Year 4. Session 5. Week 6.

This week in Discovery, Eagles planned and executed a successful Exhibition. They reflected on the session through 360 Feedback, wrote thank you notes to heroes who supported the studio this session, and celebrated challenges, growth, and achievements that happened this session.


This week in Core Skills, Eagles focused on completing their biggest goals for the session. In week one, Eagles set their biggest goals, breaking down steps for how they would make progress by day, week, and session. They also celebrated achieving their Excellent Goal for Math Power Hour this session, resulting in a “Free Day” on Friday in which Eagles could choose how to spend their day while following the contract and studio guardrails.


This week in Quest, Eagles showcased their work by transforming the studio into a Marine Science Museum. When entering the studio, lights were turned down low and blue light covered the space. Data sheets and experiments were displayed all around the studio. After receiving their tickets to the museum, tour guides led guests through 4 exhibits. Exhibition guests interacted with creatures of the deep sea, making blue light glasses and exploring paper maché. They were surprised when invited to dissect black drum fish to learn about the fish’s anatomy. In the coral reef exhibit, guests were invited to create a coral reef of their own.


Eagles in Writers’ Workshop submitted their final persuasive essays.

Eagles in Word World practiced rhyming words through games. They also focused on reading through Lexia.



As a celebration for completing their Excellent Goal in Math Power Hour, Eagles in Discovery had a full day of free time. Many chose to work on Core Skills, making themselves comfortable around the studio to collaborate. Others chose to play gaga ball outside or walk in the orchard. There was a movie about Octopuses that the majority of the studio enjoyed, and they were treated to popcorn. Another part of the free day was choosing a time for snack and lunch, fully allowing learners to listen to their bodies, as well as enjoy their meals anywhere in the studio. A group of Eagles enjoyed making sculptures that will be ready to paint when we return next session. The studio felt peaceful and joyful as Eagles celebrated safely and respectfully.

Year 4. Session 5. Week 5.

This week in Discovery, Eagles used their powerful reflections from last week’s reset to continue gracefully with their agreements this session.  When challenges arose, leaders spoke up to find solutions. The group noticed that their bodies feel highly energized after free time, and acknowledged a challenge to focus in the afternoon group discussion. As a result, the community started a ritual of meditating for the last 5 minutes of free time, to settle their minds and bodies before entering the second part of the day.

This week, we also had the gift of  Tiny Tails coming to our campus. Eagles held, pet, and sent loving wishes to a diversity of animals, including chickens, bunnies, a bearded dragon, and more.


This week in Core Skills, Eagles completed their last day of Math Power Hour, and they will find out the results of the amount of skills learned as a community at the Exhibition, next Thursday. If they achieved their goal, they will have a “free day” on Friday to celebrate their accomplishments.


This week in Quest, Eagles were challenged with completing the final levels of the Marine Science Quest, which included bringing creatures of the deep sea to life through paper maché art. They also explored habitats and the anatomy of fish through dissecting sardines and large black drum fish. Many emotions were felt as some enjoyed exploring the fish, and other experienced discomfort around dead animals.



Eagles in The Writers’ Workshop made final edits to their persuasive essays in preparation to publish them next week. With the support of Writing Buddies, each Eagle received feedback in order to achieve complete essays that they feel proud of.

Eagles in Word World continued to build fine motor skills and penmanship through tracing. They also focused on reading using Lexia or  by reading aloud with a Reading Buddy.



In Art, Eagles focused on their Quest challenges, as they painted the details of their deep sea creatures.

In Physical Development, Eagles were flexible with the rainy weather, taking their movement inside to play games lead by their coaches, the Peak Bears.


Year 4. Session 5. Week 4

In Discovery this week, Ascent’s community of young heroes courageously faced a beautifully hard truth- that with freedom comes responsibility. In a learner-driven environment, a Socratic Guide’s role is to prepare the environment, prepare the tools and learner-driven systems, ask questions, create moments of inspiration, and equip through challenges.  This is only sustainable if there is a balance and learners in the space uphold their end of the bargain- the promises they set for themselves in their Studio Contract.

