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  • Writer's pictureLaura Sandefer


Nemo. Luke Skywalker. Mulan. Odysseus. Dorothy. The Little Engine that Could.

These stories strike a chord of yearning we share – adventure, identity and meaning in our lives. They also have a structured rhythm that’s been repeated in stories for thousands of years. Joseph Campbell’s work revealed this fundamental structure and called it the “monomyth” or the Hero’s Journey.

Because of its timeless power that crosses cultural barriers, we chose to build the Hero’s Journey into the design of the Acton Academy model.

In fact, second only to our underlying belief that each child has unique genius within, the Hero’s Journey is the #1 element that defines an Acton learner driven community.

This narrative equips our young heroes with the tools and skills they need to learn how to learn, learn how to do and learn how to be. For example, they learn early on that it’s important to fail early, cheaply and often; and that perseverance and grit are more important than raw talent.

We watch this video often and inject hero stories into learning challenges and daily Socratic discussions. It’s important to note our definition of hero. We aren’t talking “super hero” here. We’re describing a hero as an ordinary person who gets back up after falling down. It’s someone who takes responsibility rather than blaming others when things get hard. A hero shares their inner gifts to meet the needs around them. They return home, rest, and wait for the next call to adventure knowing the treasure isn’t really the object of the quest but the transformation that happens along the way.

How to use this at home? Tell lots of hero stories! Stories beat lectures every time. Also, use the identity of a hero as a reflection tool when things get hard. Remember a hero is someone who doesn’t quit or blame. “I love you. I know this is hard. I know you can do it. Now, get back in the game, my dear and beloved hero.”

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