Session 2 – Week 1

“Follow your bliss.

If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

– Joseph Campbell

The Hero’s Journey, a central theme at THA and also inspired by Joseph Campbell, is a journey that every THA Warrior embarks on in order to follow his/her bliss: to find a calling and change the world.  Through inspiring launches, thought-provoking Socratic discussions, self-directed Core Skills, daily SMART goal-setting, meticulous Studio Maintenance, mind-blowing Quests, and a holistic curriculum, the hope is that our Warriors are inspired to follow their bliss: to discover their passion and serve the society in a meaningful way.

It was great to have the Warriors back in action this week! Our launches included but were not limited to – revisiting their sacred contract, reviewing survey feedback from the exhibition, discussing empathy and how it applies to interactions in the studio, conducting a Socratic discussion on seniority vs. effort and a Socratic discussion on our quality of the session: humility, launching our new quest for the session, town hall, and character-call-outs!

This session Warriors embarked on an Entrepreneurship Quest! As they dive into the basics of motivation, markets, identity, hiring, and competition, each Warrior has been challenged to create his/her own company, with zero involvement from any adults, especially parents (aside from providing transportation or an initial investment which must be paid back!). The quest will not only generate a deeper understanding of entrepreneurship, but it will plant seeds of responsibility, service, applied mathematics, and self-awareness. The E-Ship quest will culminate in a Children’s Business Fair on November 18th!

Warriors are pumped up and ready to go!

Entrepreneurship Quest Map:

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Session 1 – Week 6 (End of Session)

In a school that rejects traditional standards of measuring progress: grades, report cards, GPAs, standardized test scores, etc. the Exhibitions play a tremendous role in demonstrating learning at THA.  Throughout the year, Warriors are challenged to plan and lead exhibitions at the end of each quest (usually every six weeks). The goal is to present their learning to the community in a unique and engaging way.

Last Friday our Warriors hosted their first exhibition of the year. It was an attempt to show parents the various aspects of their day-to-day lives and give a tour of the studio. They had a greeting committee, refreshments, gave personal tours, showed videos of their Power of Water quests, facilitated a Socratic discussion, and participated in a question and answer panel for the parents. It was quite an amazing experience.

But from a guide perspective, the most amazing part had nothing to do with the actual exhibition. A week before the exhibition, Warriors were challenged to plan their very first exhibition of the year – “The world is coming to your studio in week, and you have two hours to show them the amazing things you are doing. How will you spend those two hours? What will you show them?”

The guides stepped back and let Warriors take the lead. Seeing them come up with ideas, watching those ideas turn into a concrete schedule of events, witnessing them divide themselves into teams, seeing various Warriors volunteer to coordinate things for their teams, watching them create their own pamphlets and researching how to conduct a Socratic discussion, and finally, witnessing them rehearse the exhibition… it was magical.

Not everything was perfect – at times the discussion and panel felt long, the videos were hard to hear and see at times, they weren’t always speaking kindly amongst one another, etc. and we encourage parents to share their feedback so Warriors can continue to improve. But the most amazing thing was that, aside from a little shopping for refreshments, and some AV assistance – uploading videos to youtube and setting up the projector, the work was entirely their own. It is truly amazing what our Warriors are capable of!

Other pictures from the week! Enjoy!

Session 1 – Week 5

One of the distinguishing aspects of true human life is upholding our commitments. Through friendship, marriage, parenthood, family, profession, and in the spiritual realms of our lives, we all strive to uphold commitments. We know it is not always easy but this struggle makes life meaningful.

At THA, an essential question on every Warrior’s Hero’s Journey is: “What commitments must be made and kept?” Through the Signing Ceremony this week, our Warriors gained experience first hand of the importance of making to commitments to one another. They finalized and signed their Student Contract: a list of promises created by themselves of how they will conduct themselves upon entering the doors of their studio.

They also finalized and signed their Rules of Engagement for Socratic Discussions, which includes promises to: arrive on time and be prepared, be clear and concise, build on previous points, listen carefully with my whole body, with respect, etc. The Montessori Warriors (ages 5-6) also finalized and signed their Montessori Studio Contract.

In an environment that puts the responsibility of their education in their own hands, the contract is an essential step in solidifying their commitment to one another and to the studio.

