Week #20 and Court

When our Elementary learners have an unresolvable disagreement, they take it to a simple court. The jury of learners listens to both sides of the story, asks questions, and makes a decision. The result: children know they are always going to be heard, learn to advocate for themselves, and discover that there are at least two sides to every story.

Last week we launched our session focused on Community Gardening with Elementary learners working in teams of five to conduct experiments about what’s going on inside a plant to help it grow. 

Court is one tool that our learners use in order to navigate ambiguity. Instead of a system of high structure and control where a child may simply sit up straight in a desk and make the adult authorities around them very proud with right answers and good behavior, Acton is more complex, which makes decision making more difficult. That’s right. Acton is intentionally infused with uncertainty

A jury of peers listening to the plaintiff and defendant during a recent court.

For example, last week as we launched our session focused on Community Gardening, our Elementary learners worked in teams of five to conduct experiments about what’s going on inside a plant to help it grow. The teams chose a leader and were presented with challenges that involved gathering information, finding materials, and setting up experiments. As you can imagine, a lot of discernment and negotiation must go on for all five people to stay engaged and contribute to their team. One team member had an unresolvable disagreement with the team leader--” You're not letting me do enough. You’re not letting me try!”  They took it to court, where a powerful discussion about trust, responsibility, and leadership ensued.

A Spark (5 year-old) learner observes the ongoing experiments in the Elementary Studio. Sparks also sometimes notice when court is happening, and observe that too.

Watching it unfold, and the gears in these young learners heads turning, it was clear to me that in this court case (as in many), the outcome could go either way, but the mission would be accomplished: learners getting experience standing in the other’s shoes, seeing the gray area, swimming in ambiguity. It reminded me of what another Acton founder observed in his young daughter, who joined their Elementary at a very young age: 
"Not being capable of doing everything is a growing experience. My daughter started at 5 and I loved that she was in a world she couldn't understand. It was all bigger than her which meant she had to have her mind working extra hard to figure things out. She has become one of our most capable learners and can swim laps in ambiguity. I wish the studio felt more like immersion in a new country for some learners because there is so much growth in an environment that just feels bigger than you...Most of this hinges around a learner ready to learn and willing to put in the effort (Hero's Journey). The only reason a learner has not worked out in our studio is effort. Effort in learning and effort in the community. That's it."

Have a great week,
Molly Franklin
Head of School

Ready to see your child engage in complex, nuanced decision making? Schedule a tour or give us a call to start your journey (214-868-6686).
Photos from last week.

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