LETTER FROM THE CXO, DR. DEENA AMIRY
Dear fellow ACTors,
I have spent the last twenty-five years of my life working in Education and, while my path has been anything but linear (spanning three continents, working with children of all ages, becoming a mother and taking a different kind of journey in learning…), I feel as though every step I took, perhaps without me being consciously aware at the time, has led to the creation of ACT Microschools.
Somewhere along my personal learning path, I came to the understanding that only a deeply personal educational experience can be a transformative one, and transformation is our ultimate goal at ACT. We want our children to develop themselves socially, emotionally, and academically, and to have a profound understanding of their own personal identities, so that they can have the strength to be leaders of change and transformation in their communities.
Our ACT program is intentionally designed to instill in our students a sense of responsibility to self and community and to social justice. We start by creating a nurturing environment where students feel safe and cared for by a staff trained in progressive approaches to Education. By deeply investing in our small learning communities of no more than 150 students, we are able to connect to our children in ways that are extremely rare to find in larger, more traditional learning environments. Once students believe in the power of their small community, we help them to find ways to bring this positive energy and sense of responsibility and care to their local community.
I have seen the power of microschooling over my seven years of experience developing the ACT program. Now is the time when our team would love to see our ACTors connected throughout the African continent and beyond. We firmly believe that, through the strength of our network, our ACTors – students, parents, and teachers alike - will be voices of change and development for their own local communities.
Aspire – Connect – Transform
One child at a time. One community at a time.
We hope to welcome you at one of our microschools or, if you don’t yet have an ACT Microschool in your community, we hope to connect to you soon through our social learning platform.
Until then, keep learning.
Dr. Deena Amiry
OUR LEARNING APPROACH
Children each have their own distinct learning needs. One of the main drivers behind microschooling is the recognition of the importance of the individual within the community. With a maximum of 150 students per campus, our ACTors receive loads of personalized attention. In addition, at ACT, each student, with the help of teachers and family, creates his or her own personalized learning plan. Setting personal goals each term ensures that students take responsibility for their own learning and that the process is tailored to their own needs.
ACT Microschools understands that we are in the business of teaching children not an academic curriculum. Thus, the child’s social and emotional needs are paramount to the approach to learning that we take at ACT and are intentionally designed into every part of our day – from the community circles in the morning, to our community events, to our weekly assemblies.
Our students must be prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century and, therefore, our learning approach focuses on developing the 12 skill areas deemed necessary for success in our information age:
Thus, and only naturally, when we at ACT seek to assess students on their understanding, rather than relying on pen and paper exams – a means of measurement that does not reflect the 21st century – we engage students in activities that more closely reflect the real-world experiences they will need as they enter the work force.
In addition, as the primary mission at ACT is to create ACTors who transform their communities for the better, much of the learning that happens within our microschools is focused on tangible actions and activities that serve both the school and outside communities.
Our student ACTors have their own agency and desires. The ACT learning experience incorporates student-interest into the curriculum because, when students approach learning from an area of interest, they are more naturally more motivated and driven to succeed.
OUR CORE PRACTICES
MIXED AGE GROUP LEARNING
Mixing age groups is not a new concept in Education (Montessori Education - as just one example - is based on the construct of mixed age groups), yet it is a key component of the ACT learning model. Mixed age group learning is a much more organic way of learning, imitating the way learning happens within a family structure and amongst siblings, than the factory model of grouping students by their age. Mixed age groups facilitate peer-to-peer instruction, shifting the classroom model from teacher-centered to a collaborative environment. In a mixed-age classroom, students work according to their ability, not strictly their “grade level.” Younger students often emulate older ones, motivating them in the way that an older sibling often encourages a younger one. The older students in the group gain important leadership skills from a young age. At ACT microschools, it is not uncommon to find year 3 students mentoring and guiding year 1 students. In a traditional schooling environment, year 3 students rarely have these kinds of systemic leadership opportunities.
