The element that promises an Acton learner driven experience will thrive is also the simplest of all: the mixed age environment.
Children are teachers and learners. They learn more from their peers than they do from adults.
Creating a mixed age setting shifts the center of power. No longer is the adult the one in charge of the learning. It is the children driving it – naturally and happily.
More importantly, the learning in this set up goes far beyond “academics.” Empathy, confidence, humility and leadership arise and grow.
I received an email recently from Vijay Shah, an Acton founder/director of The Humanist Academy, one of our affiliates. He said: “Just wanted to share an example of the beauty of this model. One of our Launchpadders recently started his own video production company and entirely on his own, with literally no push from me or any staff, he created this 2-min video on mixed-age free time for our school.” (Note: Launchpad is our Acton word for high school.)
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) shares the benefits of a mixed aged learning environment. Here are just a few:
- Children are not labeled according to their ability. For example, children in same-grade classrooms may be labeled “below grade level” or “low.” These children may stop trying, while those labeled as “above grade level” or “high” may not feel challenged.
- In mixed-age classrooms, children have more time to master content, and this removes their fear of being “held back” in school.
- Children have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to take leadership roles.
- Older children model more sophisticated approaches to problem solving, and younger children are able to accomplish tasks they could not do without the assistance of older children.
- Children are invited to take charge of their learning, by making choices…This sense of “ownership” and self-direction is the foundation for lifelong learning.
Mixed ages, the Hero’s Journey, a growth mindset and a signed Contract – these elements combined form the solid foundation upon which to build a learner-driven experience. Just 6 more essential elements to add to ensure we set the children free to find their callings and change the world. Stay tuned!