Physics Quest ~ Session Seven

This session, as we wrap up the year in the Studio, our elementary and middle schoolers will be exploring the science of how things work through experimentation and investigation into Physics. Through our quest, we will explore the elements of classical mechanics, fluid dynamics, buoyancy, relativity, energy, force and gravity. We will be diving deeper into the lives of influential physicists including Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Galileo and Archimedes.

~Acton West Team

Gardening Quest~ Session Six (Elementary and Middle School)

During this Spring Session, the Eagles will plan, build, create and harvest from their own Community Gardens! Through the early processes of exploring the science behind soil composition, companion plants & insects, seed sprouting & transplants, we will gain enough information to create our own Gardening Field Guides which we can keep with us for reference for many years to come. Through daily Garden Journals, we will focus on the maintenance and patience it takes to grow a fruitful garden. Through our desktop gardens, we will experience growing fruit, vegetables & herbs from seed in an enclosed ecosystem while discovering the properties of the Earth and how everything comes together in farming and agriculture. Through further exploration of agriculture and farming in the United States, we will research, write and explore the effects of GMOs, Climate change, Organic farming, pesticides and through Socratic Discussions, the pros & cons of both sides. Not only will we experience the patience it takes for physical growth in the garden, but from day 1 of this session, we are digging deep into the growth within ourselves and our community. 

MUSIC QUEST ~ Session Five (elementary & middle school)

This session, we will be exploring the science, techniques, genres and legendary pioneers of MUSIC! We will begin our quest with the science of sound using Sound Labs during Project time. We will explore vibrations, pitch, tone, and how music affects the way we feel. During these labs, we will be using the Scientific Method to write Lab Reports complete with hypotheses, analyzations of our observations and conclusions. As we move throughout the next 6 weeks, we will explore construction of instruments, composition of songs, what it takes to be a musician, and what it takes to plan a successful performance. We will also use our Civilization time to explore Classical composers and the history of music. The Eagles are excited to jump in to the history with an individual research project inspired by an artist who helped shape the musical scene, ranging from Beethoven, B.B. King, The Beatles and so many more. We will explore the artist's inspirations, life story, Hero's Journey and contribution to the timeline of music as we know it today. We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you as we grow our knowledge and experience of music & sound!

Acton West Guides ~ Ashley, Sara & Joey

Art Quest *Citycats, Session 4 add on art quest with Zoey!

Acton Art Action!

For the next 6 weeks we will be on our visual art adventure. Our assignment will be creating sculptures and paintings.


Citycats. Truely like no others.

Citycats have at least nine lives, maybe more. 

Some are into art and become masterpieces. 

Others walk on the wild side, covered in tattoos and urban graffiti showing their true colors. 

Some run away to join the circus, others have fingers and super powers.

Created of papier-mache (French for "chewed paper") they thrive on life, art and curiosity.

Students will name their cat and write a short story of their cats personality and adventures. 


We will create Animal Portraits. Using acrylic paint and wild colors, animals will appear magical in a transformative painting that represents what only an artists eye can see. 

We look forward to our Acton Eagles reigniting their creative spirit and demonstrating their "Art Power."

Attached are Citycat and Animal Portrait examples.

Peace & Love,


Zoey Upshaw is Art Guide at Acton Academy. She guides students through creative processes so they learn the fundamentals of fine art and the skills for loving and living life. With lots of positive energy and instruction, students learn to paint, draw, sculpt, print and create masterpieces. 



In the art studio Zoey encourages students to let their imaginations take them on visual journeys that lead to transformation and innovation. She is constantly looking for new creative ways to engage students and inspire artistic expression. 

Zoey says her Heroes are masters of the Arts - Michelangelo, O’keeffe and Einstein, at least for today.  





Entrepreneurship Quest! Session 4 ~ 2017

Welcome back to a new year, Acton families!  We just know it's going to be a GREAT one! To launch our brand new 2017 year, we watched one of our favorite videos (linked below) and tales about the little actions we take in our lives that make a real difference in the lives of others.  This was a great way to launch into this session's Quest...Entrepreneurship!  We will start by learning more about some of the larger companies we know well...Apple, Dell, Microsoft, etc. and how an everyday entrepreneur can become the head of a large, publicly traded company.  Not only will the Eagles research the details of creating a business from the ground up, but they will be following the Stock Market and how certain business choices can affect overall value of a company.  

