The Story Continues...(3/3/22)

Well if in my last email my writing inadequacies combined with the shortcomings of the English language made me feel like I was taking a beautiful Shakespearean moment in our Studio and condensing and translating it into a Bob Book from our Spark studio, this time it's going to feel like turning it into a cheap fortune cookie slip. Trying to relate and properly convey the story from the last two days is really an impossible task. Getting the full picture of the incredible experiences from this simple email will be as futile as trying to get the Lord of the Rings from the back of a cereal box. But I am a glutton for punishment and Aim has outlawed the word impossible anyways... So here is my attempt nonetheless. Here we go....

The eagles left Tuesday afternoon feeling lactic acid in their legs, but unstoppable in their hearts. Unfortunately, freedom cannot be won with a single victory. War is relentless and there were even more challenges awaiting them when they arrived at school Wednesday--including the closing of all ports (just as King George III did) which meant they were stuck in whatever room they were currently in and could not communicate or interact with anyone else outside. 

We have been trying to let the eagles experience as many events as possible from the quest's weekly time period so we hadn't gotten very far into the morning when the Salem Witch Trials began. A few of the eagles were accused. If they confessed and outed another guilty party they were released. Refusing to admit guilt meant immediate imprisonment where they were given time to think about their decision. If they did not confess by 'the end of the turn' (lunch) they were to be hanged and would be out of the game the rest of the afternoon lying on the ground under a table where they couldn't help their team. This placed a huge moral dilemma on several of our eagles. They did not want to confess to something they hadn't done. But they didn't want to be denied the ability to return to the game and help their team. Many of the accused witches' fellow travelers stuck back in their house rooms with closed ports wrote letters urging them to confess and get out of prison. Over time, all but one had succumbed. As much as this eagle wanted to help her colony, I believe she had something to prove to herself...and that was more important.

About this time the unfairness of it all was beginning to be too much for some. Aim was becoming unrecognizable! This was not the school they signed up for! This was not the school they loved. A moment later, the tyrant guides followed the noise of a commotion in the hall to find that the poster containing all of the Queen's royal decrees and taxes had been ripped to shreds. The act of protest felt amazing...but the eagles found it was extremely short lived. The crown's retribution was swift and severe. PE was the next thing up on the schedule and the older eagles walked into the gym expecting basketball, but found nothing of the sort.

The crown's terms were simple--the eagles were to begin doing conditioning. As soon as half of them voted to give up the traitor who had torn up the royal decree and banish them out of their colony, the conditioning would stop. They collectively refused and never even came close to a majority vote even as the planks, pushups, situps and ladders kept coming. They rallied together yet again. 

After lunch, those who had been hanged (one for refusing to confess, two for other acts of rebellion against the crown) began to feel the force of their decisions. Their colonies needed their help working to extract resources. Not to mention help writing their own Declaration of Independence which was a challenge worth a major advantage in the upcoming chess re-match for freedom. Some of the colony died that afternoon because of a lack of food and water resources. Emotions were heavy as the eagles left that day.

Yet, remarkably, everyone came back this morning in surprisingly good spirits. This morning we launched on a pivotal moment with George Washington in the Revolution where the Americans were spared what historians agree would have been a war-ending defeat had nature not intervened with storms, winds, and fog. Was this divine intervention or an incredible coincidence?

I also asked the eagles if they could miraculously go back in time and change this quest to something else, or with the snap of their fingers switch it right now to a new one, would they? Literally every eagle in the entire ES/MS/LP except one said they would not change a thing. The eagles were more physically, mentally, and emotionally spent than I think they have ever been, yet they didn't want to turn back. That is a wisdom, courage, and determination I have rarely seen... 

The day progressed with a growing air of anticipation. The rebels were planning to fight again in the afternoon. The hours passed by with a few moments where some couldn't wait a second longer and cried for battle! They never went through with it though as others nudged them that it wasn't quite the right time yet.  

With about an hour left in the day, the eagles felt they had done enough to prepare and declared they were ready to fight. They had collectively earned 57 work units from quest challenges which they used to purchase an additional queen and three opportunities to undo a move. Because the revolution was unanimous and all Loyalists had joined the rebels, the eagles also gained the advantage of being able to roll a dice and remove that number of chess pieces from my board. An eagle tossed the dice high in the air and the room deflated as it landed with a single dot pointing towards the ceiling. The rebels removed my queen, chose the first eagle to represent them, and the war was on!

....with a small catch. Every time a rebel chess piece was captured, the tyrants got to choose whether to force the current eagle representing the colonists out with another. Also, anyone caught speaking to the current eagle in the hot seat was sent to prison for more physical challenges. There were almost always a few eagles watching the game from wall sit positions around the room. 

If only our Google Nest cameras were always recording...what transpired next was a chess match for the ages. Nearly an hour of swapping pieces, swapping players, hushed groans at times from the audience followed by silent cheers as they paid 10 work units to have a devastating move undone, and more and more rebels being sent to prison.

Little by little the eagles gained the advantage. With victory closing in, the crown diabolically announced in rage that if two more pieces were taken by the eagles, everyone would have to join those in prison doing physical challenges until the game was over. Two more tyrant pieces were taken and everyone with still stiff bodies began doing wall sits, pushups, situps, and planks. This was followed by the eagles' queen piece being taken, forcing a last minute swap back to the eagle who started it all as the final moments of the game wore down. 

In desperation the crown shouted that every time an eagle dropped from exhaustion a chess piece would be taken from the eagles! Just like that the game began to slip through their fingers--the eagles saw pawn after pawn and knight after knight be taken completely unfairly! With everyone's strength running out the eagles were doomed. They had mere seconds left to win the game. Afterwards, one eagle said that the hardest part was not the situps, but not being able to see what was happening in the final moments of the game from the situp position on the ground. The anticipation and uncertainty were agonizing. Yet, as they came to the top of their situp position...they saw hands gripping in a congratulatory shake over the chess board and heard the most beautiful words ever spoken, "Check mate". Cheers erupted. The eagles had won their freedom. 

There were far more tears of joy in that single moment that followed than all of the tears of pain from the entire week combined. A celebratory dance party naturally began in Room 2 as if it had been planned for weeks. I am quite sure everyone within the entire building heard the eagles singing. Victory had never tasted so good. 

As we gathered for our final Socratic discussion of the day, we spoke of General Washington accepting the surrender of Cornwallis. As if to instruct posterity as to where this victory was really achieved, Washington added the words "Done in the trenches before York, October 19th, 1781." There were few dry eyes in the circle of friends. 

Welcome to the Hero's Journey. 

I admit that this story seems like it was taken out of a movie script rather than a school. And that I have *occasionally* been said to have a flair for the dramatic. But you don't have to take my word for and here are the words of a few eagles describing their experience.

PS: To celebrate their newly won freedom, we are going to be taking a field trip to Lowe's Xtreme Air Sports in Provo tomorrow (a trampoline park that I own). We will be leaving right at 9:30 am and returning at 12:30. Please fill out a waiver tonight or tomorrow morning (unless you already have one on file)!

Lance Stewart

Hi, I'm Lance Stewart.

I'm the founder and Head of School at Aim Academy.

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