Session 5 – Week 1 Survivor Quest!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore, not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

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THA Warriors are constantly striving for “excellent work” in the studio. Upon completion of a deliverable, whether it is a book review, a journal entry,  a quest challenge, or Writer’s Workshop submission, etc. Warriors are challenged to strive for excellence by asking themselves the following questions:

1) Is this my BEST work?

2) Is this better than the first time around?

3) How does this compare to a world-class example?

4) Is it ready for public exhibition?

The hope is that excellence goes beyond an arbitrary score or letter grade, but reflects in each Warrior’s own habits and character.

Warriors had a great week back after their return from break! Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Morning Launches:  As always, Warriors engaged in several thought-provoking Socratic discussions: would you rather have a more fun or more productive break? Does competition bring out the best in you or the worst in you? What is the best part of being at THA, is it what you get to do or who you get to do it with?
  2. Quality of the Session: This session Warriors will focus on “courage” as their quality. They will hear inspirational stories of courage during morning launches and discuss it’s application to their lives. E.g. this past Wednesday, Warriors heard some brief highlights of the courageous students from Parkland, Florida trying to inspire change after such a horrible tragedy at their school.
  3. Writer’s Workshop: This session, Warriors will venture into playwriting, as they build on their biographies from last session and their question of the year (What does it mean to be powerful?). They will choose an inspiring incident from their historical figure’s life that displays the power of character and transform it into a play. Can’t wait to see what they come up with!
  4. Survivor Quest: This was certainly one of the biggest highlights of the week (see quest map below). This week Warriors learned about foraging, edible insects, the nutritional value of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit as they created their own trail mix, making their own traps, and tying and untying different types of knots. They even tasted some roses, mint, and cilantro! Warriors are excited to host their camping trip exhibition at the end of the session!
  5. Other highlights include – Core Skills diligence, badge planning, 360 reflections, Yoga and Music class after school, weaving in Art, indoor PE, Warriors Tournament, team building, and so much more! Can’t wait for another amazing week at THA!

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Session 4 – Energy Quest Exhibition!

“Because children are far more capable than we’ve ever imagined…”

– Laura Sandefer

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In a school without grades, report cards, and teachers, the exhibitions play an essential role as one form of learning assessment. Not only that, but they make the learning relevant and life-oriented, because they encourage Warriors to learn in a way that they can share with the community.

After spending 4-weeks of hands on energy research and experiments: including starting their own fires, studying the density and different types of fuel, learning the scientific method, claiming and refuting theories about what exactly is fire, conducting experiments to understand fire, using fire as a source of thermal energy to create linear motion, then using linear motion to create rotational motion by building pistons and turbines out of recycled materials, using kids to create turbines that generate electricity, building their own solar powered cars, etc., the THA Warriors spent the last two weeks of the session creating designs for their very own “Car of the Future.” They began with meticulous research regarding different types of engines: internal combustions vs. electric, those that run on gasoline, vs. diesel, vs. solar energy, vs H fuel. They also evaluated the cost for the parts and labor for manufacturing the car. Then they created designs of the interior, exterior, and engine of their future car, which would be part of their displays during the exhibition, and also determined a marketable price for the car, after researching all of the specific costs to manufacture a car.

One of the unique and fundamental aspects of every exhibition is that they are led entirely by the Warriors, from start to finish, and everything in between. Parents are asked only to attend, but to share honest, meaningful feedback with Warriors regarding the exhibition. Warriors review this feedback and reflect upon it in order to grow and improve every time. THA is a safe and friendly environment, which embraces failure and mistakes as a powerful experience to reflect and grow upon, and rather than having an adult intervene. It is a far more meaningful experience for the Warriors to lead and execute on everything themselves, even if things turn out horrible.

This session the Montessori Warriors created small presentations on different types of energy, while the Elementary and Middle School Warriors displayed and presented their Cars of the Future.  The last week of the session is usually hectic as Warriors scramble to put together an exhibition, complete their Writer’s Workshop deliverable for the session (usually includes three different drafts of their work), and manage their integrity points, among other pertinent responsibilities. While this week can get pretty overwhelming, our Warriors usually rise to the occasion, and captivate their audiences with their amazing exhibitions. When they don’t, it makes for a great learning experience!

