Our Acton learning communities would not be “learner driven” without this essential element: the Studio Contract.
Unlike rules or disciplinary procedures handed down by an authority figure, the Acton Contract is written by the young people and signed by them – but only once they come to unanimous agreement about the promises laid out.
It takes 2-5 weeks at the beginning of each year for the Eagles to write and finalize their Contract. It’s a grueling process of editing, rewriting and debating. Unanimous agreement can hinge on one word or phrase.
This year in our elementary studio, they debated for a week if this line should be added: “I will strive for excellence.”
Half of the group thought this promise was included in the line: “I will work hard.” The other half argued that you could be working hard but not striving for excellence.
This latter group won their case and the line was added. The Contract was ready to be signed.
Signing the Contract is a sacred ritual. Parents and guides are invited to stand as witnesses. The Eagles come to the ceremony in their “fancy dress” and solemnly, silently, pick up the pen and put their signature on the Contract.
Now, the learner-driven journey can begin.
But this is no Utopia. There will be days the Contract is broken. Holding to promises is hard. Mistakes are made. These young people know they have each other as fellow travelers and accountability partners to say, “Remember what you promised. Remember our Contract.” There are consequences in place for breaking the Contract so, like guardrails on the highway, one’s course can be corrected and the journey can continue.