ACA Explorers – Blog

The Motivation Behind the Motivating ACA Explorers Passport and How We Use It


The balance between teaching and learning hinges on one thing: motivation.

How do we, as teachers, inspire and motivate our students, as learners?


Extrinsic motivation is things that motivate us, and intrinsic motivation is how we motivate ourselves.

The ACA Explorers operate on several ‘fields of view’ in regards to both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, just like a plane has to worry about certain things at 0 ft. altitude (wheels) and other things completely different at cruising altitude (wings).

So too do the ACA Explorers have to worry about immediate, short-term, and long-term motivational factors, ACA’s The Three Levels of Motivation:

Three Levels of Motivation
Three Levels of Motivation

Long-Term Motivation – The Base/Backbone/Foundation

Explorers Promise and Explorers Values, No Fear/Jump High/Build Confidence

–> Inspiring Intrinsic Motivation

Short-Term Motivation – Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly progress outlook

Projects, ‘Merit Badges’, Leadership Roles, Community Outreach, etc.

–> Extrinsic Motivation from Projects with Intrinsic Motivation at their core

Immediate Motivation – Daily/In-Class Guide

Explorers Passport

–> Purely Extrinsic Motivation: A True Game-ification Approach

ACA Explorers Passport
ACA Explorers Passport (Front Side)


Can We Use the Passport for All Three Levels?

But how do we use the Passport to motivate the students during class and outside of it? (0 ft. – Runway)

How can we connect it to thinking longer-term, working on projects, educational programs, and really build lifelong skills? (10,000 ft. – Lifting/Getting to Altitude)

And what goals with it do we have to use to inspire the Explorers Promise and the Explorers Values? (35,000 ft. Cruising Altitude)


The Inspiration for the Explorers Passport: The Pilgrim Passport

The Explorers Passport and its inspiration: My Camino De Santiago Passport

Explorers Passport Camino De Santiago Passport
The Explorers Passport and the Camino De Santiago Passport

Can you spot the similarities?  Hopefully so.  The inspiration behind the ACA Explorers Passport is the Pilgrim Passport given out to those (referred to as pilgrims) attempting to walk to Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrim.

Explore: My Camino De Santiago Passport from Spain

Camino de Santiago and the Pilgrim Passport

A pilgrim is what they call the through-hikers as the Camino (Walk) has roots in being a religious pilgrimage.

Camino de Santiago Hiking
Hiking with Sean and Amanda on the Camino

If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a hike across Spain, with the traditional ‘Camino Francés’ starting over the Pyrenees Mountains and the French border.

Camino de Santiago Walking up the Pyrenees
Camino de Santiago Walking up the Pyrenees

It takes on average about a month’s time to complete.

As you walk, you stay in youth hostels, people’s homes, once even in the bell tower of an old church, and you collect ‘sellos’ (stamps) at each stop.

Camino de Santiago Bell Tower Sleeping Quarters
Camino de Santiago Bell Tower Sleeping Quarters

This serves both to confirm that you aren’t just some wanderer trying to get a cheap night’s stay (a lot of these places for pilgrims are free or donation-based) and as a fun way to track your ‘progress’ into getting to the finish line: Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago PassportSellos
My Pilgrim Passport from the Camino de Santiago


The ACA Explorers Passport and Pilgrim Passport

Explorers Passport Camino De Santiago Passport
The Explorers Passport and the Camino De Santiago Passport

As we can see, they are indeed similar in form/style:

  • accordion-fold
  • paper-based
  • stamp-accumulating
  • identification and extra information (values/maps)

And similar in function/purpose:

  • goal of passport: tracking
  • goal of passport: curation/collection
  • goal of passport: fun (game-ification)

Let’s look at these goals more closely and how they work with both…

Tracking, Curation/Collection, Fun (Gameify)

Tracking with Stamps

Pilgrim Passport:

Making sure the pilgrim has actually walked the path

ACA Explorers Passport:

To track their journey, and to provide them a levelling-up challenge, starting as a (1) a Scholar, (2) a Philosopher, (3) a Scientist, to finally (4) the Explorer.  Each phase has 24 ‘stamps’ to be collected/spots to fill in.


Pilgrim Passport: Stamps can be collected from where you spend the night, but also bars, shops, etc.  Some pilgrims love collecting just for the memories and the challenge of it.

ACA Explorers Passport: We have plans of releasing extra passports (perhaps a special one for values only) so more stamps/signings can be collected.

Fun (Gameify)

Pilgrim Passport: It’s fun to carry, it’s fun to still have to be able to remember.

ACA Explorers Passport: If you make it a thing to win, kids will want it.  Seeing others win one inspires it even more.  I’ve already witnessed this in person.  And this means we can award outside of their own level, for expressing a specific value of one of the four figures.

Overall Goals of the ACA Explorers Passport System:

Provide Extrinsic Motivation and Inspire Intrinsic Motivation by Satisfying the Three Levels of Motivation

As of now, it is mostly a daily tracker, awarding them for coming to class, paying attention, taking good notes, participating, etc.

But it already has extra elements: Final stamps for each level have an extra ring around them.  They are harder to earn, and thus could easily require a larger project (Level Two) based on values we are trying to instill (Level Three).

We can even easily award a stamp/signing for a student displaying these values during a class as they wear them around their necks:


Passports in Class
Wearing the Passports in Class

What’s true, and probably most important, is that the kids are loving it and love being part of a voluntary group where learning is not only allowed but actively encouraged and inspired!

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