Two Big Rocks at Acton Academy: PE and Art

Last week I sat with the Eagles with an empty glass vessel, a pile of sand, 20 small rocks and two big rocks. My story went like this: The glass vessel represents our lives – a vessel of time. Each of us has the same amount of time in a day – how we fill it determines the kind of daily life and, hence, life we have.

Scooping the sand in the vessel, I shared that it represents all the little things we do every day that aren’t important. Scrolling through Instagram is a big scoop of sand. I then tossed in the small rocks – the things we do that are more important than the sand but that don’t have severe negative consequences if we don’t do them. Brushing my dogs is a small rock for me.

Now it was time to put in the two big rocks.

Oh, whoops.

There was no room left in the vessel for the two things that are urgent and important -the things we do that can improve or destroy the quality of our living. For me, family dinnertime is a big rock.

I poured out the sand and rocks and started over.

This time, I put the two big rocks in first; then the small rocks; and with a little jiggling, the same amount of sand poured right over the whole pile. My vessel contained it all.

Like magic, when we know our focus and our big “to do” of the day, everything else falls into place.

I held up the two rocks and shared a surprising fact about the Acton Academy learning design.

We have two big rocks that go in first. They aren’t math and reading; or science and writing.

They are P.E. and Art. (As an aside, our elementary studio voted that P.E. stands for “Physical Eagles.”)

Building a strong body and a curious, creative mind are the big rocks that make all the other learning happen in a deeper way.

With these two rocks, we gain conditioning to persevere when things get hard. We learn to breathe deeply to recover under stress. We learn what it means to focus and concentrate. We learn that failing happens and it takes work to improve. We learn how connected our body is to our mind. We gain courage and imagination. We experience the truth that being uncomfortable is necessary if you want to grow and get better. We learn to use our voices to share our ideas. We become problem-solvers and curious questioners.

How can you do math if you aren’t conditioned to focus or if you feel weak, without stamina or grit?

Our two big rocks make us strong, curious and creative, first. We then become open to working hard to learn and grow. Life is just better when you’re strong and creative as a baseline.

What’s your big rock today?

(This short video is the source of this little exercise.)