Survivor Quest – Week 4

“The Acton story is most surprising in that this power shift unleashes children to care so deeply about their learning that they choose to work hard, hold tight boundaries for each other, and rise to excellence in ways we never imagined. Self-imposed rigor is integral to our daily life…”  – Laura Sandefer, Courage To Grow


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It’s amazing to walk into the THA studio on a Monday morning during free time and see young heroes choosing to work (on identity maps, shelters, math, reading, etc.), instead of playing. Throughout this week, several Warriors chose to use their free-time in the morning and/or during lunch to work on their Quests and Core Skills. Despite not having any homework, several Warriors choose to work from home frequently, and as a result have mastered math and reading skills way beyond their respective grade-levels.


The Survivor Quest continued to put our Warriors into real world wilderness challenges. They really enjoyed learning some basics in first aid and put those skills to the test by diving into in simulations that tested their both their knowledge and decision-making in emergency situations.


This week’s launches included:

  1. Monday – a discussion on the Hero’s Journey, the role of fellow travelers, and the feeling of isolation. Warriors were asked about their relationships with one another and if they ever felt isolated in the studio despite having such an amazing group of fellow travelers. When you or someone feels isolated, is it because of their own insecurities or because the people are because exclusive or because you are dealing with your own insecurities?  How can we work as a studio to make sure we are not making one another feel left out? What can do if I am feeling left out?
  2. Tuesday – Warriors watched a video of an individual building a hut in the wilderness out of natural materials found in the wild before being asked: is it more powerful to be able to build a hut like this, teach someone to build a hut like this, or have the money to pay someone to build something like this? Warriors then talked about whether life is more desirable in the hustle and bustle of urban life or a more natural and peaceful setting.
  3. Wednesday – Warriors watched a few videos paying tribute to the life and contributions of Stephen Hawking. They learned about his courage and audacity to defy medical science, doctors, and experts and live over 50 years longer than predicted with such a horrible disease. They were asked what was more inspiring: his resilience in dealing with such a terrible disease, his renowned contributions to science, or something else about his Hero’s Journey.
  4. Thursday – Warriors discussed who is more powerful: nature or humans? They engaged in a very intriguing and insightful debate about power, influence, dependency, etc.

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In art, they put finishing touches on their life-size portraits, in PE they continued their soccer unit, and during Civilization, in addition to the readings and challenges about Alexander the Great and Ancient Greece, Warriors had a blast engaging in a Civilization related Socratic discussion facilitated by a Middle School Warrior. For Writer’s Workshop, their challenges this week included completing the first drafts of their scenes, conducting peer critiques, and evaluating the “Voice” of their work.

Can’t wait for more adventures next week as we draw nearer to the Camping Trip Exhibition!



Survivor Quest – Week 3

“Education must not simply teach work- it must teach LIFE.”  – W.E.B. Du Bois

Whether it is through inspirational launches about the courage of Irena Sendler who saved over 2000 Jewish children during the Holocaust, the audacity of our founding fathers to establish our nation against the strongest empire the world had ever scene, or the integrity of Gandhi who, as a teenager, confessed his lying and stealing to his father in a written letter, Warriors learn not just about theoretical, bookish knowledge, but about life.

The Socratic discussions, which are a part of every launch, challenge Warriors to think for themselves, to articulate their thoughts, to take a stand, and reflect on their real-life decision-making. Life-oriented and thought provoking questions force Warriors to take a stand and listen to differing view points. For example: what would you secure first if you were stuck in the wilderness: shelter, food, water, or something else? Why? What type of choices will you make today in the studio to advance on your hero’s journey? What was the most important lesson you learned today: was it related to Core Skills, to your friendships with other Warriors, something about yourself, or learning about survival (quest)?

Learning challenges like our current Survivor Quest challenges provide life-oriented, hands-on learning as well. They are not just learning about survival techniques from a text book. Building on last week’s water accumulation and filtration challenges, they went outside and built their own shelters out of natural materials, and learned how to set up tents with no adult interference, etc.

Every interaction with fellow travelers, older, younger, and same-aged Warriors, provides an opportunity to develop life-skills. The studio environment is filled with interaction, collaboration, emotions, and teamwork, even though it is not always preferred. Peer accountability toward the studio contract that they’ve created and signed themselves is not an easy task. It gets difficult not just for our young heroes, but for anyone to stand up to their friends when they are not acting with integrity. These life-lessons are a constant in the THA studio.

It provides real-life situations for every Warrior to develop and grow into the hero they were meant to be. It is natural to make mistakes, to fail, to lose, to get upset, angry, frustrated, dejected, etc. But the studio environment they’ve created helps them remember that being a hero is not about always winning and succeeding, but about getting back up and trying again. Because that’s what real heroes do.

See you next week!

Survivor Quest Week 2!

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C.S. Lewis


This week in pictures…

Morning launches were such a blast! Warriors were deeply moved by the inspiring story of Campbell Remess, a 13-year-young hero who provides love and warmth to sick children in hospitals by making them personalized teddy bears. He taught himself how to sew and learned how to make them all on his own! Now he has his own organization: Project 365. You can watch the video our Warriors saw for morning launch here.  We also had discussions on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, treating the studio like a sacred space as promised in our contract, and the Dreaded Drama Triangle: being a persecutor, victim, or rescuer during social conflicts. 


Quest was amazing this week! It is great to see Warriors getting their hands dirty and learning by doing, through hands on experiences. This week they learned about ways to find water in the wilderness, building solar stills, water filtration, their identity through discovering own love languages, and much more…

During Core Skills this week, Warriors began crafting a badge plan for the session. They reflected on their work thus far, evaluated their progression for each Core Skills badge, and  discussed their goals for this session and the end of the year with a running partner. They continued to work hard during Core Skills time…

A debate during civilization: Which Ancient Greek city-state was better to live in: Athens or Sparta? 


Basket weaving in Art… 

PE and a Nature Walk team building activity…

After school activities…


Stay tuned for more amazing THA adventures!

Session 5 – Week 1 Survivor Quest!

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

– Aristotle


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!


Session 4 – Energy Quest Exhibition!

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

– Laura Sandefer


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)


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.


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.


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

Session 4 – Week 4

The Warrior SpiritImage result for 95 year old hockey player

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!


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!


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. 


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.


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




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.”

Image result for mlk jr. i have a dream

– 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).


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!


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


“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.


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