The BWB Story
Hey there! I am Acacia, founder of Big World Boxes, here to tell you how we came to deliver you monthly bundles of joy! It's a twist-ey n turn-ey journey, we hope you enjoy getting to know us a little better.
Humble (and Non-Traditional) Origins in California
Since we serve children and families, I'm going to start at the very beginning (...but don't worry, we'll move quickly through the early years).
Me at four, excited for puzzles.
I grew up in this converted school bus. Unlike normal people who grew up in a house, I spent the first five years of my life living in this tiny-house-on-wheels. This is where I first learned to think outside the box.
My dad built this. He chopped off the top of a school bus, built a house, and called it our home. (He was ahead of his time IMO, ahead of the minimalist millennial hipsters, the tiny house movement, and #vanlife). This is how I learned there's more than one way to solve a problem.
So I spent my childhood barefoot and in the dirt. I had a lot of space to roam and a lot of time to play. I learned that nature makes a great classroom.
Being crunchy and alternative, instead of sending us all to "normal school", my parents homeschooled us.
I’m not entirely sure how much “schooling” happened ... we seemed to get a mix of Waldorf, Montessori, Project Based Learning, “everyday is a field trip”, and Unschooling. We seemed to have turned out alright.
I went to “real” school in 7th grade. Despite my awkward clothing and misunderstanding of social norms, I was academically prepared. I obtained mostly A’s and B's. In school, I learned that grown ups are in charge even when they don’t know what's going on. Sometimes they just do what they are told, even when it's not the right thing to do.
Now, all my siblings and I are responsible and contributing members of society. We are entrepreneurs, educators, a nurse, business owners, etc. All in all, I learned that school can look many different ways. I learned that school and learning are two very different things.
College in Annapolis, Maryland
Six years later with a few road bumps (but nothing too catastrophic) I was on my way to a very small classical liberal arts college. It was a quirky little school, read more about it here.
I did a ton of reading, writing, and thinking via seminar style classes. Instead of finals, we wrote five to ten page papers, typically on a book and topic of our choice from the course.
It was hard work. It was a privilege. It was an empowering and effective education. I learned that I produce the best results when I have ownership and autonomy in my work.
Gradutation with my two compassionate, strong, powerful (and adorable) grandmothers.
Gaining a Global Perspective
I spent two summers in the Republic of Georgia working with some classmates to help found a small liberal arts college in T'bilisi. I learned that the world is big and beautifully diverse. I learned that unified and purposeful efforts by a small group of people can have a huge impact.
"Going to college is about picking your head up and seeing the landscape, seeing all the possibilities this life holds."
-- Kees Doctor
The Organization for Liberal Education in Georgia created Summer volunteer abroad opportunities for our classmates.
Becoming a Teacher
My first job out of school was coaching CrossFit. I loved watching and supporting people grow toward their personal goals. I learned that achieving big goals takes discipline over time.
Teaching Early Childhood in Washington D.C.
Because coaching was so fulfilling and because I love working with young people, I decided to become a teacher. An alternative licensure route enabled me to start teaching in public and charter schools in Washington D.C. Over the next three years, I learned...
Children are always learning, whether they are at school or not.
Every parent cares about their child and wants what's best for them.
Education is creating a culture and environment of learning, not delivering amazing lessons.
Children love recess. Probably because moving their bodies is a part of developing their brain at that age.
Children love "Center Time". This is the part of the day when they get to try different challenges, explore through imaginative play, and gain new sensory experiences.
Teaching High School in North Philadelphia
After exploring and reading up on the alternative education scene in the United States, I became a Science and Technology Advisor at a Big Picture school called El Centro De Estudiantes in North Philadelphia.
As a school without walls, we'd get out to explore and experience our city whenever and wherever possible. Here we are touring Temple University.
El Centro was a phenomenal school by all the metrics that school districts don’t seem to measure:
I learned that it takes a village. I learned that community, empowering love and acceptance, are essential and powerful forces for good in a young person’s life.
One of my favorite parts of teaching was working with parents and families to rethink school. I loved finding creative ways for parents to engage in and support my students in their education goals.
But then, the tale of so many teachers, I burnt out and had to seek a career transtion...
Software Engineering in San Francisco
I was reminded that the demands of school are very different from the demands of work.
The bootcamp helped me quickly ramp up skills and knowledge to enter the tech workforce. Designed like an obstacle course, each challenge in the program required me to learn something new.
By the time I completed the course, I was skilled up enough to solve complex problems that an entry level software engineer would be required to solve.
This kind of challenge-based, learn by doing experience was extremely difficult and notably effective. It was a great example of project based learned done right.
I learned that we remember information/solutions that are useful. And that the harder we work for a solution, the more likely it is that our mind will hold onto the framework and knowledge by which we solved the problem.
The Future of School and Work
We are rethinking and re-imagining school, and we are not alone. One reason I left schools to become a software engineer was because I believe the future of work will not ask our children which school they went to, the future of work will ask:
--> What have you built from scratch?
--> What is the most complex problem you have solved?
--> How have you worked with others to achieve what was unseen or “impossible”?
--> How quickly can you learn something new?
This is the future that we be build into at Big World Boxes.
"Screentime" and Education Technology
There is tremendous opportunity for new technology to serve the transformation of our school systems. But we need to reform and transform the paradigm by which we think about and understand school before we start building out tech solutions.
We don’t yet know the long term cognitive and social-emotional effects of too much screentime. We do know that a variety of sensory experiences and dramatic/imaginative play for early learners supports healthy cognitive development.
When COVID hit, I saw an opportunity that was more compelling than software for education or for schools: getting quality hands-on activities and projects into the hands of children and families everywhere. And helping children and families connect around these experiences while remote and dispersed.
This brings me to you, and ...
Big World Boxes in Seattle, WA
Remember these gals...
We started Big World Boxes this year so that we could use everything we've learned to help you give your child what they need.
Starting with early childhood because we know at that age they aren't going to effectively learn through Zoom meetings and Seasaw, we've created this line: The Little Explorer Box for 4 to 7 year olds. Some 3 and 8 year olds enjoy this stuff too.
You can check out a sample box here.