School-in-Focus: The Forest School, An Acton Academy

Tell us a little about your school...

The Forest School at Pinewood Forest is a 21st-century micro-school in South Metro Atlanta (U.S.). We implement a variety of innovative teaching methods such as learner-driven technology, Socratic discussions, hands-on projects, and real-world apprenticeships; all within a character-forging community.

At the Forest School, children are given the opportunity to be in charge of their own education and encouraged to use their learning to change the world for the better. Our learner-driven community puts children at the heart of their own learning. They are free to create and pursue personal goals, relational covenants and real-world meaningful work. Learners at The Forest School are taught together in mixed-age classrooms, bringing the classic one-room schoolhouse into the modern era. Students learn how to mentor and be mentored by one another. Instead of teachers, we have ‘guides’. Our guides are not lecturers, but facilitators of student growth. Parents can track the growth of learners through an online dashboard which we update daily.

We believe each child has a gift that can change the world in a profound way.

Why do you want to be a HundrED School?

HundrED schools sit at the bleeding edge of educational innovation. We aspire to learn from and network with learning environments that achieve breakthrough results through innovation. HundrED provides a platform for leaders of innovative learning environments to SIW (share ideas willingly) and SIS (steal ideas shamelessly). We welcome this incredible opportunity to collaborate!

What innovative things are happening in your school?

1. Instead of teachers, we have Socratic Guides.

2. We have mixed-age studios instead of classrooms.

3. We use portfolios + exhibitions, rather than grades.

4. Instead of rules, we have contracts and covenants.

5. We ask our learners questions, rather than lecturing them.

6. There is no homework!

7. Learning is hands-on and electronic.

8. Students learn at their own pace.

9. Students are actively encouraged to travel.

10. Apprenticeships begin in middle school.

If you want to know more, check out our real world Quests and our 10 key beliefs about learning.

What kind of innovations are you looking for?

We are searching for innovative ways to visualize learner progress for self-directed learners; tech solutions that amalgamate data from multiple e-learning platforms into one user-friendly dashboard (for parents, guides, and students); and helpful banks of transdisciplinary real-world projects.

Three HundrED innovations you love and why?

I love Dream Teams from Achievement First Greenfield because they are a simple way to make sure all children set goals, reflect deeply and find support from multiple caring adults.

I also love the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) because I believe our schools should not only provide personalized pathways for learners but also accommodate personalized outcomes for all learners and this is what MTC is designed to capture.

Lastly, we love The Daily Mile because we're familiar both with the research that exercise improves learning and attention and with the fact that our young learners love to be outside!

Shared by Tyler Thigpen, co-founder of The Forest School: An Acton Academy in South Atlanta (USA).

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