On day 1, the Eagles were split into 8 "Companies," and are in beginning stages of creating their own company. Together they will assign roles (CEO, VP of Marketing, Finance, etc.), conduct market research, study Ethics, Marketing and Ad tactics, create their brand, business plan and budgets for a successful business. They even have a designation "HQ" within the Studio for Business Meetings! As their own companies develop over the next 6 weeks, they will also watch in real time as their assigned Publicly Traded Company ebbs and flows. As we watch the market together each day, we will be able to collect the data on what it takes to make it in the real world. The culmination of this Quest will be that of a "Trade Show" where guests will watch as our young Entrepreneurs present their ideas in hopes of further creation toward the Spring Business Fair on March 4th. 

Feel free to revisit this video with your Eagles at home, it's a big hit and sparks some great conversations. 


With Gratitude in the New Year, 

Ashley & Sara
~The Acton Academy West Guides 

Middle School: Mini Quest ~ Session 3 and Entrepreneurship Quest ~ Session 4

Our Mini Quest is only three weeks, we covered a lot in a short period of time. We started out the session with each of the students acting as a component of a circuit by pretending to be a battery, resistor, LED, wires, and switch. They would pass electrons (paper electrons) to each other to show the flow of electricity through the circuit. After the exercise, each student built their own physical circuits and then we had a socratic discussion about Ohm's Law (relationship between Voltage, Current, & Resistance). We then introduced them to some programs where they built virtual circuits in an online application. We eventually stepped them up into using breadboards, transistors, and Arduinos (micro-controllers) so they could wire their own prototype circuits.

In parallel to learning about circuits, they were building their a storyboard of a Hero's Journey. The whole thing was launched using the examples that you provided in the last parent meeting. They were divided up into teams of two and each team had to come up with a backstory of a hero. Each team pitched their character and backstory and the group voted on "the best backstory". This character ended up being the main character in the final Hero’s Journey Exhibition.

Each team created a part of the Hero's Journey (Call To Adventure, Allies/Mentors, Road Of Trials, Final Showdown, and Return Home) with their new hero. All the teams had to work together to come up with their own part of a cohesive storyboard. This took a lot of effort for the team to self organize, and we had a great discussion about what are the advantages and disadvantages about organization making decisions in a democratic versus executive way.

After they finalized the storyboard, they had to use their new circuit skills to help them tell the story of the Hero in the final exhibition.

Entrepreneurship ~ Session Four

We are diving into the basics of entrepreneurship. We started the session with an exercise digging into the type of people that they are and what types of opportunities they see in the world. The questions they needed to wrestle with were:

1) Is there a great injustice in the world they would like to solve?

2) Is there a problem that they see that can be fixed by starting a business?

3) Do they have a special gift that aligns with starting a specific type of business?


As the quest continues, the Eagles will be introduced to:

Unit Economics

Basics Of Operations



Setting Prices

Business Plans

As we introduce the concepts above, we are going to have some competitions that will allow some of the students to go to an Acton MBA case discussion, and we will Shark Tank type presentations to win prize money for their start up costs for the business fair.

Mini-quests! Session 3, 2016



This session, because of the shorter term, we are excited to work through several "mini-quests" with the Eagles over the next three weeks. During week 1, we're asking the Eagles to "Show me the Money!" Through this Finance mini-quest, we are working through Personal Finance, making a Budget, and creating a real world game of LIFE!  

As we move through the session, we will use our Personal Finance skills to guide us through projects using data analysis, reading/creating charts, graphs and code.

During week 3, we will move into a Civilization Simulation regarding our historical ancestors.  Where did they come from? Did they come to Ellis Island? What was the process like?

We can't wait to see the ideas they create, and where it takes us.  


Ashley & Sara ~ Acton Academy West Guides

Geography Quest ~ Session 2 ~ 2016

This session, our ES Eagles are learning about their place in Austin, in Texas, in the US and in our world! We started the session off by pairing up with PenPals across the globe! Through, an Austin-based tech company, we focus each week on a different aspect of our Pen Pals' lives. Week one was "A Day in the Life" and this week we are focused on the food of different cultures! The Eagles are able to chat with their Pen Pals about their lives, their communities and the ways in which their cultures differ. As the weeks go on, the topics change, as do the challenges the Eagles face in our community. Currently, we are working in groups to create "GeometroCities." Each Pod has chosen a major US city in which they create a suburb. From the beginning stages, the group researched the climate, topography, culture and population so that they could create a suburb which fits. As the City Planning phases continue, groups attain permits for building, Blueprint challenges, zoning challenges and are now in the "building up" phase to turn our 2D, Geometric cities into 3D, real world communities. Stay tuned as this quest unfolds and we learn more about Geography and our communities!