During a discussion at the end of the day, a handful of learners reflected that the Studio Contract had not been upheld, and with integrity, they shared why this doesn’t work at Ascent. The result was limited freedoms for a day to “reset” the space so that without their normal responsibilities, they could have time to revisit their “Why” for choosing a learner-driven environment and think about how to move forward. After a day of resetting, they voted to have one more reset day where guides would be in charge- after that, they would come up with a plan to move forward positively, honoring their contract of promises.

With deep insight, honesty, and care, they crafted a plan to take back their responsibilities and earn back their freedoms. The week was full of one-on-one reflections, group processing, and genius brainstorming.


This week in Quest, the Eagles did not make progress in their Quest challenges. The choices reflected on at the beginning of the week led to powerful reflections about the lines in our contract:

  • I will respect the materials that help me learn, live, and grow
  • I will be responsible with my freedoms


In Physical Development, Eagles started the week with the first round of a volleyball tournament that will continue through the end of the session. They also had a day of speed and agility training followed by a game that focuses on active listening and reaction skills.

Year 4. Session 5. Week 3.

This week in Discovery, Eagles had discussions about using their voices, even if it means holding people accountable who are much older, bigger, or have more resources. We looked to the hero, Greta Thunberg, to be inspired by her bravery when speaking to world leaders about changing something important to her. Lady bugs were released in the field to enhance our ecosystem in the orchard.


This week in Core Skills, Eagles set a new, more challenging goal in Math Power Hour as they surpassed their original goal measurably. This was a pleasant surprise about what one is capable of when they have a goal and reward to work toward. They will stretch themselves a bit more with a new goal that the community agreed on.


This week in Quest, Eagles enjoyed their third challenge of Marine Science Quest, the Tuna Challenge. Diving into the deep sea, Eagles learned about creatures living deeper than light can reach. They focused on adaptations by marine life in the deep sea and will bring those creatures to life in their studio through paper-maché.


Eagles in The Writers’ Workshop took time to revise and rewrite the conclusions of their persuasive essays. They gave each other Warm and Cool Feedback and received feedback from their Writing Buddies. They are focusing on using voice in their essays

Eagles in Word World continued to build fine motor skills and penmanship through tracing.


In Art, Eagles finalized the Ascent mural. They also began using clay to create sculptures for a small sculpture garden in the Orchard.

In Physical Development, Eagles continued building their volleyball skills. Their coaches, the Peak Bears, focused on serving underhand over the net and peppering.


This week in Hiking Club, Eagles enjoyed hiking in Great Hills Park, where they found interest in creatures along the way. Eagles were fascinated by a freshwater shrimp they discovered on the hike.


Year 4. Session 5. Week 2

This week in Discovery, Eagles had discussions about emotions, and practiced expressing their needs through new tools. Eagles learned about a tool called “flip your lid,” which is a hand signal used to express a loss of emotional control and a need for space from the person or group involved in a conflict. They also discussed how their bodies feel when emotions arise, and what signals their bodies are giving them: dance, shake, tighten, run, or hide. We found inspiration through a hero of movement, Alvin Ailey, whose vision was to use movement as a form of expressing all feelings through modern dance.


This week in Core Skills, Eagles had their first week of Math Power Hour, one hour dedicated to focusing on math skills to reach an Excellent Goal that they set as a group. An Excellent Goal is one that perfectly walks the line between the Challenge Zone and Panic Zone. Math Power Hour will take place two times a week, and Eagles will work hard with their teams to achieve their goal to earn a reward at the end of the session.


This week in Quest, Eagles enjoyed their second challenge of Marine Science Quest, the Octopus Challenge. They dove into the details of coral reefs and symbiotic relationships. Eagles used their creativity to create marine life and coral reefs from materials in the studio. They also brushed the surface of Taxonomy, discussing whether or not systems were created or discovered by Taxonomists.


Eagles in Writers Workshop took time to revise and rewrite the introductions of their persuasive essays. They gave each other Warm and Cool Feedback, a method for peer-revision which allows them to collaborate to provide feedback on each other’s drafts. This will support them in creating work they are proud of, and that meets their standard of Excellence.

Eagles in Word World practiced pencil control and planning through mad libs and mazes. They split their use of time evenly between writing and reading. During their reading time, learners who wanted to practice reading aloud worked with a reading buddy who listened to them read.


