Laura Sandefer

Parents tend to crave the kind of learning that feels familiar to them – especially when it comes to “science.”

A recent conversation with a parent best describes why at Acton Academy, our science learning comes in the form of quests with real world problems to solve rather than textbooks and written tests:

Parent: I think one thing I am still struggling with is accepting the fact that Eagles really don’t need to spend years memorizing science facts and repeating ‘classic’ experiments and should be able to go straight to the juicy bit of science – tackling real world problems and coming up with solutions. I am quite jealous, to be honest! I’m still constantly having to remind myself not to impose my own experiences on their learning…

Jeff: The history and heroes of science are deeply important, as are the experiments of old; however, the way to encourage heroes to devour “learning to know” [ie, facts] is to give them a “learning to do” [ie, hands-on] real world challenge that matters to their hero’s journeys, and requires courage, scientific curiosity and grit to complete. In other words, we want to provide a rich soil for the next Richard Feynman, who would have been bored to tears by a traditional science course.

At Acton Academy, I have never heard the words, “Science is boring.” Now that I think about it, the word “boring” is not a part of our language even amongst our staff. One of my favorite sentences from our guide, Samantha, was: “Laura, in all the years I’ve worked at Acton Academy, I have never once looked at the clock wishing time would go by faster.”

When you are on a journey that matters, learning is a tough, gripping, exciting and necessary part of life. Reading textbooks is fine. There is simply so much more.

Co-founder and Chief Encourager for Acton Academy


Laura Sandefer is an author and the co-founder of Acton Academy, a school whose learner-driven model is spreading across the globe with over 130 locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Malaysia and more, and in 2019 is celebrating 10 years of letting children take learning into their owns hands.

Acton Academy bases their model of learning on the Hero’s Journey: a story pattern common in ancient myths and modern day adventures in which a hero goes on an adventure, wins a victory and comes home transformed. Children at Acton Academy know why they are being challenged to learn — they are on their own Hero’s Journey to find their passion in life.

Acton Academy and Sandefer have been featured in the Austin American Statesman, Inc., Forbes, National Review, Huffington Post and more. Sandefer has a bachelor of arts and masters of education degrees from Vanderbilt University. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children and three dogs.