Ashley & Sara ~ Acton West Guides

The Middle School has been gaining tools to play in a “Colonization Game”. They have been learning how to read topographical, precipitation and political maps, and find their latitude and longitude with a handmade quadrant and knowing what timezone they are in. In the Colonization Game their teams will make the passage across the Atlantic, and settle into the New World. The game is broken down into the following stages:

Planning -

They will select the type of ship, the ship captain, who will they bring with them (carpenters, blacksmiths, doctors, weavers, etc), how much cargo (food, equipment, etc), and where will they set their initial settlement location. All of the decisions will have a costs, risks, and benefits they will need to weigh as they plan.

Voyage & Settlement -  

They will run into obstacles (leaking ships, tuberculosis, ship captains taking a detours, attacks from natives, flooding, freezing weather, etc). All of the obstacles will have some likelihood of happening that is based on their initial planning. For example, if they pay for a higher quality ship, the less likely the ship will leak and need to be docked for an additional month and pushing their landing dates into the winter.

Later in the session, we will explore geocaching, geographic information systems (GIS), and human geography.

Joey ~ Acton West MS Guide


Passion Projects ~ Session 1 *2016


This Session we were inspired by Google's Genius Hour Idea, in which employees are empowered to explore their own passions for 20% of their day.  We thought this would be the perfect way to start out the Eagles first session by getting their creative juices flowing! Here at Acton West, our Eagles are exploring their own passions through Genius Hour, also known as passion projects.  In the beginning stages of Genius Hour, the Eagles spent time thinking of the things that drive them, excite them and inspire them to gather more information.  Some projects are made to solve a problem or satisfy a need.  Projects were planned through idea mapping, gathering supplies and sometimes, collaborating with others.  While working alone or on teams, the Eagles have been spending their Genius Hour time researching their subjects, asking detailed questions and working on their end product. With the Acton Business fair just around the corner, we encourage the Eagles to think deeper about the process of researching, editing, revising and creating.  We can't wait for you to see the final exhibition. 

~ Acton Academy West Guides

Team Building Lip Dub Challenge 2016 * Session 1


The lip dub team building exercise that has been highly acclaimed with the main campus over the past few years- This is our second year doing it and couldn't be more excited about it! 

The lip dub video is a beginning of the year challenge to get all of the students involved and working together. The students planned out the video entirely themselves from start to finish. Besides getting to know their new school mates while working to accomplish a common goal, some of the concepts covered through this project include:

  • working on a team (each team planned a section of the video)

  • working across teams (each team had to communicate with each other to ensure the video would flow from one part to the next)

  • critiquing exemplar work (students watched examples from other Acton locations and other schools to identify strengths and weaknesses) 

  • creating a rubric (students created criteria for their own rubric based on the strengths they identified in model videos)

  • self-evaluation/reflection (students will evaluate and reflect on their final product using the rubric they created)

  • Building self confidence: (First hand experience building something from the ground up that is completely student led. This helps them understand their potential here at Acton and what they can accomplish on their own, without teachers, this is an important lesson when adapting to this new learning environment.)

Watching these kids enjoy and embrace this challenge with such bravery is a humbling experience. We always see character traits come out that we didn't anticipated during this challenge, some of the more reserved kids taking leadership roles and blossoming with pride and confidence, others over coming their fears to support for their teammates- all expressing their unique creativity-we know you all will be so proud, impressed and inspired, as much as we have been after seeing the final take!

~Acton Academy West Guides



Summer Enrichment

Here are a few ways to include some enrichment over our short summer break. Students can participate in fun learning experiences without feeling pushed to the point of burnout!

Reading -

Independent reading books should be chosen at an instructional level (challenge zone) for your child (they can read AND understand MOST but not all of the content). Books that are just a little higher than their level, at a frustrational level (panic zone), are perfect for you to read TO them or with them. Finally, books that are a bit too easy (comfort zone) are great for your child to read to someone else (perhaps a younger sibling)... All three types of reading (independent, read aloud, and read to) are important to developing and improving literacy. Set family goals for daily or weekly reading time. Work with your child to improve their reading stamina!

Looking for reading material to take on vacation or read at home? The Texas Library Association has wonderful reading lists based on age/reading level.

