EdArchy: Freeing Learners to Explore, Create, and Become

Voices from the Field | Learner Voices   22 August 2023
By Rodney Powell


Learning happens when the learner is self-motivated and able to explore and discover at the pace of curiosity.

Rodney Powell
Founder, EdArchy

Imagine a space where youth are encouraged to:

  • Acknowledge their interests
  • Choose their passions
  • Identify their strengths
  • Discover their talents
  • Figure out ways to serve others
  • Celebrate their accomplishments, relationships, and community
  • Repeat…

This is the EdArchy process. In a world where success is defined by likes and views, where decisions are made for young people via algorithms, and where adults dictate how and where kids should learn, a disruption of the dominant paradigm is necessary. EdArchy seeks to reject the dominant, system-centered narrative that currently defines schooling, in favor of action-based, student-centered, freedom-fueled learning. EdArchy exists for dreamers who aspire to be doers. EdArchy gives youth permission to become. EdArchy is necessary. EdArchy is now. EdArchy is on a mission to expand the possibilities of the educational experience, one dreamer at a time.

EdArchy youth participants are presented with their $500 grant checks.

EdArchy is a new youth-centered organization designed to engage young people in learning by giving their ideas center-stage as they become change agents in their community. This process begins with their curiosities and sets in motion the visions they have for the world. The two-week pilot of EdArchy took place July 24–August 4, 2023 in East Hartford, CT. Five youth founders, three adult consultants/guides, and a host of visitors dove into a deeply collaborative process driven by young people. The experience included exploring mindset shifts, brainstorming sessions, free-writes, proposal development, and budget creation. These founding youth earned $500 implementation grants and will submit their proposals this fall to other organizations, to raise more funds and keep growing their ideas. They also ran their own opening affirmation sessions, wrap-up interviews, and created tons of content for social media. EdArchy is committed to prioritizing youth voice. It is their thoughts and ideas that determine our direction. 

My name is Truth Powell. I am a tenth grade student at an arts school in Hartford, CT and the Youth Recruiter for EdArchy. I am working on a music project for teens called “True Jam Sessions.”

I strongly believe in the idea of putting kids in the driver’s seat of their own education. I’ve been exposed to the idea of school versus education from a very young age and through this youth entrepreneurship organization I plan to share that knowledge with my peers. I mainly recruit kids from ninth to tenth grade, meaning that most of the kids that are a part of EdArchy have already gone through up to 11 years of intense programming. This means that it is crucial to help these kids have freedom on their own learning journey and experience a little bit of what it is to really create. I help my peers understand what the movement is and how they can contribute to it. However, I am a part of it too.

Through EdArchy I am creating a youth-led program called “True Jam Sessions” for kids to have jam sessions after school without a specific end goal. Using various activities such as incubator sessions, independent writing sessions, and interviews, I have been able to mold my idea into a presentation. Starting off, I had an idea with no understanding of how to make it come true. EdArchy changed that. We break ideas down from the name to the budget. Using EdArchy I was able to not only put my own ideas into reality but also help my peers do the same, all while being a part of a team. I quickly realized that EdArchy is not about teacher and student but that it is about ideas and process. There are no solutions where there are no problems. Use what you have and create your own reality.

Young people need permission to dream, time to think, people with whom to collaborate, and resources with which to begin working toward their goals, in real-time. The idea of spending 12 years waiting to participate in meaningful life experiences is an expired concept, carried over from a time when we didn’t have access to the world’s information at our fingertips. At EdArchy, we imagine an educational experience without credits to accumulate, test scores to verify intelligence, or someone else’s scope and sequence for learning. To be meaningful, learning must have a purpose and connect to one’s vision for their own life. It must reflect the time and space they are living in and include the tools currently available to them. EdArchy helps youth grow their ideas and build their network of supporters. We provide an initial implementation grant and then help them apply to other funding sources, as well. We will partner with them for as far as they would like us to remain by their side. Upon completion of the initial cohort cycle, youth will also get the opportunity to serve as facilitators to new youth coming through the program. Eventually, we will entertain the idea of offering EdArchy as a curriculum option of instructional method. We are already discussing the possibility of creating an independent educational entity.


We learn when we are interested. We erase what feels forced and spend the rest of our lives following rabbit holes of learning as we encounter things that interest or motivate us.