In Art, the mural artists got together as a group to make agreements about the final design of the mural, before separating to focus on their individual parts of the mural.

In Physical Development, Eagles started the week with a community soccer game, where everyone in the studio participated. They also welcomed their coaches from Peak, who led them in drills to learn the basics of passing in volleyball.


This week, we started the Hiking Club, which will take place every Friday during this session. After completing a bonus challenge about safety and nature, Eagles can attend this weekly hike that will take us to trails all around Austin.

Year 4. Session 5. Week 1.


Discovery Eagles returned with enthusiasm, and kicked off the session with an important discussion about creating goals for their future selves. Inspired by Gladys West’s story of leaving her farm town to become the inventor of the Global Positioning System, the Eagles thought of their most important goals. After setting their most important goal, they decided on actions they will take daily, monthly, and by session to achieve their goal. While some were Core Skills driven to earn badges or move up a mountain, others were community driven, like to be a helpful friend.


This week in Core Skills, Eagles started taking steps toward their most important goal. They had the option to work in Core Skills and Campus Care three days a week, and some stepped into new roles as a new Chicken Council was elected. Chicken Council members must be chicken certified in order to know the best practices for caring for the chickens, and chicken certified Eagles led their new Chicken Council to prepare them for their new roles.



In Quest this session, Eagles will take on the role of Earth Explorers, diving into the deep sea to learn about all there is to discover. They will be working in teams to complete a new level each week that takes them deeper into discovering ocean waves, corals reefs, the deep ocean, and more. Starting with ocean waves, this week’s challenges included creating a strong team, managing many instructions and materials, and time management.




Eagles in Writers Workshop are in the process of reviewing persuasive essays. Taking space in the yurt, they practiced giving kind, specific feedback.

Eagles in Word World practiced vocabulary through describing games, and practiced reading skills in Lexia.


In art, final details are being added to the Ascent Mural. Artists have taken ownership of parts of the mural and are working to complete their design. There has been innovation in adding new ideas as well as making adjustments to the original design as they go.

In physical development, Eagles are taking on volleyball this session with their teams. On their first day, Eagles started building their team pride by creating team names and flags.


Year 4. Session 4. Week 6 Update


This week in Discovery, learners put their deep dive research on display for their Global Expo Exhibition. Challenges arose due to inclement weather that caused the group to shift plans and use the time available to prepare for the Global Expo. With limited time to display their work, the learners had many opportunities to practice time management. These events created a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how to be prepared when unforeseen events occur.  One Eagle reflected that “Next time, I would focus on finding information early and not even look at the games.” As a group, they came up with creative ideas to host an exhibition that everyone could feel proud of. Guests were invited to explore the continents and countries, as well as play a game of Agalmata, a game from Greece. At the end of the Exhibition, the site of the next National Geographic Research Location was announced: Brazil!




In one morning discussion, Eagles learned about a group of young people who changed the world through integrating restaurants in their segregated town in Oklahoma in 1958 from this video. They discussed how to respond to hurtful actions and words, and how to use what resources you have available to create change. Many Eagles reflected on how to respond to injustice; one learner said, “When you respond with violence, you give the other person what they want, but when you respond with peace, you can make your message heard.” Eagles were called to think about how they have responded to something that felt unfair in the past and how they would like to respond to seeing or experiencing something unfair in the future.










In Core Skills, Eagles worked hard to complete their goals that they have been setting in their Daily Goals Journals. They spent most of this final week focused in Silent Core Skills time as many expressed missing Core Skills time in the week that we were not on campus.




In Campus Care, Eagles worked hard to clear the campus of branches and leaves that covered walk ways from the winter storm, demonstrating great team work!



The learners ended their week with a Global Feast and a dance party with the Spark Studio. They had a lot to celebrate, including welcoming new Fellow Travelers into the studio, coming together as a community to solve problems, collectively earning many badges each week, and a successful Exhibition of Learning!


Expedition Earth

In Quest this session, Discovery Eagles have been on a geographical exploration of the world, getting their Ascent passports stamped as they travel from continent to continent, discovering new lands and cultures. These Quest days have led to exploring beadwork in Africa, building Igloos in Antarctica, and creating Rangoli in Asia.