2x2 List: Appropriate for ages 2 - 6 (link includes books and accompanying activities)

Bluebonnet List: Level 3 - 5 (this site also has TONS of accompanying resources including discussion questions you can ask your child to check for comprehension)

Lone Star List: Level 6-8 As always, especially with middle school content, use your parental discretion when helping your Eagle choose appropriate reading content. can help you search the exact reading level of books. (For example, BL: 5.4 indicates a book is at the level of the 4th month of 5th grade)

Writing - Keep a journal, or better yet, continue the blogs we started this session so that students can share what they are doing, thinking, feeling with each other while they are away! This is a highly engaging, social way to get our 21st century learners writing. Our blogs our private to our school only (students have a password they can share with family members or friends if they would like to)

STEM hands-on: Here is a blog by Girlstart, an Austin company that gets girls involved and interested in STEM subjects (science, tech, engineering, and math). Their hands-on activities would be fun for your family to do together at home this summer (and not just for girls!!)

Camp Recommendations:

Summer Spark - Started by an Acton Guide


Travel...relax...and enjoy quality time with your family! Can't wait to see the Eagles back in September!

Digital Citizenship and Multimedia Project Quest ~ Session 6

During our last quest of the school year, we are sending our Eagles off with very important digital citizenship skills. We will be having discussions and simulations about how to handle many situations they may encounter online. These include internet safety topics such as cyberbullying, how to protect private information, and cultivating a positive digital footprint.

 Students will also be applying their new digital skills with a variety of multimedia projects including creating their own blogs, podcasts, and digital stories. There are many benefits and reasons to blog at school! Here are a few of them...


The Eagles have already shown a lot of enthusiasm about this quest! We are excited to see what they create, and can't believe we've made it to the final session already! 

We are getting our digital citizenship resources from  The blogs are safe and secure and made specifically for education on

Catherine & Sara ~ Acton Academy West Guides

Butterfly Transformation Project with Zoey *Session 5 & 6

Zoey Upshaw is Art Guide at Acton Academy. She guides students through creative processes so they learn the fundamentals of fine art and the skills for loving and living life. With lots of positive energy and instruction, students learn to paint, draw, sculpt, print and create masterpieces.

In the art studio Zoey encourages students to let their imaginations take them on visual journeys that lead to transformation and innovation. She is constantly looking for new creative ways to engage students and inspire artistic expression.

Zoey says her Heroes are masters of the Arts - Michelangelo, O’keeffe and Einstein, at least for today.  


Some of the best teachers come from nature. Butterflies are going to inspire us to learn many lessons. We will create with acrylic paint giant butterflies. We will study metamorphosys, symmetry, creativity. Students will develop their drawing skills and learn the fundamentals of acrylic painting. This assignment guides us into an appreciation of beauty and gives us an opportunity to recreate that beauty in a masterpiece. Students will make creative decisions, mix colors, hold the brush properly and see line, color, value, texture, shape, form and space that need to be drawn and painted to the best of their ability.


The butterfly represents rebirth, revival, rejuvenation and transformation. We are all morphing, learning and evolving, Each of us have stories of how we experience change. Never stop the process of moving through the stages of the butterfly in your own life.

Learn more about Zoey's experience here: 

Survival Quest - *Session 5

Welcome to Session 5! During this session, we will begin a Survival Quest. In weeks 1 and 2, we will begin by exploring organisms basic needs, animal and plant adaptations, and discovering what it takes to survive in a competitive world.

Next, during weeks 3 and 4 we will dive into ecosystems and how all organisms are interrelated and dependent.

Finally, we will experience various plant and animal life cycles with a hands on look at the life cycle of butterflies here in the studio. The culminating challenge will be for the level 3-5 students to apply their new knowledge to determine what it would take to survive in an outer space environment.

The level 1 and 2 students will research a certain animal and write a grant style proposal for the resources and environment it would require to raise it as a pet. We look forward to sharing our new vocabulary, interactive scientific notebooks, and final presentations with all of you!



Catherine & Sara ~ Acton West Guides

Poets and Playwrights Quest ~ Zach Scott Theatre Field trips! ~ Session 4


We hope everyone had a nice week off with your families. We were so impressed with the resilience the students showed during our Circuits Quest. The Arduino projects (a new one each week) that involved building complicated circuits and writing many lines of code were extra challenging. To our surprise, many students stepped up as leaders of their teams, and all of the students became invested in encouraging and assisting their group to complete each task. It was amazing to see the excitement on their faces when their hard work and perseverance paid off, and they had a working product.