They spent a lot of time in these past five weeks debating and delineating what would be the best promises to have on their final contract. Here they are:

THA Student Contract 2017-2018

I PROMISE TO: 

Accept challenges

Advance on my hero’s journey

Take responsibility for my own education

Be on time

Be neat and organized

Win with grace and lose with honor

Treat studio supplies, materials, and furniture respectfully

Not hurt anyone physically or verbally

Work hard, always give my 110% and never give up

Pay attention when someone is talking to the group

Respect others, their thoughts, differences, and beliefs

Treat people the way I want to be treated

Resolve problems with the friend I am having issues with instead of talking about that friend with others

Speak only with kindness, encouragement, and truth

Treat the studio like a sacred space

Never accept snarkiness, poor sportsmanship, or any kind of bullying

Not gossip about people, or yell at people

Uphold my duties and responsibilities

Be fair, helpful, loyal, and trustworthy

Each day at THA brings various incidents of diligence, courage, perseverance, kindness, friendship, inquiry, and love. Our Warriors continued their “Why Sanskrit” Quest, researching the depths of this unparalleled language and working on drafts that we plan to use on the school’s website. They continued creating amazing artwork, participating in intense warm ups and their kickball unit in PE, pursuing flow and mastery in Core Skills, and diving deeper into their Power of Water Quest.

Launches this week included discussions on The Question of the Year, The Quality of the Session, Seeds of Potential (using different types of apples to show how we may all be different on the outside, but inside we are stars – when apples are cut horizontally), and introducing 360 reviews – an anonymous feedback loop in which Warriors give 2 stars and 1 wish to one another. The Town Hall discussing was very intense as they discussed a potential breach of trust in the studio.

One of the biggest highlights this week was an email from the President of the Irving Healthcare Foundation that we shared with the Warriors during Friday’s Character Call Outs. It is extremely refreshing to see Warriors engaged in meaningful work that is really making a difference in the world:

Hello, Mr. Shah.

Among all the relief supplies our organization collected for Hurricane Harvey relief, I found the boxes created by your students to be the most touching. The notes and items chosen by children for children were (to me) among the most special. As a point of stewardship, I wanted to let you know that the supplies were sent to the distribution center that provided goods to the evacuees who sheltered here in Irving.

I did not want to let another week pass without thanking you most sincerely. I hope you and your brother, your families, and the entire team at your Academy are blessed tenfold for your great kindness and compassion.

 

With great regard,

John

 

John Drake, CFRE

President

Irving Healthcare Foundation

 

Enjoy the pictures from the week!

Session 1 – Week 4

“Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”

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THA Warriors engage in multiple Socratic Discussions throughout the week in order to develop clarity in their thoughts and their decision-making. Every morning launch includes meditation and a Socratic Discussion related to either an inspiring Hero’s Journey, the Question of the Year, a Current Event, Studio Life, or the Quality of the Session. Socratic questions, (real life questions with no right or wrong answer) are placed in front of our Warriors and they are forced to make a choice. For example, as we discussed stories of courage, resilience, and compassion regarding 9-11, Warriors were asked, “Would you run towards danger and risk your own life to possibly save another? Or would you make sure that at least you were safe and you could get back home to your family?” Our Warriors listen to one another, agree, disagree, and gain deeper insights on life-related situations. As they develop clarity in their thoughts, they slowly but surely shape their destiny. 

This week in pictures…

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On Monday, Warriors and Guides signed their Guide-Hero Contract: Guides made several promises including giving their best effort towards being Socratic and never answering questions. Hero’s committed to things like working hard and making courageous choices.

 

This week Montessori and Elementary Warriors conducted several experiments exploring the power of water. They were able to experience firsthand things like adhesion, cohesion, capillary action, surface tension, etc. 

 

THA Warriors spend about 2-2.5 hours a day on Core Skills…

 

 

THA Warriors played a team-building game called “Evolution” and worked on their Rock-Paper-Scissor skills in tournament fashion. Rock-Paper-Scissors is used often to settle minor disputes in the Studio. 

 

Studio Maintenance… 

 

Warriors continued the pursuit of excellence, their Hero’s Journey, and the holistic development of their character through Art, PE, Free Time, and After-School Activities throughout the week.

 

 

Session 1 – Week 3!

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

― Horace Mann

“They alone live, who live for others.”

– Swami Vivekananda

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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THA Warriors Preparing Kits for displaced children and families in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. They also wrote letters of empathy and encouragement that were included in each box. 

This week at THA…

On Tuesday, amidst a typical, jam-packed schedule (including Meditation, Morning Launch, Socratic Discussions, PE, Core Skills, Quest, Studio Maintenance, Closing Group, etc.), our Warriors took out some time to prepare kits for our fellow friends in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. They thought deeply about how it would feel to be in the shoes of one of the 30,000+ people stuck in a shelter, and what would make them feel better. Then over the weekend they put some of those very things in boxes, and individually wrote letters of empathy and support. Their excitement to do something meaningful and help those in need, no matter how small the gesture, was quite amazing to see. There was certainly a buzz in the air as they finalized their care packages.

