Year 2 Session 4 (1/22/22)

Hey everyone,
Yesterday marked the official halfway point of this year! Can you believe it?? 
Some of you may have noticed the frequency of the weekly roundups has been somewhat inconsistent of late. This is in large part due to the fact that the tribe as a whole has really settled into an even flow! They have worked out so many of the kinks associated with being a self-governing civil society, and the hard work is now paying dividends. And as the email updates are designed to share the story of the tribe, it has been harder to do so. For this reason, I actually plan on shifting from weekly roundups to blog posts on the website that are posted a little more ad hoc as the school has stories that just have to be shared. I think this will also serve as a very valuable tool for prospective families who will be able to read through the development of the school to get a better idea of what it means to be a parent of a hero on a journey :) I will keep everyone posted on when this change happens. 
Now the tribe settling into a steady flow isn't to say that the struggles are gone--far from it in fact with a model like this. They just seem to be shifting to a more individualized nature. The eagle's personal hero's journeys, with all of their ups and downs, are now becoming a major focus of our learners, and subsequently much of the focus of the guides.
With this in mind, and with hitting our halfway mark of the year, we would like to invite any parent who would like to meet with the guides to discuss their learners progress to sign up to come after school sometime over the next two weeks. I will be sending out the signup sheet Monday.
A few other items I would mention--first is a restructuring of the studios. We have noticed an opportunity to improve the differentiation of our quests by age and believe that this restructuring change will dramatically help us accomplish this. Going forward, the Spark studio now encompasses levels K, 1 and 2. ES has levels 3, 4, and 5. MS has 6, 7, and 8. And Launchpad will have 9, 10, 11, and 12. This change was made this week and has already proven to be a positive one several times over. The ES also now has its own Council and will work to solve even more of its problems on its own.
With this change, I would also like to say a word about the mastery component of our model. When I taught in failing schools in Chicago and Jacksonville, the problems of pushing kids through the system regardless of progress were highlighted stronger than in most traditional schools. When I was teaching middle school there were kids in my class ranging from performing on grade level to literally kindergarten. That type of problem will never exist at Aim. So, with this change, we are emphasizing more than ever the personal nature of each of our learner’s journeys, and essentially abolishing levels entirely. If you look at your children’s badge plans in Journey Tracker, you will no longer find any reference to level. Instead, all eagles within a specific studio are now simply fellow travelers sharing a season of their hero's journey together and working towards their next goals. In place of the levels in Journey Trader, you will now see the entire compilation of badges they need to earn to cross the Threshold into the next studio. 
The beautiful thing about mastery is it leverages all of the benefits of self-paced learning. It also means that at times it may be a slower process for some. I personally am bothered by this 0% for a lot of reasons I'd be happy to detail for anyone interested :) The eagles have without a doubt been motivated by these changes. The new and improved Thresholds will now also provide even better transparency into progress for us as parents as we periodically check in with our eagles (We are even applying this concept of Thresholds for Sparks to enter the ES studio and are finalizing the details now). It will also perhaps serve as a gut check from time to time when an eagle isn't ready to cross the Threshold into the next studio "on time". Does that mean this isn't the right model at that point? Or is it just an opportunity to learn even more life lessons and overcome another challenge? I will let each of you answer this question if/when the time ever comes. 
The second item I wanted to mention is the change we have made to Spark Quests. As I am sure most of you have undoubtedly heard from your eagles at this point, they are deeply engaged with an exploration and play based Quest. One area of weakness that I have put a lot of energy into solving for the upper studios is that there is often still a struggle to think outside of the box. They will sometimes hit a roadblock in their first way of attempting to solve a problem and get stuck instead of seeing many of the other ways the challenge could be approached. This is not surprising given how new this model is for everyone, and the eagles are assuredly getting better at this, but it is one area we would like to see improvement in as guides.
The shift to explorative play-based quests for the sparks was implemented precisely to counter this and help create an even better foundation for our youngest learners now, so they won't have the same struggles when they reach the ES, MS, and LP. And the results of this change have already been remarkable. In this Quest it is virtually impossible for them to develop any habits of thinking inside the box, because there are no boundaries! They are thinking and playing without limits! Some of the benefits we have already witnessed from this change include: creative thinking developed through generating new ideas, seeking alternative approaches, using imagination, goal setting, planning and executing ideas, applying prior knowledge, building upon other's ideas, self-regulation, being empathetic, experimenting and testing hypothesis, processing new information, evaluating and reflecting, being strategic and systematic, and a host of interpersonal social benefits such as working in teams, listening to others, building and managing relationships, being accountable, resolving conflict, taking turns and sharing materials, accepting responsivity, and learning how to be even more respectful. We are excited to continue building upon this new development in the Spark studio with some incredible new supplies we have ordered that should be arriving soon.
As always, thanks for being part of this amazing community. For this point in the year, we have had something like quadruple the applications for the 2022-2023 school year as we had for this school year, yet interestingly enough, most have not proven to be the right fit. So if you have friends who could be a great fit for Aim, please send them my way!

Hi, I'm Lance Stewart.

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

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