Rodney Powell
Founder, EdArchy

Letting go of our historically limited concept of academics is a difficult endeavor to undertake. Creating a new concept of something so deeply ingrained in our societal conscience seems impossible and yet, it is our responsibility in the 21st century. Knowing that learners come into educational spaces, or any spaces for that matter, with a surplus of ideas, skills, and knowledge that must be respected, not tested, is essential to ensure their sense of physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being as they navigate into the future. We must let go of the familiar and embrace the unknown.

As people, fear drives us too often, while hope and inspiration sit silently on the bench, ready to be called into action. Fear is not necessarily negative but its size and scope must be regulated so that it does not overpower opportunity and progress. Although we know fear tends to have the effect of blocking or erasing new knowledge, we continue to use it in the form of constant assessment and an obsession with grades and punishment for not meeting suspiciously created achievement indicators. In this process, context and relevance are relegated to optional status. 

My name is Maisey Zuder. I am a tenth grade student at an arts school in Hartford, CT. I am currently creating my own project for the homeless called “Helping Hand.”

I believe EdArchy is an amazing program for youth that takes their hopes and dreams and helps kids create a reality with it. Oftentimes, from adults and even kids our age, we are told our dreams are not realistic or you simply cannot make a living with what we dream about doing. But the EdArchy program says otherwise. They allow youth to turn our passions into projects with guidance to do so. I never thought I would be hosting a food drive or working with people in need until I was much older but here I am, fifteen years old and achieving my goals.

If you had specific knowledge or information on a topic and wanted your child, friend, spouse, or parents to know, you’d simply tell them. You would not give them a study guide, quiz, or test. You wouldn’t even create a rubric to help you measure their learning. If you asked them two weeks later, “Hey, do you remember the thing I told you a couple of weeks ago?” and discovered they had forgotten, you’d tell them again and they’d likely recall you telling them in the first place. You would add new information to the story and no achievement gap would be identified. This is what happens naturally between humans. Unfortunately, schooling often requires awkward and ineffective structures that dilute the process of education. We don’t typically require checkpoints or benchmarks. There is a natural interest in communication due to the presence of pre-existing relationships. The conversation may even result in further research and potential collaboration. 

Babies and toddlers learn an immense amount of information at an intense rate through experience, trial, and error. There are no standardized assessments involved. This experience mirrors what happens throughout our adult lives. We follow a lifelong pattern of trial and error. Curiously, the K–12 experience is vastly different. They are far too often less intellectually, emotionally, and even physically safe places to try and fail and try again. Learning happens when the learner is self-motivated and able to explore and discover at the pace of curiosity. Learning can’t be boxed in and disconnected if it is to be a meaningful experience. Ideally, it is a connected experience, embedded in a community context. We learn when we are interested. We erase what feels forced and spend the rest of our lives following rabbit holes of learning as we encounter things that interest or motivate us. We remember a lot. We forget even more. Learning is like breathing. It doesn’t take a formal process. If you are alive, you are learning. 

My name is Jes Santos. I am a tenth grade student at an arts school in Hartford, CT. I am working on a screenplay for a small film called “Write for Rights.”

In my opinion, the school system doesn’t do a good job at encouraging students to want to reach their goals. Yes, it’s important to make sure kids have a well-rounded education, however, I believe it’s also important that they’re engaged and or in charge of what they’re learning.

Being interested and in control of your learning is a core value at EdArchy. At EdArchy, everyone wants you to succeed regardless of the size of the goal. In former First Lady Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming,” she talks about how her high school counselor told her that she “wasn’t Princeton material,” referring to Princeton University. That could’ve discouraged some people. However, Michelle Obama knew what she wanted, and put herself in the driver’s seat of her own education. She then went on to be arguably one of the most successful women in the 21st century. Now, imagine if instead of being put down from the beginning, kids are uplifted. That’s what happens at EdArchy.

Our goal by July 1, 2024, is to help 50 youth go through our incubator process and collaborative action research experience to implement their passion project. Our founding youth are officially EdArchy facilitators/consultants and the same opportunity will be offered to future participants. As EdArchy grows, we hope funding and community support will allow us to reach many more youth and adults who believe in student-centered, action- and research-based, and disruptive learning practices, through the idea incubator, workshops, youth-led consulting, and speaking engagements. Until then: Be well. On Purpose!

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