Additionally on Tuesday, our Warriors were excited to finally start implementing our highly anticipated Integrity Points system. Now, finally, they can hold one another accountable when the integrity of their conduct and the Studio environment is at stake. In short, an integrity point is earned through focused and diligent work, the equivalent of about 3-4 hours of working on something with integrity. A Warrior may lose an integrity point if they break any of their promises on the Studio Contract – “I promise to speak only with kindness, encouragement and truth… I promise to treat the studio like a sacred space…”

The Socratic Discussions this week included engaging discussions on integrity, finding flow, and DACA. One Wednesday, Warriors dug deeper into the depth of the Sanskrit language through the process of inquiry: each group was assigned a question about the significance of the language and challenged to present their researched answers to the group. They also worked on positives and negatives in Art as they created some impressive artwork. One of the biggest highlights was the start of Civilization! Warriors were captivated by the presentation on Maria Montessori’s first great lesson, which provides a context to all learning, language, math, science, history, etc.

We also had our first Warrior’s Tournament and School Store this Friday.  Just about every day during closing group our Warriors deliberated on the Provisional Contract, suggested edits and new promises that would enhance the studio environment. During quest, many of our Warriors started their third challenge and began experimenting with the various properties of water.

Looking forward to another engaging, challenging, and fun week at THA!

Enjoy these snapshots of our Warriors in action!

 

Session 1 – Week 2!

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“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”  – William Shakespeare

Among the many highlights from the week, the most outstanding perhaps was when our Warriors experienced the power of nature firsthand as they hiked, skipped stones in the water, meditated, and wrote in their journals near Lake Grapevine on Wednesday. The trip was an extension of their “Power of Water” mini-quest for our Elementary and Montessori Warriors, but it was also just a day to connect with nature. In the hustle and bustle our day to day lives, this experience reminded us of the tremendous joy we can feel just by merely immersing ourselves in nature and appreciating her beauty and serenity firsthand.

Week two was full of other powerful experiences for our warriors, both favorable and unfavorable. We began Core Skills this week: Warriors take about 10-15 minutes each day to set their own Core Skills Goals and then get right to work. Montessori Warriors watch powerful presentations of materials before using the materials themselves, while Elementary and Middle School Warriors work silently on Math, Reading, Writing, Spelling, etc. before collaborating and teaching one another.

We also started a mini-quest for Montessori and Elementary Warriors, “The Power of Water,” while the Middle Schoolers worked on their MS Onboarding Quest.

Other highlights from the week include starting our study of the Sanskrit Language! Warriors were given a very captivating and curiosity sparking introduction to one of the world’s oldest and richest languages. They were challenged to think deeper about the significance of studying Sanskrit. Then they watched stimulating videos of students at St. James Independent School studying Sanskrit, and explaining their understanding and affinity for the language.

Our morning launches have been mind-blowing! Warriors were deeply inspired by the boy with with no arms, Richie Parker, who was able to learn how to feed himself, ride a bike, drive a car, and is now at the top of his field, working as an engineer for Hendrick Motorsports. Following the video we conducted a Socratic discussion by asking, “If you were in a tough situation like Richie, would you rather have people help you get through it so it is easier on you, or would you rather struggle and try to do everything on your own?”

Through a current events launch on Thursday, we took some time out to remember the thousands of lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. Our Warriors decided they wanted to do something to help and will each be preparing a box of things that will be helpful for those who have been displaced.

After watching a spiderman clip on Tuesday where Peter Parker is reminded by Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” our Warriors were introduced to Integrity Points and Freedom Levels at THA. We talked about how freedom and responsibility come hand in hand, and how through hard work and moral fortitude they can earn more and more freedoms in the studio (e.g. they can go from Apprentice Warriors, to Training, to Battling, to Leading).

This week we also continued our dive into the sacred Studio Covenant making process  by voting and experimenting on different promises for their final contract.  One of the biggest challenges this week was holding themselves and each other accountable to the promises in their Provisional Contract. They are often getting restless and frustrated with one another and are very eager to start the integrity points system to ensure more accountability. It is awesome to see the hunger for accountability and yearning for a system to address conflict come from the students themselves. Here’s an account from one of our Warriors during Reflective Writing on Friday:

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Looking forward to another amazing week! Hope you enjoy the photos!

“With great power, comes great responsibility…” – Uncle Ben

 

Session 1 – Week 1 – Building the Tribe Quest!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

This past Monday, each one of our Warriors took that first step and embarked on their Hero’s Journey. As they began their Building the Tribe quest for this session, our Warriors spent the entire week engaged in various activities including riveting launches, stupefying Socratic discussions, thrilling team building activities, contemplative meditation, reflective writing, etc.

