Learning Design

Learning at Slope School

At Slope School, we approach learning as a broader set of experiences than a traditional model delivers. These experiences facilitate the development of skills, habits, character traits, relationships, knowledge and expertise necessary for success – and even joy – in the world.

It's easiest to think of these learning experiences in four buckets:

1. Core Academic Skills

"Learn to Know"

Master the foundations of reading, writing, and math


Instead of one-size-fits-none teacher lectures ...

... Self-paced mastery of 3rd-grade math with cutting-edge personalized technology and peer mentoring.

2. Quests & Projects

"Learn to Do"

Hands-on projects to master the skills needed to solve real-world problems


Instead of memorizing the periodic table ...

... You are an ER doctor in a 6-week simulation.

You learn the processes, tools, decision trees and facts to triage patients. On the final-day Exhibtion, parents come with prepared "diseases." You can order an MRI, an X-ray, etc., paying for each. The winner of the simulation is the ER doc who saves the most lives (correct diagnoses) for the lowest cost.

3. Socratic Discussions

"Learn to Learn"

Think and speak clearly to develop wisdom and judgment


Instead of memorization to cram for the test ...

... You are Harry Truman.

  • Do you drop the bomb?
  • Reflect on this video of Hiroshima after nuclear force. Does this change your mind?
  • Reflect on this photo and personal account of a Japanese POW camp. Does this change your mind?
  • Which ethical approach is more important to you: a values approach — "We do not kill people" — or a utilitarian approach — "Fewest total lives lost"?

4. Servant Leadership

"Learn to Be"

Develop habits and character traits that make an abundant, fulfilling life


Instead of schools designed to minimize behavior problems ...

... Young people learn to lead by doing so, with Servant Leader Badges celebrating the most important milestones, like:

  • Leading a conflict resolution discussion
  • Developing a mentor relationship with a personal hero
  • Completing deliberate practice of a skill you want to develop
  • Mentoring a team from a younger studio
  • Leading a team in accomplishing a big goal
  • Mastering a productivity skill like the urgent-important matrix
“Our children absolutely love Slope. It is such a joy and relief to see the love of learning come back into their faces everyday. They want to go to school on weekends!"

The Hero's Journey

Spend time in a Slope School studio and you'll see the layering of systems in a complex web of many moving pieces. But the secret sauce is simpler, and comes from deep within: our firm belief that every person who walks through our doors is a hero in the making.

The Hero's Journey is the founding narrative of Slope School – the "why" behind all the passion. Here, narrative and storyline mean everything. Take a peak at how we embrace the Hero's Journey:

“When we first saw Acton Academy, we realized:
1. Young people are capable of vastly more than they're given credit for.
​2. This was the most nurturing, deep-learning, student-centered school we had ever seen.”


Above all, we believe in delighting families with a school experience you're thrilled about.

One of the great experiences of life is the feeling of learning something challenging and worthwhile. Real growth is hard work – just like developing a muscle. It's often even harder for parents than it is for children. It's not easy, but few meaningful things are.

For those up for the challenge, some of the outcomes we've observed are:

  • Young people who love school Students who can't wait for summer break to be over, want to come to school on weekends, and sing on their way to school.
  • Families feeling more unity and purpose Families discover the joy of learning is a shared journey. As one parent described: "Acton Academy has transformed our family, inspiring each of us to find a calling and discover a Hero's Journey."
  • Mastery of core academic skills While only a small portion of the day is spent on Core Skills, and there is zero "teaching to the test," over the 9 years of Acton's history we've seen an average of 2.5 grade levels per year growth on the IOWA standardized test.
  • Self-management and leadership The result parents likely appreciate most is seeing their children take ownership of their learning. Meeting an Acton student speaks for itself: they look you in the eye, ask powerful questions, are curious about the world around them, and have plans they're passionate about.
"I would never have believed children could learn so much from each other – until I saw it with my own eyes. The lessons of self management and self governance have prepared our fifth-grade son to be a lifelong learner.”