A Letter from Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving together with family and friends, and that you are enjoying this holiday season. It was my pleasure to meet many of you at the Business Expo and school fundraiser a few weeks ago. Now I want to take this opportunity to provide you with a basic framework for the direction of this beautiful school, a true labor of love for the children, is heading.

In many ways, modern education has become a reflection of a society where challenges are viewed as obstacles, not opportunities for growth. One of the most appealing aspects of Acton Academy at Serenbe is the school’s constructivist paradigm, facilitating the development of each student’s personal understanding of the world. As the old adage goes, “experience is the best teacher”. Our methodology is an evolution of traditional education. Development of independent thinkers and future leaders demands adoption of this countercultural concept to allow nurturing of intellectual curiosity, personal resilience, risk-taking, and a genuine love for learning in our children.

Research and common sense show us that parents are the primary educators of our children. This responsibility demands partnership between home and school built on common values and trust. Allowing children to take risks, struggle, and sometimes fail is not easy. However, it is the best way to develop solid citizens, critical thinkers, and leaders who act to make the world a better place. Research by the Child Mind Institute demonstrates, if our children don’t learn how to fail, they have failed to learn.

Acton Academy at Serenbe is an “evolution of education”, capitalizing on the best parts of traditional education while evolving the learning process into an engaging inquiry-based, student-centered experience. Core skills are not only mastered but enhanced through experiential learning. Each child “owns” their learning in a way that leads to true individuality, achievement, and lifelong curiosity, Our goal for our students is that their learning will never stop. Through an inquiry-based learning methodology, Acton capitalizes on the development of 21st century skills including:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving 

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Personal responsibility

  • Creativity and innovation

So where are we heading? In close collaboration with Malin and the Board of Directors, we have identified a number of strategic initiatives for immediate attention to ensure Acton is positioned to serve your children.

  1. Accreditation - AAAS presently has GAC accreditation but we believe in doing more. We are beginning pursuit of full accreditation by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). The accreditation process will involve self-study, professional support from SAIS, and will provide formal recognition of the amazing education provided to your children.

  2. Professional Development - We will invest in an ongoing professional development program for our guides (teachers) to ensure they remain equipped to serve our children. All new guides (teachers) will be certified, or on a path toward certification.

  3. Testing to demonstrate mastery - Every spring, we will conduct standardized testing to ensure mastery of the requisite concepts for their age/learning level. The test will be presented as a routine event and we will never teach for the test. We will utilize the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), a trusted and proven group-administered achievement test for grades K-12 measuring a student’s knowledge in areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, vocabulary, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and computation. At the 3rd grade level and below, two subtests are given in word analysis and listening.

  4. Board Member - We are actively searching for a fifth board member to replace Rusty Zarse, who recently resigned. We are grateful to Rusty for his committed service to the children of Acton Academy at Serenbe and will truly miss his perspective and insight. Thank you, Rusty, for your service.

  5. New Campus - We have begun planning for our new campus in Mado which will require us to raise funds for the new space. Phase I is three studio spaces to be used for one primary studios, one ES studio, and one MS (middle school) with the goal of completion and opening in Fall 2020. Phase II will be an additional primary studio and a high school studio.

Today’s young people mature more slowly than past generations. Why? Because children today are supervised far more closely than their predecessors. This increased supervision fosters an unhealthy dependency. Also, children spend vast amounts of time on their phone with peers, which fosters immaturity. More and more young people do not believe they need social interaction, as long as they are on social media at home. For the most part, children are overly cautious, unwilling to take intellectual risk, and afraid to interact socially and make decisions on their own. Are they afraid because they do not do as much, or are they not doing as much because they are afraid?

“If children are given room to struggle and to figure things out on their own, and if they have support from a mentor, peer, or guide who knows them well and holds them accountable, they will learn more than we can imagine.”

- Laura Sandefer

At Acton, we understand that students benefit from developmentally appropriate levels of genuine responsibility and ownership of the learning process. Dr. Tim Elmore, president and founder of “Growing Leaders” and best-selling author and speaker, asserts that humans mature and become truly confident only when they take on actual responsible tasks. “We don’t truly build leaders until students take on authentic responsibility. They must learn to lift something heavy, figuratively speaking. They must take on something hard. This will draw out the leader within, and the “adult” who wants to come out—but it is prevented with our “safety first” bias.”

Acton’s evolution of education, working together with your help and cooperation, allows this to happen. Your children will benefit for the rest of their lives...

Thought from COO Malin

Recently I gave a tour of the school to a lovely family. I walked them through our beautiful community and introduced them to several of our students. 

I spoke on the importance of the practical life lessons of cleaning, how they strengthen muscles and build coordination as well as igniting a sense of place in a community and the importance every member plays. I piqued their interest when I spoke of the hand to brain connection, how sandpaper letters stimulate the nerves in your fingers and simultaneously build neural pathways in the brain. How it preps for reading by capturing visual symbols, decoding each symbol’s sound, and assigning each symbol meaning. How practical life prepares you for the next steps in hand-to-brain connections like our lessons in golden beads and then on to project-based learning as the child develops. 

Then we got to the playground, and I have heard this before, "Where is the brightly colored play equipment with the padded ground?"  Now I just smile when we get to this part, mostly because it is the most important part of the tour.  I tell them that free play is one of the most important parts of the day for all studios here, this is where they practice independence, risk management, and social skills.  There is no padded ground because a hard ground is how you learn not to fall. I point out the steps that are not quite even and explain that is how you learn to balance. I mention the guide is here for safety but not to intervene at every unkind comment uttered, because this is how you learn to deal with other humans.  The world is full of busy streets, ledges, mean people, and precarious situations. We have to raise up kids to know how to handle it all on their own. Jonathan Haidt said it best, "Your job as a parent is to raise an independent adult and to work yourself out of a job."