“Who Made Our World Our World…” (End of Session 6)

dsc09083.jpg

Making the Impossible Possible: At the start of session 6, our Warriors (ages 5-13) were challenged with a seemingly impossible task: to act, direct, and produce their very own play, composed by themselves.  Not only were they to hone basic acting skills, memorize their lines, and work on things like voice and projection, reacting, blocking (stage orientation), body language, emotional expression, etc. But they were also tasked with holding auditions, casting, directing, producing, designing sets, creating costumes, selling tickets, marketing, and just about everything else that goes into producing a play. Without a single smooth rehearsal, including their final dress rehearsal on stage before the big performance, with such a wide age gap among themselves, with short attention spans, tremendously diverse personalities, tensions rising, and over $1200 of costs to cover, the production seemed more and more like an inevitable yet equally valuable lesson in dealing with failure.

And then it happened.

On Tuesday, May 15th, at the Palace Theatre in Grapevine, the Warriors of The Humanist Academy made the impossible possible: they delivered a breathtaking performance, leaving their audience captivated beyond words.  One parent said, “It was incredible, I had goosebumps throughout just about every scene.” Other parents said, “I am at a loss for words. I’m speechless. I had no idea how they could do such a thing… I was amazed at how professional they were on stage…” Their Warriors Song finale was met with a standing ovation from the crowd and they delivered a performance to remember for a lifetime. Once again they rose to the occasion and proved to the world emphatically that children are far more capable than we can ever imagine.

Interdisciplinary and Life-Oriented Education: This quest was a great example of interdisciplinary integration: it was robust with core skills and life skills application.  It was not possible without the sincere application of reading, writing, math, art, self-governance, peer-to-peer collaboration, grit, patience, courage, and so much more. This quest had Warriors who were previously hesitant to read, developing better fluency by reading their lines incessantly for memorization or narration. Warriors who were generally shy, came out of there shells, auditioned for parts, and performed in front of hundreds of people. Elementary and Middle School Warriors had to write multiple drafts for of their scripts and the editing process continued through the final days of the quest.  In so many ways they dared to be creative: bringing life and personality to their roles, composing a mad-scientist theme to connect the scenes, designing sets and backdrops, creating props, costumes, etc.  It was an amazing integration of art as well. They also learned the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and applied math first hand. They analyzed their costs, created a budget, and came up with a strategy to market the play, sold tickets, and generated revenue. One Warrior even tried to get on a local radio station! Not only that, but they ended up covering their costs and making a $120 profit to be kept in a “Hero Fund” for their collective use.

Most importantly, they learned life lessons in teamwork and confidence: when a group of dedicated and sincere individuals come together, no matter how monumental the task may be, nothing is impossible.

Advertisements

Drama Quest – Weeks 3-4

It’s always extremely difficult to put into words the incredible happenings everyday and just about every moment at THA!

Here are some highlights:

C6840F9D-B488-41BE-AA7D-F82E86D6C2AE

After choosing their play’s director, producer, set and costume designers, and cast, Warriors were busy working on their parts and memorizing their lines during quest time.

A9356C17-F830-4D12-B065-19A6D49EF6C8

Inspired by the Acton MBA Program, our THA Middle Schoolers established a “Clearness Commitee” to assist in developing clarity for their apprenticeships. They asked one another very insightful and thought-provoking, “would you rather” questions in preparation for this monumental step in their Hero’s Journeys!

0BBA81BB-2142-4F99-940E-FDA454BB6DE6

The field trip to the Dallas Children’s Theater was unbelievable! Not only did they get to ride a school bus (a first time for many of them) and watch a very creative play, but one of the biggest highlights was the honor of working with esteemed actor, director, and choreographer B.J. Cleveland! This award-winning expert, who has been involved in over 400 professional productions and even hosted a show on Disney, shared his insights and helped our Warriors hone their acting skills. His immaculate feedback was just what Warriors needed in preparation for their upcoming exhibition.

74D36D58-D26F-45E1-8910-67616799B2BE

Warriors made the most of the rainy days, playing chess, reading books, and playing card games like this during free time…

2DFB1320-2BAD-4140-8D98-FFD7DC29B4BA

The THA Community was blessed tremendously to have Laura Sandefer and Matt Clayton join us for a night filled with inspiration as they lifted our eyes to the horizon…

0355DC13-0720-48CE-9A99-08B6A6E25059

Amazing to see our seeds sprouting in just a few shorts days in our THA Garden!

516BB4C2-38C5-4213-81E6-0023D73A054E

Our Warriors did not disappoint as they fielded questions from prospective parents on a student panel. Great to witness their clarity of how they learn at THA.