This session, we will be making a shift to highlight and cultivate a new set of talents in a Poets and Playwrights Quest. Over the next several weeks, we will be reading extraordinary models of, writing, and performing our own poetry and plays. We will even be making two field trips to Zach Scott Theater this session to see a production of James and the Giant Peach with a student from the main Acton campus as James.  The next one we will see is Alice in Wonderland, starring our very own Acton West Eagle,Trinity, as Alice!  In addition, we plan to use some of our Civilization time this session to have some timely (politically unbiased!) discussions about the Presidential election process in our country. 

Catherine & Sara ~ Acton West Guides

Circuits and Austin Tinkering School field trip! ~Session 3 *week 1

We are back!  Hopefully you all had a wonderful holiday break.

This session we will start introducing the Eagles to the world of electronics.  We believe that this is a basic building block understanding the world that we live in today.  It will be useful for each of the Eagles to be exposed to this subject if they want to be anything from a pioneer in robotics to simply wiring up the holiday lights at home.  Maybe you can have them do it next year :).

We will start with the fundamentals by introducing how electrons flow through a circuit.  Not only will we have the Eagles build basic circuits (with batteries, LEDs, resistors, etc), but we are going to have them stand in a circle and each of them will participate as a part of a circuit where they are going to push (battery), hand over (conductor), slow down (resistor), stop (insulator), or use (LED) electrons.  This will be a nice team building exercise after the holiday break and it will give them a great physical representation of how circuits work.

During this quest they will also be taking a field trip to the Austin Tinkering School where the lessons of the first week will be reinforced outside of our studio.

In the following weeks, they will:

1) Learn more complex circuits by completing challenges (working with sensors, potentiometers, etc.)

2) Be introduced to programming a microcontroller (Arduino Uno) to control sensors and LEDs.

3) Learn the process of using what they have learned to come up with a design, and execute on that design.

Happy New Year!

The Acton West Team



Writer's Workshop & Genius Hour ~ Session 2 *weeks 6-8

We hope everyone had a wonderful week together during Thanksgiving. For these three school weeks remaining before our holiday break, level 2-5 students will be wrapping up their first writer's workshop of the year. This workshop focused on informational writing. So far, students have worked through prewriting and drafting. Next week, they will revise and edit. The final informational essays will be published for your viewing during the exhibition next Friday! 

For these next three weeks, we are also implementing something called Genius Hour during afternoon project time. In lieu of a full length quest, students have the opportunity to pursue a project that they are passionate about. The only requirements are that they come up with a "driving question" that cannot easily be answered with a simple online search and that they come up with a product to show off what they have learned. Here is a video on the origins of Genius Hour.

Acton Academy West Guides ~ Catherine and Sara

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Entrepreneurship Quest *Session 2- week 2

This week, your Eagles are beginning a four week quest to equip the Eagles with skills, tools, and frameworks relevant to entrepreneurship (e-ship). Students have been placed on a "company" team to work with for the remainder of this quest. Each week, the teams will engage in a series of mini challenges to apply the principles of e-ship.  The focus of mini challenges  this week will be company formation, including, assigning jobs, holding Socratic discussions about their decision making process, naming the company, and starting to build up funding.  At the end of the session, the Eagles will show proof of what they have learned in a final "standoff" during which each of the six companies will set up a beverage stand and compete for profits.  We can't wait to see what these budding entrepreneurs come up with!

Catherine & Sara ~ Acton Academy West Guides





Science projects & iFLY field trip *Session 2-week 1

On Friday, we will take a trip to iFLY. During project time this week, the students will participate in labs and simulations to provide them with the background knowledge needed to get the most out of their iFLY experience.

At school this week, we will be exploring the differences between solids and fluids and the effects that gravity, air drag, and frontal area have on objects. At iFLY students will be led in a physics demonstration in the wind tunnel as well as an interactive investigation about how parachute parameters affect fight performance. 

Catherine & Sara ~ Acton West Guides

The British Colony of Acton *week 6

This week, your heroes have traveled back in time to the year 1776. Acton Academy West has become the British colony of Acton. All week, students will immerse themselves in colonial times. Each student will be assigned the role of a well known patriot or loyalist to play this week. The guides will act as royal governors in this simulation, imposing taxes and other royal "proclamations" that the heroes will have to follow. 

Talk to your students about which side of the debate they are on and the struggles involved with each one. This simulation will culminate with the students debating their position (in character) whether to revolt against King George or not. They will explore the pros and cons of rebellion and use the persuasive powers they have been working on this session to sway their fellow colonists. 

We are looking forward to a lot of colonial style fun this week with your kids followed by a much deserved fall break! Have a great one!

Catherine & Sara ~ Acton West Guides