LEARNING AS A COMMUNITY
Taking advantage of our small size and flexible schedule, ACT routinely brings the community together to share learning experiences. From weekly full school assemblies, where students share and celebrate the projects they are working on, to intergroup book buddies, where older students come together to read to and support the reading of younger students, to our multi-age field day, where multi-age teams are selected a month in advance and given challenges that they must work through all together, at ACT – like in a family – we stick together. This intentional focus on community results in few behavioral incidents, and the majority of students (as reflected through survey data) feeling connected to at least one adult and one student in the school.
ACT also makes use of its parent community for the benefit of the learning process. Parent talents are sought out for volunteer opportunities; students see parents as valuable resources who offer their unique strengths for the greater good, whether by doing yoga with children, helping students design a business plan, or baking a unicorn cake, ACT parents directly touch the lives of the students in a variety of positive ways.
The ACT learning platform connects students, teachers, and parents across microschools. A budding writer searching for a mentor may not have access to one within her small learning community, but will have access to authors who are a part of the larger ACT network.
EXPERIENCE TRUMPS BOOK LEARNING
At ACT, we are in the business of creating meaningful and memorable learning experiences for our students. While we are big fans of books and celebrate reading often within our community, we also espouse the motto: “why only read about it if you can live it?”
Learning about economic principles? Build a business to develop hands-on experience in dealing with the concepts of supply, demand, and scarcity.
Learning about reproduction of animals? Care for male and female rabbits within the class community to understand the process firsthand.
Learning about the story elements of fables? Write, publish, and share your own fable, integrating the elements into it.
Developing an understanding for and appreciation of the history of your country? Visit historical sites and develop your own travel guide.
At ACT, performance assessments (defined as assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that mimic real world application) help to prepare students for their future.
ART AS A WAY OF LEARNING®
ACT microschools follow the evidence-based program of “Art as a way of learning®.” We believe that, while art for art’s sake is important, the arts should be integrated into all aspects of academic learning. ACT students use artistic mediums to demonstrate understanding of diverse topics – from cellular biology, to storytelling, to landforms. The ACT program particularly makes use of the performing arts. Research has shown that the performing arts (in addition to being a lot of fun – thereby improving student engagement) improve students’ 21st century skills, including collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity, in addition to which, research has also shown the performing arts increase student confidence. Through the integration of the performing arts into the academic program, our confident ACT-ors are ready and able to face the challenges of transforming their communities for the better.
A GROUNDED CURRICULUM
While the framework for learning in each ACT microschool is the same, ACT microschool’s written curriculum varies from place to place because each school is grounded in its own culture, history, and practices. While ACT microschools’ program is internationally competitive, it is locally grounded in each school’s local culture. We believe that students must fundamentally understand their own place in the world and be grounded in a local identity in order for them to become ACT-ors for change within their communities.
At ACT, we believe that packaging learning into disconnected nuggets is a recipe for shallow understanding. Therefore, we take an interdisciplinary, thematic approach to learning. When students approach a theme through different lenses and perspectives, it allows them to develop a deeper understanding, and pushes them to think critically. We prioritize depth over breadth, delving into each theme from four to eight weeks and ending it with a project.
This principle goes back to our name, ACT: Aspire - Connect - Transform. Our belief is that by providing a safe environment in which children can dream (aspire) and a place where they make lasting bonds and learn to deeply care for their community (connect), we have then given them the foundation for the ultimate goal, which is for them to take their dreams and care for their community and turn it into action (transform). Positive action to the greater community is a built-in part of the ACT curriculum. ACT expects students to be change-makers for their communities in the same way that traditional schools expect students to learn Algebra; action-based learning is a fundamental part of who we are.
CURRICULUM & ACCREDITATION
ACT Microschools curriculum is founded on the principle that to learn is to understand in depth. In order to inspire in-depth understanding, the ACT curriculum is designed as interdisciplinary, as it is through making connections across disciplines that the brain better processes information and concepts. The ACT curriculum adheres to international standards of learning at each grade level. No matter where their future lies, our student ACTors are well-prepared for the challenge.
All microschool programs are internationally and/or nationally accredited. For more information about the diploma offered for your particular microschool, please reach out to the microschool team.