Written by Rachel Benson, founder of Acton Academy Omaha, a learner-driven community built for the 21st Century where young heroes are inspired to find their calling that will change the world. Visit us at www.actonomaha.org.
What a difference a month can make.
Last month, we were enjoying time in the studio preparing for our upcoming Omaha Acton Children’s Business Fair. The heroes were thinking of their brand-new business ideas and getting them ready to try out at the fair. We even enjoyed our fun and energetic Launch Workshop with over 60 youth from around Omaha. Energy and inspiration swelled as in small groups youth ages 5-16 shared about their businesses, practiced their pitches, and played fun games to connect with each other. Fox42 News even came out to visit us. We were gearing up for our biggest fair yet – with 61 businesses and over 80 youth participating.
And then, like a giant wave, it all came crashing down.
Our fair would need to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our school’s physical location would need to close to help everyone practice social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the disease spreading.
Lemons. Lots of lemons on our hands. Piles of lemons you try hard to hold without dropping. Lemons that sting the scratches on your fingers, pucker your lips and crinkle your face. Lemons that cause you to wish for your status-quo life again…
Or do you?
What if lemons were simply ingredients? Ingredients we didn’t necessarily pick out, but ingredients none the less. Lemons are powerful. Just as they change the structure of milk, turning it into buttermilk, so they fundamentally change our lives. The question becomes, will hide our lemons away until they rot and are thrown out, or will we use these ingredients to create a brand new recipe? A recipe you may have never invented in your former status-quo life?
Last week, in a seamless fashion, we took our entire Acton Omaha Spark Studio experience virtual. As an entrepreneurially-minded school, we pivoted quickly to meet the needs of our families. The virtual experience is one that we didn’t see the need to pursue before, and yet it’s now offered us some powerful discoveries.
#1. The experience for our heroes has been seamless – NO GAPS happening in their learning. And, the children LOVE IT.
#2. Our learners have the skills, motivation, community and structures STILL IN PLACE to continue their own learner-driven journeys at home, together with their studiomates.
#3. In this nation-wide season of isolation, boredom, waiting on school boards and scrambling for resources, it feels like we are living in a vibrant oasis. As one of our parents commented,
“I cannot believe how today went!! The girls were engaged and busy the entire day!! I’m blown away… Well planned out. Great job! The girls loved it, and the structure was perfect. We will make it through this!“
“We are doing great and are super thankful for how quickly you have responded in this situation! Thank you!!”
When you’ve already turned learning upside down and created a structure that nurtures the child’s own ability to be curious and lead their own learning journeys, a crisis like this only showcases the beauty, adaptability and agility of our model.
And yet… one of the most powerful pieces of our learning design is still missing.
“Can we go back to the studio yet?” my 6 year old daughter asks me most every day.
She knows the difference between learning at home and learning in the midst of her vibrant community. Rubbing shoulders with her friends, navigating her way through many ups, downs and conflict resolutions inside. The challenges that etch character and empathy in her soul. As helpful as Zoom has been to give our heroes a taste of their community, it is truly pale in comparison. It will bridge the gap – and when this season is over, our heroes will be ecstatic to “go back to school” once again. To cross the threshold and enter their deeply-forged, tight-knit community of relationships.
My heart aches for families who feel stuck, for children who feel isolated, half-heartedly completing “homework” at home – when what will raise these these young world changers to life is for someone to believe in them; to set them free to discover their curiosity and love of learning in the context of a vibrant, innovative community. As the little kindling of their curiosity is fanned into flame, they are equipped with the foundational mindset, motivation and skills to venture forward and create their own futures.
And you know what? This curious, motivated, agile mindset is the same thing that allows adult creators, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders to step up and turn our current global load of lemons into the best kind of lemonade, a kind the world has never experienced before. I’m already beginning to taste it.
Hope amidst the chaos.
Let’s fan the flames of curiosity, creativity and courage in our children, so they are prepared to venture with us, too, down this uncertain path yet filled with hope.
How are you doing? In this whirlwind, do you feel like you are trying to cram twice as much into the same 24-hour days? I feel you. Our family has had our own journey to find peace and joy in this place. In fact, I wrote this next post just for you, including many helpful resources for learning at home! Let’s hit “refresh” together: Take a deep breath…