F58E14C5-4FF5-4E83-99FF-FEFF7E423B04

The Launches as always, did not disappoint… Warriors engaged in inspirational and thought-provoking Socratic discussions on topics like Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, William Henley’s Invictus (the poem that motivated Nelson Mandela while in prison for 27 years), sincerity through a modified version of “The Ring of Gyges” from Plato’s Republic, and our Question of the Year: What does it mean to be powerful?

01875A3E-F217-4904-92F8-6394C278CF1E

Warriors are loving their “Poetry Writer’s Workshop” so much that they are often found writing poems like this one during their free time!

Our Warriors have a monumental task ahead of them as they prepare for the exhibition on May 15th. While they have begun selling tickets, they are still working on memorizing their lines, beginning on cue, their expressions, voice projection, blocking, listening and reacting, etc. not to mention their sets, props, and costumes… Will they be able to pull it all off and be ready for the show in less than 8 days time? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

Drama Quest – Week 2!

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
– an excerpt from Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

In addition to discussing the applications of this inspiring poem, Warriors conducted Socratic discussions on metaphors, learned about this amazing 8-year-young hero who is changing the world with a recycling program, and many more thought-provoking topics.

Some additional glimpses from the week:

  • Final Auditions were conducted and the Cast for the play was posted on the Quest wall.
  • Warriors interviewed a panel of finalists before voting on the director of the play.
  • In WW the ES and MS Warriors explored metaphors, Haikus, and started writing their own poems.
  • In Civilization, Montessori Warriors worked on geography maps while ES Warriors put themselves in the shoes of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, and discussed how they would settle conflicts between family.
  • Warriors are gearing up for the big day, May 15th!

 

90FA497B-98D0-46E1-9CAB-4E5B58BACE91

This week at THA we concluded all the auditions and posted the final cast on the wall. Warriors were excited to find out their parts. They also learned valuable life lessons about not always getting what you want, sacrificing for a greater cause, dealing with failure, and winning with grace.

See you next week!

Drama Quest – Wk 1

“This above all: To Thine Own Self Be True…”

– Shakespeare’s Hamlet

 

What an amazing week to kick off session 6!

Here are some highlights:

  1. DRAMA QUEST!!! – This session the THA Warriors have attempted to transform the studio into one of the top acting schools in the nation. During Quest time they have transformed into students at Juilliard who will be acting, directing, and producing their own drama! (Here’s a clip we watched to set the tone:  Juilliard – A Day in the Life)  The Warrior production will be held on May 15th at the Palace Theatre in Grapevine! They spent the week honing their acting skills, conducting drama exercises, reviewing the script they composed themselves, and preparing for auditions next week.
  2. Writer’s Workshop: The Elementary and Middle School Warriors began their Writer’s Workshop of this session on the topic of Poetry. They initiated their dive into poetry by conducting a SOLE – Self-Organized-Learning-Environment in which they explored questions like “What is Poetry?”  and “What are the different types of poetry?”
  3. Morning Launches: This week’s launches were riveting and awe-inspiring to say the least. We began the week with a launch and Socratic Discussion on GRIT, sparked by this powerful Ted Talk by Angela Duckworth. It is certainly something we will revisit over and over again with the Warriors, as we discuss the right habits and values for being successful in life. We also discussed the protocol for asking for Integrity Points when another Warrior breaks the contract. Warriors shared insights on concepts like friendship and loyalty vs. truth and doing the right thing, protecting the studio environment vs. protecting a friend, and what does it mean to be a true friend, etc. This was a great segue into another launch we had this week on our QUALITY OF THE SESSION: Sincerity. Building off of our Poetry WW, we analyzed the advice Polonius gives to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he sets off on a journey…
See thou character…
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be; 75
For loan oft loses both itself and friend…
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. 80
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

Among the many other highlights, including the beaming faces of Warriors eager to return to the studio, the peaceful and working environment of Core Skills, and self-governance of Studio Maintenance, etc. here’s an example of a Middle School Warrior book review that was approved this week. (Middle Schoolers have to pick a “deep book” get their pitch approved, read it, conduct the review, and get it unanimously  approved in order count it towards their Reading Badge and consider it “Excellent Work.”)

Hope you enjoy the pictures! Also, please keep May 15th open for the THA Drama Quest Exhibition at the Palace Theatre and invite your friends and family!

 

Camping Trip Exhibition!

“I was amazed to see how well behaved and organized the kids were. I couldn’t do these things when I was their age. They did a great job with the planning…”

“I’m grateful for this community. It was amazing to see how well the Warriors took care of each other. They could be out by themselves in the woods and we weren’t worried…”

“We should do this every year!”