Hope you enjoy these pictures from the week!

Also, feel free to check out this Facebook Live video of our latest Open House. Our Warriors (ages 6-12) ran an amazing Q & A panel for prospective parents.

 

Session 4 – Week 5

“Those who have a ‘WHY’ to live, can bear almost any ‘HOW.’”

Renowned Psychiatrist, Neurologist, and Holocaust Survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl (also attributed to Nietzsche)

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This week’s riveting launches and Socratic discussions featured a challenge to Warriors to think deeper about what it means to “find a calling,”which is the underlying vision of THA and Acton Academy.

On Monday, they evaluated and analyzed the powerful quote (above) by Dr. Frankl in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. On Wednesday, Warriors continued the discussion after watching this TED Talk by film producer and Yale graduate Adam Leipzig on finding a purpose in life. After attending a 25 year reunion at Yale, Mr. Leipzig discovered that about 80 percent of his classmates, despite experiencing material and professional prosperity, were unhappy and lacked direction. He goes on to provide a unique exercise to help his audience discover their life’s purpose.

Earlier in the week, Warriors also engaged in a “Studio Life” launch about the studio contract, relationships, and accountability. They were challenged with questions like, “Should I be courageous or tolerant? Should I just tolerate when someone breaks the contract instead of asking them for an Integrity Point because I value my relationship, or should be courageous and hold that person accountable because it affects the studio at large?… Should I avoid conflict and just let things go, or stir it up because it may be the right thing to do?… What is more important: my happiness or the studio environment?”

On Thursday morning, after a 4 minute clip that highlighted the State of the Union, Warriors were placed in the shoes of the POTUS and challenged to argue the most critical issue our nation is facing: jobs, the economy, immigration, healthcare, defense, energy, etc.

In addition to the usual Core Skills, Civilization, PE, Art, Town Hall, Closing Group, “On Camera after school activity, Character Call Outs, and Writer’s Workshop activities and challenges, Warriors started exhibition planning this week.  The Elementary and Middle School Warriors finalized their extensive engine research and began working on their designs for their cars of the future. Montessori Warriors also worked on their presentation boards as they formed teams, drew pictures, and thought of different ways to express their discoveries throughout the energy quest. It was awesome watching them start planning the exhibition all on their own, with no guide input.

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One of the biggest highlights this week was “Meet the Expert” where Warriors met a local hero who knows how to build car engines! Not only did they love hearing about his hero’s journey, but they blown away when they were able to hold actual engine parts and see hands on how pistons, crankshafts, cylinders, and connecting rods can turn linear motion into rotational motion, things that they experimented on earlier.

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Can’t wait to see what they come up with for the Energy Exhibition! See you next week!

Session 4 – Week 4

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After watching this incredibly inspiring video on Mark Sertich, a 95-year-young hockey player, Warriors discussed what it meant to cultivate and embody this Warrior Spirit in their own lives.  Mark’s resilience, passion, and discipline at the age of 95 is truly remarkable.  With the promise of “never giving up” and “always giving my 110%” embedded into their Studio Contract, with launches on real-life, inspiring heroes whose decisions and actions display a departure from status quo,  and with constant reflective dialogue on embracing struggle as a necessary step toward progress, e.g. on our Comfort vs. Challenge vs. Panic Zones, our Warriors work hard to cultivate the Warrior Spirit that Mark Sertich embodies. With the unparalleled freedom and trust granted by this innovative educational model, comes the burden of responsibility, often overwhelming. Warriors face very real challenges every day at THA, and more often than not, they step up to those challenges with honor, dignity, and grace. When they don’t, these experiences become valuable life lessons to reflect upon and grow.

