Practical Education with Dr. Eden Hinds, Acton Academy's Head of School and CEO
One of the biggest questions we get when families are looking to move into Serenbe is, do you have a school nearby? The answer is yes — Acton Academy at Serenbe is located in the Grange neighborhood, offering education for children ages 18 months to 14 years old with a high school on the way. We learned all about Acton Academy’s education model, growth over the past year and plans for the future on this week’s episode of Serenbe Stories, featuring Dr. Eden Hinds, Head of School and CEO. We talk about instilling practical life skills in children and the benefits of place, specifically how the school thrives in community by having Serenbe’s natural assets as a learning environment. Eden and Steve Nygren also share the first details of a new campus being built in the Mado neighborhood. Read on and listen for more.
Eden found her way to Serenbe after coming across a LinkedIn ad to “help build a school in Serenbe, Georgia”. She and her husband were already looking for a reason to move back down south and closer to family, so when she met resident and school board member Peter Vantine and started discussing the idea, she was sold. She says “we were talking about this relationship of being able to build something for this very, very special community of Serenbe, a community that has been around for a little over a decade, and now families are on that pilgrimage to find that place of serenity where we can go back into time and our kids can be outside in the woods playing and where children can be children, and really experience the joy of childhood”. That resonated with her so much that she flew to Serenbe for an interview and visit, eventually leading her to accept the new Head of School role and move to the neighborhood.
When asked why she chose to not only work but also live in the community, Eden says, “I have never experienced so much great energy and support, all surrounding and giving our kids something for them to be proud of and from which they can grow.” She explains how it’s important to connect with the school, community and students outside of work for a deeper sense of connection and growth. “The school is about relationships and the school is only as strong as the community that surrounds it,” she explains.
The Acton Academy model is the way education should be done, says Eden. She’s worked in the education field for a while and has researched many models for learning, concluding that the Acton model is the most affective. Based out of Austin, Texas, this innovative disruptive education model, evolved from wanting an education centered around practical life skills, pursuing a higher education, and becoming “work ready”. Acton Co-Founder Jeff Sandefer, shares more during his TEDX Talk. Acton is a learner-driven, self-paced model, flipping the focus of the traditional school by incorporating the basic philosophies of Montessori education to foster responsibility, goal-setting and teamwork. Aspects of this model include using teachers as “guides” by offering insightful questions and facilitating hands-on learning, while also avoiding long lectures and instead using short, engaged lessons.
Acton is also “student led” meaning children take ownership of their education and peer relationships. Other fantastic aspects of this form of education is that children are given more creative freedom, are encouraged to ask questions and deeply engage in lessons, as well as creating a really hands-on experience to “learn to learn”. One example of hands-on learning is how Serenbe Farms is a major part of the education program here, as kids get to venture onto the farm, get their hands dirty and learn about where their food comes from, straight from the source.
The future of Acton Academy is extremely exciting and is a “dynamite” addition to the community, as Serenbe founder Steve Nygren says. First off, they’re adding a 9th grade for the 2021-2022 school year and will be adding a grade each year moving forward. They will also be adding apprenticeships as a part of their “launchpad” high school program, as they prepare to launch kids into the real world. This will allow them to observe and shadow professionals in their field of choice, giving them the tools, research and credentials to move forward in that field during and after college. “Nothing is worse than sending our children to college without having any practical life skills to make those decisions of what they’re gonna spend the rest of their life in a career. We’re going to be able to give them that experience,” says Eden.
As the school grows, the campus is growing as well. The campus site plan is currently in the works, to be located on Prom Field Road in Mado, next to the Serenbe Swim Club. The school building architecture is inspired by a Scandinavian architect, including a lot of fun colors and shapes - think orange and blues, very fitting for a school and will be a wonderful complement to the pool complex. We can’t wait to see how the new architect and design of the new campus elevates the experience for everyone.
If you’d like to learn more about the curriculum, 2021-2022 enrollment or get involved with Acton Academy, click here. Get to know Eden and listen to the full episode on Serenbe Stories on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.