–  THA Parents

4424B2D7-E0B8-4E1B-895A-18D969182CB0

What an amazing few days! Warriors kicked-off the camping trip exhibition with a thought-provoking launch for parents at the THA studio before setting off to the campsite. After some inspiring videos, our Warriors asked Socratic questions to parents like who is more powerful: humans or nature? They went over the schedule for the trip, passed out an informative handout, and reviewed the rules of conduct, including the importance of “leaving no trace,” while interacting with Mother Nature.

A couple hours later we arrived at the campsite where Warriors put their Survivor skills to the test and helped parents put up their tents, created an amazing scavenger hunt that included knot-tying, map reading, using a compass, helped prepare meals, hikes, discussions, and so much more!

After an intense game of ultimate frisbee and lakeside yoga, some of the dads helped grill burgers while Warriors prepared and served food to parents. After dinner and clean up, we had a blast eating delicious s’mores and sharing “character call outs” over the fire. At night, parents enjoyed some bonding time by the campfire while they shared personal “crazy” stories as the Warriors went out exploring the woods.

We enjoyed the beautiful moonlight, the serene sounds of the wilderness, and we also battled the dropping temperatures as we retired to our tents and tucked into our sleeping bags. Many of our parents were first-time campers, but they all had a blast and embraced the experience as a part of their own hero’s journey!

In the morning, we hiked, had breakfast, cleaned up, packed up our tents, gathered our belongings, and met together one last time for a Warrior-led closing group. They asked us what survivor skills we learned through the exhibition and what things amazed us. It was awesome to not only witness the Warriors leading discussions and sharing their insights with confidence and respect, but also to hear highlights from parents about the wonderful community and amazing experience.

Nothing in words will be able to capture the powerful experience and amazing feeling that emerges when our awesome community comes together. These types of life-oriented educational, and community building moments centered around our young heroes are what make THA truly unique.

Can’t wait to do it all again next session! Definitely check out the pictures from the trip!

 

Survivor Quest- Week 5

“Don’t set off to build a wall… Lay each brick perfectly, every single day, and eventually you’ll have a wall…”

– Will Smith

9F463795-CEAE-4F25-AAD8-2E18FCFC4C45

What an amazing, inspirational, and jam-packed, adventure-filled week at THA!

Here are the biggest highlights:

  1. Orienteering Challenge on Monday:
    • In teams of 3 and 4 Warriors set off in the “wilderness” ready to engage in a series of adventures. As they navigated via compass, they faced various challenges the guides had set up for them on the THA field including: crossing a rushing river using lily pads, scaring away bears, protecting themselves from lightening strikes, dealing with snake bites and poisonous plants, creating a bear bag for their food, and much more!

2. Morning Launches:

  • Warriors engaged in more inspirational and thought-provoking Socratic discussions including one on “laying each brick perfectly,” focusing on taking things one step at a time, doing the small things right, and believing in ourselves. We watched this amazing and inspiring video as a lead-in to our discussion.
  • We also discussed the significance of Saint Patrick’s Day, living up to our contract promise of “Speaking with Kindness, Encouragement, and Truth” through skits performed by the guides, and the importance of “Leaving No Trace” when we interact with nature, especially with our Camping Trip Exhibition coming up. We watched this thought-provoking video to spark our discussion and think deeper about our impact on nature.

3. Meet the Expert

  • Last but not least, we had an amazing visit from Mr. Akins, our Survivor Expert, who shared various real life adventures and amazing bits of wisdom he’s gained throughout his Hero’s Journey and becoming an Eagle Scout. He showed us how he used a compass and map to navigate through the wilderness when his group was lost about 5 miles from camp. He also came outside and helped us start our own fires! We all enjoyed some delicious s’mores after making successful fires using raw materials. Among the many insightful things he shared, were two very simple yet profound lessons he’d learned:

“Do your best and always be prepared.”

We also had a blast using clay and making pottery in art! Super excited for our Camping Trip Exhibition this week!

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

 

3-16-19 (22)

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.

3-16-19 (6)

 

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. 

B4F761C4-73E7-4EA5-A2C5-4EBC1A1D6DFA7E92FBC0-6B8C-414D-ADE2-8395E4C76E7A

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

172C92C4-5D99-4EF6-86AC-B82491C34423

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!

98B85613-51FC-4E19-AB86-5387D0348236BA0E9227-E6D3-4192-81F6-5C94D9C1765F52A96356-5DDE-46A4-B52E-56496B74E1559D1A211E-DF28-430A-90AD-080D03F091F0