Additional launches this week included: the significance of a contract, sparked by this Cat in the Hat video clip and this Willy Wonka video clip, “The Sanskrit Effect,” a Socratic Discussion on this article by a neuroscientist Hartzell who introduces research on the effects of studying Sanskrit on the brain, and a Current Events Socratic Discussion on renewable energy, and whether national prosperity or global and environmental responsibility should be a priority for the leaders of a country. This particular launch connected well with our Energy Quest in which Warriors were challenged to explore and create their own turbines, pistons, and solar powered cars! Additional highlights include starting their first drafts on their Writer’s Workshop Biography Projects, amazing art work, developing their On Camera skills after school, free time, Warrior’s Tournament, DEAR, Reflective Writing, Town Hall, and the usually daily and weekly activities that the Warriors!

Session 4 – Week 3!

This week in pictures…

During Quest time, Montessori Warriors continued exploring magnetic energy and discovered the magnetic field while Elementary and Middle School Warriors explored different types of fuel – wood, coal, and oil, learned about density, and experimented with fire to understand how chemical energy can create linear motion!

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The launches this week were extremely stimulating and inspiring. After watching this talk on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by the Kid President on Tuesday, Warriors engaged in a Socratic discussing about three powerful quotes from Dr. King. On Wednesday, they discussed our Quality of the Session – Diligence, after being inspired by a video on Benjamin Franklin and learning about his 13 virtues and daily schedule. On Thursday, they dove deeper into our Question of the Year, “What does it mean to be powerful?” by thinking about: “Who is more powerful: one who holds power or one who makes others powerful? They also learned about Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics and his humble origins as “The Friar Who Grew Peas,” and discussed paraphrasing vs plagiarism.

One of the biggest highlights this week was the addition of two new Warriors to our studio and putting them on the hot seat!

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The Warriors are getting ready to conduct their daily meditation activity, as they work on their ability to concentrate, focus, and train their minds to achieve a state of flow, peace and joy. 

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Warriors conduct their weekly Town Hall meeting discussing ways to improve the studio including less screaminog during Warrior’s Tournaments, more winning with grace and losing with honor, proposing a system to keep the lunch room clean during snack, among other suggestions. 

Warriors enjoying art through bubbles and other fun and creative challenges.

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Warriors conducting the weekly freedom level ceremony as more and more Warriors are working diligently and leveling up! 

 

 

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Warrior’s Tournament champions for this week! 

Other highlights: PE, our Biography Writer’s Workshop, the “On Camera” after school workshop, Sanskrit challenges, engaged Core Skills, Reflective Writing, Studio Maintenance, Character Call Outs, and a whole lot of fun! Here are some more pictures from the week…

 

Session 4 – Week 2!

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

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– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  on August 28th, 1963 at the nation’s capital.

One of the distinguishing aspects of the THA model, aligning with Dr. King’s quote, is the emphasis on character. Through Socratic discussions, inspiring launches, character call-outs, self-governance, peer-to-peer learning, a multi-aged environment, integrity points, conflict-resolution, an unparalleled emphasis on honesty and trust within the tribe, and several other THA and Acton processes, character is not just a supplementary aspect of the curriculum, but rather the foundation.

This week the riveting launches included the following topics:

  1. Revisiting our Rules of Engagement and the Power of Discussion in the Studio – Are the Socratic discussions we have in the studio world-changing? Why or why not? How can we improve the culture of our discussions in the studio?
  2. Hero’s Journey Launch – discussing various aspects of Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey and how it relates to their lives.
  3. Quality of the Session: Diligence – Warriors discussed the meaning of the word diligence, watched this inspiring video, and engaged in the classic debate of hard work vs. talent, before discussing how being diligent could help them tackle the challenges they face everyday in the studio.
  4. Mentors, Hero’s and Victims – Warriors watched this captivating Ted Talk from Doug Stewart about how a mentor changed his life.  Then we discussed how to rise above being a victim and strive for being a hero, in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

Writer’s Workshop: Elementary and Middle School Warriors began their Writer’s Workshop project this week: They transformed into biographers on a mission to conduct as much research as possible about an influential personal  of their choice who has changed the world in a positive way, before they set off to compose a biography which we hope to add to our THA bookshelves! See WW Map below.

