Hello Aim Academy Families,
Today marks the halfway point of Session 4! Golly— it has gone by in a flash. The Eagles are in full “design” mode, as they have begun creating their games for the Exhibition. Speaking of which— please mark your calendars for the upcoming Exhibition on Thursday, February 11th. We have decided on having Thursday Exhibitions moving forward— as it will give the Eagles ample time for reflection and clean-up the following day.
On Tuesday, we began our abbreviated week by discussing why there was no school on Monday. We discussed the legacy of Dr. King— and the issues he advocated for. Was it fair for the law to require African Americans to give up their seat on the bus if a white person wanted it? Was it wrong for the government to separate black students from white students? What determines the value of a human being— the color of their skin, their values, their calling, just being human or something else? The Eagles resonantly disavowed the prejudice Dr. King fought against— while still grappling with the last question.
Our learner driven model of education creates numerous opportunities for deep learning each week. We understand that deep learning occurs more frequently when a young person chooses to engage and learn, rather than sit back and listen. One area where this truth becomes abundantly clear is Quest Time. Throughout Quest Time this week, the Eagles had several options to choose from— to begin designing their offline game for the Exhibition, continue coding their video game, collaborate with others in the teambuilding game design challenge or play and rate a new game in the Play Lab.
Ethan has consistently chosen, week after week, to create a multi-level, quest-based video game using Scratch and CSFirst. He spends nearly every minute of Quest Time pursuing this goal— only taking short breaks to pull another Eagle or Guide in to show them his progress. After three weeks— he is nearing the end of his 1st draft, at which time he will invite other Eagles to playtest and give him feedback. Throughout the design process, he has become increasingly familiarized with Computer Science terms such as “sprites” and “backdrops” as well as processes such as “broadcasting.” When another Eagle needs help with video game design— they immediately seek out Ethan who is usually more than willing to assist them.
This entire week, our youngest learner— Lucy— has chosen to begin creating her “offline” game for the Game Expo Exhibition. She has designed a long, maze-like course in which the player sends a marble or ball through a series of natural environments with the goal of hitting a target. If you were to play it she would warn you— both sides of each habitat is surrounded by water, so you should be careful in how you send off the marble if you want to win. No matter if the rest of the studio goes out in the backyard to take on a high energy physical game design challenge, or whether someone invites her to play a new game in the Play Lab, she has stayed focused on using every minute of Quest Time to design her game.
As a learner driven studio, we remain committed to never assign homework. In an environment where learning to learn is prioritized over learning to know— we do not see the value in sending home busy work to complete for the sake of completion. We view it as another relic of passive learning. Yet— the Eagles have been so excited about the Game Design Quest, that they brought forth a vote on Wednesday to decide whether they could bring their games home to work on them. They unanimously said yes! In both of our experiences teaching in traditional schools— we never witnessed a group of students rally around the idea of bringing work home with them. Yet this is no ordinary “school,” it is a studio. And these are no ordinary students, they are heroes.
Thursday saw the Aim Academy Eagles head back to Mr. Lance’s gym in Bluffdale for their 3rd week of tumbling! Mr. Vaughn challenged the Eagles to keep working on past tumbling exercises, while introducing new ones such as the “donkey jump” and “one-handed cartwheel.” One tumbling exercise that many Eagles continue to practice is the roundoff. After weeks of practice— Lucy passed off her roundoff back handspring! Following this big achievement, an eruption of applause and cheering was heard around the gym. A huge step forward in this young hero’s journey!
Upon arriving back in the studio, the Eagles completed their final mini-challenge for Movie Making— Directing. The Eagles discussed why this challenge was the last in the series— with the consensus answer being that the director has an impact on all the other areas of movie making (costume, acting, set design, etc…). They also watched a short interview with world-renowned director Steven Spielberg, in which he advised up-and-coming directors to study the beginning of the art— black and white movies. The Eagles discussed why he would recommend that, whether speech or body language communicates more to the audience and what the differences are between black and white films and today’s movies. Moving forward, Movie Making will be an option during Electives on Tuesdays!
Who is responsible for addressing issues in the studio? The Eagles, of course. As is tradition, Town Hall was held on Friday morning. Topics of discussion included people being too loud during Core Skills, people starting to microwave their food before lunch begins and the studio door being slammed. The Eagles continue to recognize the studio’s shortcomings in talking during Core Skills as they affirmed (again) that they will continue to ask for Eagle Bucks if someone is being too loud. The Eagles also decided to post a sign on the studio door that read “Please shut the door gently.”
Whether big or small, we will continue to trust the Eagles to address issues in the ways that they see fit. Sometimes the solutions may be effective, other times they may not be. The true value lies in the opportunity to make decisions that meaningfully impact themselves and each other. Learning to do the hard work of self-governance through trial and error. Learning to be a hero in holding fellow travelers accountable to shared promises. A culture grounded in shared responsibility rather than victimhood.
Mr. Lance and Mr. Daniel