About 20 years ago on a small farm, outside of a small, Texas town, I began learning what it means to add meaning to my learning. The ironic thing is that this epiphany had little to do with school, and nothing to do with sitting in a classroom all day long. As a young boy on the farm, I was free (as long as I stayed within the boundaries my parents set out for me). I was free to run, play, fish, hunt, build, tear down, burn (I did several times), and create. The only thing holding me back was my imagination. If I could imagine it, and could find suitable materials, then I could create it. The sky was the limit.
One such occasion stands out in my memory. My father had built a small, plywood backstop for me to practice my pitching for baseball. Over time, it became another relic added to the barn. However, one cloudy, winter day, I trudged out to the barn to find something to do. I noticed this backstop lying in the barn, and decided to put it to work. I began searching high and low for materials that would serve a specific purpose. Ultimately, what I found looked like a pile of junk to the untrained eye, but to me, it was building material. You see, in my head, that pile of junk was a clubhouse.
Over the next several hours, my brother, sister, and I hammered, nailed, sawed, and did a bit of arguing. We scrounged for all of the missing pieces for our creation. When it was all said and done, we marveled at our handwork. We were proud of what we had created; much more proud than we had been with any worksheet from school. It was complete with a tin roof, a swinging door, a window (the window had previously been the strike zone for my backstop), and a floor.
We enjoyed that clubhouse for many months after its completion. However, looking back now, the play was not the best part of the experience. Looking back, I realize that the best part of the experience was the time we spent building and creating. We used many skills that we had learned in school to complete this project. We used math to measure the boards so that they fit together. Some of the math skills we used were actually far beyond what we had learned in school, but geometry seemed to come to life at our fingertips. What started out as flat boards and tin became a three dimensional clubhouse. We used teamwork to complete all of the difficult tasks. We used many concepts we were not aware that we had learned after completing our construction project.
As the playing commenced, one of our favorite games was to play store with our “drive-thru window”. We would ride our bikes up to the window, and place orders for our “store”. The cashier would always market to the customer, confirm orders, and take money. This formed much of the foundation we use today in working with other people.
While this childhood experience may sound trivial, it contributed to the fundamental concepts that make up my vision for what education should be. This learning was fun, personal, relevant, rigorous, purposeful, and integrated. We used numerous skills at the same time to put together our clubhouse. Had any one of the skills been lacking, we would not have been able to complete our task. This fundamental idea of learning is a glimpse of what the Adventure Academy is all about.
At the Adventure Academy, we desire to make learning fun, personal, relevant, rigorous, purposeful, and integrated. Our six week units are centered on themes that are based on concepts, problems, or ideas that show up routinely in the real world. Each six-week unit also consists of a culminating project that will be built over the course of the five weeks to develop vision, creativity, and endurance. These culminating projects will use a blend of multiple disciplines of learning to produce, explain, and defend the student’s idea. The student will work with their guides and fellow adventurers to create the “clubhouses” of their dreams. The added value comes when students use their interpersonal skills to present and defend their ideas. This format is fun, personal, relevant, rigorous, purposeful, and integrated. By using this format to develop and prove learning, Adventure Academy students will be ready to enter the real world with a transdisciplinary knowledge base that is only capped by their imagination.