The Energy Quest is going great! Montessori Warriors explored the powers of magnetism and conducted related challenges (see Montessori Quest map below) while Elementary and Middle School Warriors constructed theories on “What exactly is Fire?” while learning about the Scientific Method and conducting experiments including electrolysis, creating rust, squeezing the juice out of an orange, and created edible molecules and chemical reactions. (I think they enjoyed eating the molecules the most! see below).

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Parent-Led After School Activity: One of the biggest highlights this week was also the start of the “On Camera Skills” After School Activity with Ms. Adelaide. Warriors engaged in fun ice-breakers and exercised to work on their acting and “On Camera” skills!

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Warrior’s also enjoyed their first Art class of the session,  the start of a football unit during PE, and the opportunity to refresh their Sanskrit. During Town Hall, they discussed a variety of studio wide challenges and improvements including what the new studio maintenance responsibilities will be with new Warriors joining our studio. Other highlights include but are not limited to: several Warriors completing Khan Academy for their level, earning badges, Taco Bell and moving up freedom levels!

Hope you enjoy the pictures from the week!

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Session 4 – Week 1

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“I honor Fire…bestower of unity and sacrifice (yajna)…”  – Rig Veda (1.1.1)

Despite a short week, Warriors were very excited to be back and jumped right back into the swing of things. It was amazing to see the studio come alive again after the holiday break.

Thursday’s morning launch focused on remembering their sacred Studio Contract – each Warrior was given a specific contract promise on a slip and challenged to explain or act out that promise using specific studio life examples. Then we revisited SMART Goals before diving into Core Skills for the next few hours. It was amazing to see how many Warriors were working on Core Skills over the break even though they are never assigned any homework! We had multiple Warriors either finish the entire Khan Academy mini-badge for their current level, or get past 90% in completion.

Middle School Warriors also conducted a mini-launch to revisit their badge system and evaluate their pacing. Guides will continue these discussions for each level in Week 2.  Questions they discussed: Am I on track to complete what I have set out for this year? What areas am I doing well in? What badge(s) do I need to focus more on as we start session 4?

Warriors enjoyed their free time outside playing football, soccer, and their own creative games as they spread across our awesome field.

In addition to DEAR, Town Hall, and team building activities, they really enjoyed civilization- a demonstration of Maria Montessori’s 3rd great lesson: the coming of humans!

Perhaps their biggest highlight, though, was Quest time. They have embarked on a journey as scientists to explore power and energy. We started this quest thinking about what we would need if we were stranded on an island with no technology. As various answers came parading through the discussion, a young warrior mentioned the importance of fire in order for her to stay warm. They went on thinking about how fire was an essential discovery to humanity and watched this history channel clip.  Warriors were challenged by various questions: is fire more of a destructive or constructive force? what are all the ways that fire helps us? why is fire so significant to humans? what qualities can we learn from fire? what does it take to start a fire? what from nature burns well? what doesn’t? why? (They conducted an experiment on Day two and actually started their own fires using sunlight and magnifying glasses.) They will continue exploring fire, fuel, linear motion, rotational motion, turbines vs. pistons, wind vs. solar power, and top everything off with their design of the car of the future! The quest map is below, followed by other pictures from the week. Can’t wait to see it all unfold! See you next week.

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Quest Map for ES and MS Warriors. Montessori Warriors will have a slightly modified but energy related quest.

 

Session 3 – Week 2!

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

– These famous and historic words were written by Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1776, as part of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Warriors began this week in the studio under the tyranny of King George. New proclamations and harsh taxes were imposed by his Royal Governors as the beloved studio had transformed into Colonial THA. The first four royal proclamations included: upon hearing the bell, patriots must line up in height order within two minutes, while loyalists could line up in any order within three minutes. When assembling, all colonists must say, “Hail to the King!” Also, loyalists may sit on chairs during assemblies, patriots would be fined 10% of an Integrity Point. While some loyalists were initially enjoying the partiality, the straws that broke the camel’s back were King George’s taxes. Everyone who ate lunch had to pay the 10% tax (of an integrity point) . Many Warriors, patriots and loyalists alike, decided to boycott and go on a hunger strike, despite a sudden new declaration that Loyalists would not be taxed the first day.  There was also a Pencil Tax – 10% of an IP for sharpening a pencil in the studio. Some Warriors smuggled mechanical pencils into the studio from home.