After traveling to six continents, each learner took on the role of a National Geographic geographer pitching the country they think should be chosen to house the next National Geographic research location. Their challenge, after traveling the world, was learn as much as possible about their chosen country and present their facts- and their case- to visitors at the Global Expo (this session’s Exhibition of Learning).

As we head toward the end of the session, the geographers have been focused and working hard on wrapping up their research and finalizing their presentations for the Global Expo.

Throughout this Quest, the learners have been practicing curiosity and wonder as they discovery new languages, new cuisines, and different cultures. They have worked hard to overcome the challenges that accompany finding valuable information throughout the research process and have learned to decipher true and relevant information.

As the learners have formed connections with how others live in the world, they continue to come back to our Question of the Year: How Does a Hero Connect?


Mural Artists in Discovery – Design Process

In Session 3, the heroes of Discovery were commissioned to redesign a mural on campus. They completed daily rounds of verbal feedback and found inspiration both on their campus and in their city.

The first step of their design process was to identify the area and get familiar with the space. Afterwards, they created a list of symbols and ideas that tell the story of their community and that represent Ascent Academy in a way that makes them feel proud. Small groups of artists who completed a bonus challenge each week even left campus to explore the many murals in Austin to bring ideas back to the group. Their challenge was to create a final mural design by the end of the 3 week session.

The design process was full of critique, collaboration, and innovation. Learners were faced with the challenges of giving and receiving feedback, as well as letting go of ideas that wouldn’t fit into this project. The first round of feedback began with 27 designs, where each learner created their own design or icons that they wanted to be included in the final mural design. The studio transformed into a gallery space in which artists laid their work out in lines, respectfully walked around to observe the art, and placed stickers on the art that they wanted to share feedback about. Using the framework “I like (    ) about (    ) because (    )” and “I wish (    ) about (    ) because (    ), artists shared verbal feedback for the 10 works with the most stickers. They were clear, concise, and thought of new ideas together. After completing that step, the artists received feedback from one of the founders and were challenged to consider what was connected to their experience at Ascent and what was not so relevant to this project. 

In round two of designing the Ascent mural, the artists met with their squads (6 groups), to bring their ideas together. By creating collages from the 27 works of art, the group created 6 designs, moving closer to their goal. In order to move toward one final design that the entire group could feel proud of, each collage was shared on the screen as everyone met in “group” to talk about what was working and what was not. The artists had innovative ideas to bring their creativity together, a crowd favorite being a “donut sun” representing the Challenge Donut, a tool that supports the learners in reflecting on their comfort zone, challenge zone, and panic zone. After 2 days of feedback and creating, the artists created one design, and faced their next challenge, approval from the rest of their community in the Spark Studio.

The Spark learners contributed their own experiences and ideas, adding elements like Spark play materials and disco balls to represent their Friday dance parties. After sharing their ideas to be added to the final design, the artists in Discovery completed their final round of approval with a unanimous “yes!” from the Spark learners.

Later in the week, families and friends were invited into the studio to see the design process in the form of a gallery. Afterward, a panel of Discovery artists, selected by the group, answered questions about the design process before revealing their final mural design! Finally, the artists prepared the space by priming the wall before leaving for the holiday break.

They are currently making progress painting the Ascent mural, which will be completed by mid-February.


The Story of Discovery

As we begin a new session equipped with all of the systems, goals, and accomplishments of Mission Discovery Launch, we come back to the question of the year, How Does a Hero Connect? Discovery learners have been making connections between themselves and those who lived 40,000 years ago in the start of Civilization. Like the first people on Earth, we all create, tell stories, and have core values and beliefs. The Heroes in Discovery created their own “cave painting” to tell the story of their community, that now covers the kitchen wall. They even made their own paint with natural materials in order to create their cave painting. Connections are being made between themselves and nature through campus care and art, where they are caring for campus outside of our studio walls. This session, Heroes have the opportunity to build the community they wish to see, through actions and systems, but also through their Architecture Quest in which groups of 2 will create their ideal Acton Academy Campus. There are more connections to me made, questions to discover, and models to be build over the course of session 2.