Learning at ARC
At ARC, children learn in a collaborative studio of multi-age learners. Our flexible approach challenges each student with their own differentiated learning plan and inspires them through real-world projects and experiences. Our learner-driven community puts children at the centre of their learning, allowing them to create and maintain personal goals and relational covenants, as they Learn to Learn, Learn to Do, and Learn to Be.
Learn to Learn
The world is changing fast. The skills of tomorrow aren't the skills of today. Take with you a DIY toolbox of curiosity, grit, trial-and-error, joy, and perseverance. You've confronted new things before. You can learn anything.
Learners at ARC master the foundations of reading, writing, and mathematics with self-paced cutting-edge personalized technology and peer-to-peer mentoring, while Deep Socratic Discussions develop thinking and communication skills to grow wisdom and good judgment.
Learn to Do
What skills do you need to change the world? At Acton, every day we stand in the shoes of real-life heroes — innovators, designers, builders, decision-makers — mastering the skills needed to solve real-world problems. We call it a Quest.
Our annual Entrepreneurship Quest is but one example of real-world learning. Learners develop a brand, create a product or service, build a marketing strategy, and open for customers at our one-day business fair, the Ottawa Children's Market.
Learn to Be
The culture of ARC is not built around compliance and behaviour management; rather, young people at ARC learn to lead through daily opportunities to make choices, develop habits, and grow character. The Hero's Journey, relational covenants and real-world consequences transform difficult decisions into virtuous habits.
Servant Leader badges celebrate important milestones: leading a conflict resolution discussion; mentoring a group of learners from a young studio; completing deliberate practice of a skill you want to grow; leading a team in accomplishing a big goal.
Once you discover how much children can do in an environment that dignifies, magnifies, and inspires their minds to learn, there’s no going back to traditional classrooms again.
– Heather, Staker, Forward, Courage to Grow –
The Hero's Journey
Learning at ARC is an invitation to a Hero’s Journey. Rooted in our firm belief that every person who walks through our doors is a hero-in-the-making, the Hero’s Journey provides the narrative arc that guides us through our days, weeks, sessions, and years.
We know that stepping outside of the traditional education system can feel risky. Change and growth take courage and hard work, and it’s often harder for parents than it is for children. But if you’re up for the challenge, here are some of the outcomes that other Acton parents have observed:
A Love of Learning
As one parent described: “Our daughter loves learning at Acton. She can’t wait to share her day the moment she jumps into the car. I’m so grateful to see a love for learning come back into her eyes.”
Mastery of Core Academic Skills
While only a small period of the day is spent in Core Skills and we never “teach to the test,” over the 10+ years of Acton’s history, we’ve seen an average of 2.5-grade levels per year growth on the IOWA standardized test.
Agency and Leadership
Acton learners develop the skills and mindset to drive their own learning and lead their community. They are confident, ask great questions, are curious about the world around them, and have plans they’re passionate about.
Families discover how the joy of learning is infectious; as one parent described: “Acton Academy has transformed our family, inspiring each of us to find a calling and discover a Hero’s Journey.”
Acton Academy is one of the most important education developments in the world.
– Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart –
ARC’s studios are a blend of the old and the new — a return to the multi-age, community schoolhouses of the past combined with the best of modern technology and 21st-century organizational design. In a tightly-knit learning community bound by shared promises, learners support one another and collaborate daily, fostering a culture of respect.
Studio 1 "Spark" (4-8 years) is driven by playful inquiry. Through story, the arts, and free play, learners explore and discover the world around them, growing curiosity, confidence, and social-emotional skills. Studio 1 builds the foundations of reading, writing, goal-setting, and reflection -- independent learning skills that prepare learners to thrive in Studio 2.
Studio 2 "Exploration" (8-12 years) challenges learners to set goals, work collaboratively, and experiment with what excites them, learning to face a challenge and persevere. Individual challenges and collaborative learning labs help learners master core skills; Socratic discussions and real-world problems engage learners by putting them in the shoes of another, challenging them to think critically and collaborate effectively; and daily experiences in self-management and self-governance develop problem-solving skills and teamwork.
Studio 3 "Discovery" (12-15 years) + Studio 4 "Launchpad" (15-18 years) learners embark on new adventures: high-stakes projects with real clients, apprenticeships, and launching real startups. Learners grow in their ability to think, apply, reflect, and iterate, independently and as part of a group. Apprenticeships increase in length and complexity over time, such that by the time a young person leaves Launchpad, they have a portfolio of real-world work to prove what they can do. The Discovery and Launchpad Studios afford learners a higher level of freedom, but also a safe place to test their limits, failing early, cheaply, and often.
Studio 3 is anticipated to open in fall 2024; Studio 4 will be added as our learners grow. Our curriculum is fully developed through graduation.
It's a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
– Albert Einstein –
A Day in the Life
A day in our studios is marked by creativity within constraints: large blocks of time for work and play with clear but broad guardrails, equipping learners to manage their time, set goals, and track progress.
Monday through Thursday at ARC are broken up into work sprints, each with a shared purpose or goal. In a regular day:
Mornings are reserved for Core Skills (reading, writing, and mathematics)
Afternoons are for Quests, hands-on collaborative real-world challenges where learners explore various topics in the sciences, entrepreneurship, the arts, and history
15-minute Socratic discussions bookend the work periods and provide a time to reflect, think deeply, and bond as a group
Plenty of time for play and exercise throughout the day; learners are free to move around and take breaks as needed
Friday is Community Day -- a day reserved for whole-school gathering, play, and exploration, largely outdoors in and around Manor Park.