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The Quest: Taking Project-Based Learning to a Whole New Level

" Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and when the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, learning naturally results." - John Dewey

Any sincere and diligent educator knows that engaging students in a project goes far beyond the traditional "lecture, lecture, lecture... test" model. John Dewey knew this more than 100 years ago, and made "learning by doing" a cornerstone of his educational reform efforts.

Today, along those lines,"project-based learning" has become quite popular, especially for educators seeking student-centered, transformative experiences for their learners. Projects provide an opportunity to dive deeper into a topic over an extended period of time, are usually collaborative, and provide hands-on experiences. Projects allow students to actually "do something," which is always more exciting, engaging, and memorable than listening to a series of lectures and taking tests.

At Acton and THA, however, this awesome concept, "project-based learning," is taken to a whole new level.

How do you make learning fun, engaging, hands-on, collaborative, and life-oriented? How do you deliver hands-on, real-world skills, in a way that motivates our Heroes and satisfies the academic requirements still demanded for college admission? How do you take projects to another level?

The answer: Quests.

Our Heroes do not merely complete "school projects" at THA. They embark on a quest, a six week journey with a powerful narrative that transforms both themselves and their studio. As they engage in various learning challenges through the session, their journey is not only tied together by a story, but also culminates with a real world test of their learning in front of the community through the exhibition.

This session, for example, they aren't merely engaging in a project on "Survival Skills." Instead, they have transformed into explorers stuck deep in the wilderness. They are like Lewis and Clark on a quest to explore and survive.

Here's an example of the narrative from the Spark Studio: "We were all ready to go on to our favorite vacation destinations.  We packed our bags, boarded the plane and lifted off. But there was too much turbulence and so the plane unexpectedly had to land. By the time we realized what had happened, we were on an island with no other humans in sight.  Apparently our plane had disappeared too.  Now we will have to be resourceful..."  

The Warriors will spend the first five weeks of this session exploring topics like foraging, traps, water filtration, first aid, safety, disaster planning, shelter-building, orienteering, identity, and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Then they will put it all to the test at the exhibition: leading their families on an actual camping trip expedition through the wilderness for one night!

Here are the ES and MSLP Session Maps (Writing, Civilization, and Sanskrit at THA follow a similar 6-week trajectory as quests):

Some highlights from Quest time this past week include: Spark Warriors building solar powered ovens and using them to make s'mores, MSLP Warriors engaging in various disaster simulations: fire, pandemic, hurricane, tornado, etc., and ES Warriors studying foraging, edible insects, traps, knot-tying, etc. It felt great to be back and for the in-person Warriors to have a full day in the studio! Enjoy the pictures!

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