After four days of unfair proclamations, harsh taxes, and unlawful oppression, the colonists had enough. Starving, angry, and with all odds against them, the colonists united, loyalists and patriots, young and old, to draft and sign their own Declaration of Independence and revolt against King George. In order to revolt, according to the Colonial THA rules, all Warriors had to sign the document and then there would be a role of dice. In the same way that George Washington’s army had to defy almost impossible odds, Warriors had to role a one or two in order to win the revolution. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 meant the rebellion was defeated and harsher penalties and taxes would follow until the next role of the dice.

Click HERE to see how it all went down!

The reflective discussion that followed the end of Colonial THA was incredible. Warriors gained newfound respect, admiration, and appreciation of our founding fathers and the atrocities they faced that led to the birth of our great nation. They realized how they take many freedoms granted and how they are quick to divide themselves.

Colonial THA was just one of the many highlights this week! We had UN Speeches, a Holiday Party with our amazing THA Family, we had a Geo-Political Expert, an Immigration Lawyer share his Hero’s Journey and provide insight on our Quest, and so much more! Hope you enjoy this week in pictures…

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Mr. Dan, a successful and prominent immigration lawyer shares insight on his Hero’s Journey and sheds light on our Geo-Political Quest by answering various questions from our Warriors. 

 

This Thursday, Warriors transformed into UN Delegates that generated an awareness to various problems in the world like hunger, poverty, water scarcity, wastes, lack of support for refugees, etc. and proposed solutions at a UN Conference.

 

 

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Warriors dug deeper into their Strabo Geo-Political Quest, working on various geo-political challenges throughout the week. 

More Quest Time Pictures:

 

 

 

 

Core Skills…

 

Woodworking with Mr. Liam after school:

 

In order to establish a culture of Excellence, to foster a growth mindset and commitment to continuous improvement, Warriors are encouraged to gather feedback and continuous improve whatever they are working on. The THA culture pushes them to create multiple prototypes, written drafts, etc.  In this spirit, Warriors were challenged throughout the week to rehearse their UN Speeches and get feedback from their fellow travelers…

 

After their UN Speeches, we had an amazing holiday party with the wonderful THA family. We played a fun ice-breaker and ate delicious food prepared by all the THA parents.

 

Other highlights this week: Town Hall, Art, PE, and a new member of the THA Family! See you next week!

Session 3 – Week 1

Faith is seeing light with your heart, when all your eyes see is darkness…”

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In every session at THA Warriors focus on a Quality of the Session, a THA core value, a particular virtue that sets the foundation for living a truly human life. Warriors engage in Socratic discussions and questions are posed that dissect the meaning of the quality, apply the quality to their own lives and studio life, and provoke self-examination of the prevalence of that quality in their decision making.

In addition to our quality of the session, morning launches this week included:

  • Monday: reflecting on the E-ship quest last session, reaffirming our sacred Studio Contract as we start the new session, and welcoming a new Warrior to the tribe
  • Tuesday: As our Warriors navigate through the challenges of a self-governing environment and struggle to hold themselves and one another accountable to the high standards they have set for themselves, a continued Socratic discussion on forgiveness was very relevant and impactful: Is it more important to provide a sincere apology or to not repeat your mistake?  This powerful video on forgiveness  kickstarted the discussion.
  • Wednesday: a Socratic discussion on faith – upon reading and explaining the quotes on faith above, Warriors discussed: Is it more important to have faith in yourself or faith in something bigger? When is there a time in the studio that “all your eyes see is darkness?” How can you keep “faith” in those moments?
  • Thursday: a launch on following directions and whether or not it is better to stick to procedure or to divert out of curiosity or natural inclination.