After a few minutes of morning meditation, our Warriors contemplated what life would be like 20 years from now. They closed their eyes and listened to the following narration:

Imagine this… It is the year 2036, everyone here is 20 years more experienced… Atharva, Darian, and Arjun are working in the research and development department for Google, Yatharth, Aryan, and Nishchay are aeronautical engineers designing fuel efficient airplanes for Southwest Airlines, Vishvam, Pranav, and Emerick have designed a famous city built entirely out of legos! On an archaeological expedition, Arjavi just discovered the fossils of a new species! Tej is running for Mayor of Dallas while his sister Ananya has combined her love of engineering and medicine to become a world renowned orthopedic surgeon. Amani, Divija, and Anya are successful, award winning journalists, and Rudri, Rushija, Janak have all made the Forbes top 10 list for the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Pruthviraj and Rishi have both become the top lawyers in Dallas, using their knowledge of the law to help those in need. Iris, Siya, and Megha have all sold over a million copies of their award winning books, and Nirmal and Soham just had their contracts extended as professional basketball players for the Dallas Mavericks.

Of course this scenario may or may not happen … but the exciting thing is that your future is up to you. Each of you is a hero. Each of you is destined to change the world. This journey will not always be easy, though. There will be times of joy, fun, and success, but you will also face many challenges, moments when you don’t know what to do. You will discover new things about yourself and about your fellow travelers. You will create new ideas and you will debate the truth. In our search for purpose and direction in life, every year at The Humanist Academy we explore a Question of the Year. This is something we will explore all together through quests, discussions, civilization, art, and through your everyday experiences. We try to develop a deeper understanding and perspective on the question. This year’s QOTY is: What does it mean to be powerful? Is it having money, intelligence, status, or relationships? Each year we will have a new overarching question, one that forces us to dig deeply into many aspects of life to find the answer.

The ensuing discussion with our Warriors was captivating as they deliberated with their initial thoughts on the Question.

This week was packed with various thought-provoking discussions and tribe-building activities that helped establish a framework of concepts as a foundation for the entire year. We went on trust walks, created a provisional studio contract, watched the total solar eclipse through NASA’s website, upheld our Studio Maintenance responsibilities daily, conducted town hall meetings, played outside, and engaged in various team building challenges. Some of the most important things we discussed include the Hero’s Journey,  our quality of the session (curiosity), the importance of feedback and multiple prototypes to achieve excellence (through this powerful video called Austin’s Butterfly), having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset, the challenge donut, and appreciating the good things others do through character call outs. In addition to DEAR and reflective writing, we also “buried” our fears outside after placing them in a time capsule.

The biggest challenge our Warriors faced this week was certainly the Lip Dub.  They had to come together to create their very own lip-singing music video and every Warrior needed to be involved. After a lot of set backs, frustration, and even tears, they were able to come together and produce this amazing and unforgettable video. Can’t wait for another exciting week at THA to start!

Enjoy these snapshots from the week! Don’t forget to watch some videos from our launches this week. See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

Boot Camp 2017!

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Thanks to all parents for putting your faith in us and sending your heroes to boot camp this week. Our warriors had such a blast!
Our launches this week included Socratic discussions on learning and the purpose of school, teamwork and collaboration, a pep talk video about what it means to be a hero, communication, and facing challenges. Our warriors participated various team building adventures throughout the week, while also engaging in daily Core Skills, whether it was math, reading, or reflective writing. Most of them expressed that their favorite part of Boot Camp was quest time, where they worked on the Studio Design Quest.
They spent about an hour each day working in small teams to enhance a certain aspect of our studio: the library, the entry, the supply room, the activity room, the main studio, the Montessori room, etc. They collaborated, brainstormed, took inventory, calculated costs, met with interior design experts and thought deeper about concepts like functionality, lighting, and aesthetics. Then they created proposals for our THA Board of Directors, which were videotaped while they presented in front of their fellow travelers this week.
On Friday, after meditation they participated in their weekly town hall meeting, discussed the powerful words of Frederick Douglas (“Without struggle there can be no progress), engaged in team building activities, participated in reflective writing about their highlights, struggles and lessons learned from the week, set up the studio based on their proposals, and ended the week with “Character Call Outs” and a yummy special snack!
Boot camp served as a reminder to us all of how much fun learning can be, especially when the warriors are in charge of their own learning. More than anything, this boot camp reminded all of us of how amazing and welcoming our community of warriors is. Not only are the bonds extremely strong between our warriors, but are newest warriors were able to jump right in and quickly become an integral part of our THA family!  We’re so excited to see the whole tribe together in a few weeks!