mishap, one eagle said their choice out loud. The rest of the tribe had to decide which type of victory they wanted. One by one, they were each given the chance to say their answer out loud this time instead of answering privately. They all gave the same response. Now it all came down to their fellow traveler who was sending in their responses via text since they were out that day. At this point, I gave them the option of informing this eagle of the response they all had submitted. I went as far as even typing out the message on my phone. All they had to do was push send. A rift immediately formed between those who wanted to send it, and some who didn't. A few eagles were literally fighting a tug-o-war over the phone. But the message was sent...

While waiting for the text message containing the absent eagle's response to come in, we held our weekly landing. I offered the eagles the choice to end the Civil War, even though the challenges we set for them hadn't been completed yet. Perhaps they had learned enough that it was time to move on to another time period. Perhaps it was time to turn the page and move forward. 100% of them voted against the proposition. They wanted to come back on Monday and continue fighting the fight. 

Shortly after, the text message they were waiting for came back. The answer was the same as everyone else's. The MS/LP's Civil War was over. They had wanted more than anything all week to get rid of the division...yet, not like this. There was no celebration. No dance party. No cheers or tears of joy. The room was somber. This didn't really feel like a victory... 

So...we move on to our last week of Session 5. Then, thankfully, to a much-needed break (two weeks!). Then back to battle finishing out this Quest throughout Session 6 where those of you who know history might have an idea of the challenges that lay ahead. 

Experiencing history is not easy...but is it worth it?

Lance Stewart

Hi, I'm Lance Stewart.

I'm the founder and Head of School at Aim Academy.

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