More of this week through pictures:

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This week we began a challenging mini-quest: Colonial THA! The studio has now been transformed into an English Colony governed by King George through his Royal Governors (the guides). Warriors have been divided up randomly into Loyalists (remained loyal to the King) and Patriots (who are seeking to revolt). The King will be proposing various taxes and he is obviously partial towards the loyalists and harsh with patriots. Despite only one simple proclamation from the King thus far, the studio has become divided, friendships have been challenged, and emotions are heightened! Imagine what our Founding Fathers went through! This week will certainly be interesting as King George proposes more taxes and proclamations in order to subdue his colony. Will there be a revolution? We’ll have to wait and see!

This Sessions Quest is called The Strabo Geo-Political Quest. As Warriors dissect our Question of the Year (What does it mean to be powerful?) deeper, they will study what makes a country powerful through its geographical and political climate as they “backpack” their way through Paris, starting from Dallas (see quest map below)! This weeks challenges included understanding locations of countries and capitals – geography tests on various regions, understanding basic types of governments and performing skits to display understanding, etc.

Other awesome highlights of the week include: meeting experts including the founder of Inspiration Masters, a group that provides training for public speaking, playing capture the flag in PE, creating amazing snowflake art from used plastic bottles, digging deeper into the Sanskrit script and vocabulary, woodworking during our after school activity to create a picnic bench, diving into DEAR, progressing in Core Skills, earning Integrity Points, contemplating during Civilization, and so much more! Can’t wait for next week!

 

End of Session 2! – Children’s Business Fair!

 

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“The first principle of entrepreneurship is service. Never forget that you are serving others…” – David Lamberti (Founder of Lamberti’s Ristorante and THA Entrepreneurship Expert)

It feels redundant saying “What an amazing week!” at the start of every weekly blog. Yet week by week, day by day, and moment by moment, the amazement and wonder never ceases at THA and continues augmenting.

Week 6 of Session 2 was no exception. Not only did we have even more riveting Socratic discussions and Launches, but we topped everything off with the a Children’s Business Fair! Here are some of the discussion topics from the week:

1) The Significance of Veterans Day

2) Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule for greatness: https://youtu.be/XS5EsTc_-2Q

3) The Psychology of Saying Sorry – what is the key component of an apology: expressing remorse, claiming responsibility, or fixing the problem?

4) Why do so many millionaire athletes go broke? What will you do to ensure you spend your money wisely?  (Clip from ESPNs 30 for 30)

5) What will make your Entrepreneurship Quest a success: how much money you made, how many customers you made happy, what you learned through E-ship challenges?

Warriors were also stupefied by the personal accounts and insightful advice from entrepreneur experts Mr. David Lamberti and Mr. Ajay Panchal. Taking something and adding plus value to it, building a team of people centered around your vision, serving others, being resilient in the face of negativity and opposition but also humble in order to continuously improve, these were just a few of the powerful messages they shared.

In addition to working diligently on core skills, art, PE, Sanskrit, and Writer’s Workshop, Warriors gathered more feedback on their products, practices their business pitches, and worked on their booth set up for the fair. It was awesome watching them rehearsing and providing very specific and pertinent feedback for one another.

Some studio pictures from the week:

 

It’s impossible to capture all of the incredible moments here and put them succinctly into words, but there’s no doubt the highlight of the week was the culmination of the Entrepreneurship Quest: The Children’s Business Fair on Saturday.

We had 30 entrepreneurs from the ages 5-12 launched their own businesses on Saturday! Many of them sold out and many of them learned their first lessons in making money, giving back, saving, and relinquishing debt. The Children’s Business was an experience that transcends words. Not only were the products, services, and business displays beyond what we could have ever imagined, but also everyone who came – from our young entrepreneurs and their parents to friends and shoppers (about 300 people total in attendance) all had a great time.  These young, empowered heroes took the first step in their Hero’s Journey. They learned the basics of starting their own businesses and showed us that they are more capable than we can ever imagine. They gained real life experience in how they can actually find their calling and change the world, the goal of Acton and The Humanist Academy.

Here is a link to a Facebook live video from the fair (polished video of the fair coming soon).

In case you missed Mark Cuban’s video to our Warriors.

Please enjoy these awesome pictures from the fair!