In 2014, we celebrated the school’s 30th year of providing our exceptional educational experience to the thousands of children we have served throughout the years. It was a propitious time to launch our Montessori Adolescent Program (MAP) for middle school 7th and 8th grades.
As with our other programs, we strongly encourage parents to be an active part of their child’s education. Parent involvement is integral to our community approach. It is also a strong indicator of long-term student success. Please visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to find out how to participate.
Adolescence is a time of great change. Young people adjust to many changes during these years. Such changes include rapid physical growth, changing peer relationships, growth in independence, and a deeper understanding of their own personal values.
As they continue to mature, adolescents develop an expanding sense of personal identity. They work to broaden their intellectual understandings. They seek opportunities for self-expression. Through experience, they gain the practical skills of community living and seek to be of service to the society around them.
Dr. Maria Montessori spoke of the need for prepared environments for each of the developmental levels between infancy and adulthood. A prepared Montessori environment for adolescence offers young people chances to explore and take part in the world around them in ways which serve their own developmental needs:
- Take an active part in one’s community through positive social organization.
- Engage in meaningful work which offers opportunities for community service.
- Study in a setting which allows for practical problem-solving.
- Find opportunities for self-reflection and expression.
- Experience economic production and exchange in a small business setting, leading toward a growing sense of economic independence.
The New School’s Adolescent Program offers young people the chance to engage the world in meaningful ways. Students realize the reward of making a meaningful difference. They expand their learning by applying skills and knowledge in real-world situations.
Language is a vital presence in our lives. Whether as self-expression or group communication, the acts of reading, writing, and speaking are at once personal and communal, and they serve as a unifying force in the building of community.
Reading plays an integral part in the Adolescent Program, bringing both factual information and the enjoyment of literature to our students’ experience as learners. Readings in the program range through different genres from fiction to source documents in historical study, both of which can then be engaged in seminar discussion. Seminar discussions also serve as a valuable tool for understanding within the frameworks of group projects, community-wide events, the consideration of philosophy and ideas, and the solving of community issues.
Writing is also present in nearly all aspects of the Adolescent Program, including:
- Research and essay writing within historical studies
- Documenting plans and accomplishments in project settings
- Recording and interpreting data in science-related work
- Responding to literature, and personal journaling
Students in the Adolescent Program take part in a regularly scheduled writing workshop. Here, students practice the skills of composition, editing, and publishing their work. Public speaking and presentation skills are also vital components of the Adolescent Program. Opportunities such as dramatic presentations, the presentation of research findings, and outreach through our small business ventures offer chances for the development of effective communication.
Mathematics have played an important part in humanity’s advancement and growth. Through mathematics we analyze, calculate, hypothesize and investigate. Growth in mathematics during the adolescent years depends heavily on how math is used, both in social settings and in the context of purposeful work in the community.
As young people enter into the Adolescent Program, care is taken to be sure their Upper Elementary arithmetic and geometry skills are intact. From there, each student moves at his or her own pace through a sequenced Montessori algebra curriculum, including:
- signed numbers
- inverse operations and inequalities
- binomial theorem
The Adolescent Program also includes applications of business mathematics in the context of the micro-economy, and seminar discussions in mathematic problem solving.
The Study of the Earth and Living Things
Adolescents’ work in the scientific disciplines is built around both physical and intellectual pursuit. This is accomplished through “occupations,” extended activities that involve students in experiences which are engaging, relevant, and have a sense of real purpose. Students involved in an occupation have opportunities to take on adult responsibilities, to be involved in group decision making, and to work with others in an integrated, cooperative setting.
The biological sciences provide many chances to engage in task-oriented, problem solving opportunities which challenge adolescents’ interest in real and productive work. Science occupations begin with the formal presentation of a set of concepts, often followed by related readings, before moving into open work times during which scientifically based ideas can be explored in real application.
Activities such as planting and harvesting foods, working with animals, or becoming involved in conservation efforts all contain opportunities for practical work based in the application of scientific principles. Lab experiences will also play a significant role in the curriculum, as will applied mathematic concepts and discussions of literary or historical connections. Students’ synthesis of information and experience culminates in individual and group presentations of what has been learned and accomplished.
The following are examples of occupations in which students might take part, and their connection to the science topics listed in the North Carolina Essential Standards for 7th and 8th grade:
- organic gardening
- cellular reproduction, forms of energy, energy transfer, composition of substances and their ability to serve an organism as energy and material for growth and repair, atmospheric studies
- bee keeping
- agents of disease (colony collapse), history of earth and life forms, functions of living organisms, patterns of inheritance
- stream water quality assessment and riparian protection
- functions of living organisms, hydrosphere, properties of and changes to matter
- environmental implications of resource usage, cellular reproduction, history of earth and life forms, how organisms interact with biotic and abiotic components of their environment
- nutrition and cooking
- agents of disease, composition of substances and their ability to serve an organism as energy and material for growth and repair
- food preservation
- agents of disease, cellular reproduction
- woodlot management
- environmental implications of resource usage, composition of substances and their ability to serve an organism as energy and material for growth and repair, how organisms interact with biotic and abiotic components of their environment, atmosphere, hydrosphere
The Study of the History of Humanity and its Civilizations
A careful study of human history holds the key to a full understanding of our own humanity, both as individuals and in our relationships with others. The study of history helps us examine how the common tendencies of humanity have affected the development of past societies, and a chance to consider how these same tendencies affect our lives in present day culture. Studying the ancient world, for instance, allows us to examine specific cultural elements such as literature, philosophy, and social history and organization. Within this context, broad questions can then be considered: What does it mean to be civilized? What is truth? Duty? Power? Can there be a perfect civilization?
The study of history in the Adolescent Program is a multi-disciplinary examination of cultures across time and geography. Both broad and specific examinations can be conducted through readings in primary and secondary source materials, multi-media experiences, and visits outside of school to cultural and historic sites. Seminar discussions can also be used to consider relationships between historical events and related issues in our own time.
Historical studies include a variety of writing opportunities, including research, analysis and response papers; historical fiction; poetry; and journaling. Students also create oral presentations with prepared visual aids. Units of study culminate in presentations for the whole school, as a dramatic presentation for instance, through which historical information about people and events can be conveyed.
Historical studies in the Adolescent Program center around world and Unites States history. Specific units of study include the following:
- the agricultural revolution and Mesopotamia
- classical civilizations: Greece and Rome
- urban life and the arts in the Renaissance
- the modern city/immigration (culminating in a trip to New York City)
- slavery and the pathways to the Civil War/our expanding Constitution
- early industrialization and labor history
- the Depression: issues of social and economic justice
- America on the world stage: the League of Nations and the United Nations
Living in Genuine Community
Important to a Montessori Adolescent Program are the binding elements of genuine community. In living and working together, adolescents take on responsibilities toward one another, participate in the practical tasks of shared space, and negotiate with one another as they maneuver through the aspects of social organization. Sharing in communal life helps adolescents explore new ways of belonging, and of finding a useful role among their peers. The emphasis is not simply one of relating to others in a group, but contributing to the cohesion and advancement of one’s community.
While our program is not a boarding setting, the family feeling of “residential life” can be encouraged in a variety of ways:
- weekly adolescent community meetings, in which students
- manage a budget for program supplies and materials
- discuss matters concerning land activities, such as gardens, bee hives, etc.
- consider matters of a student run business, including cost analysis, reinvestment needs, specialist remuneration, transportation costs
- consider logistical, programmatic, and social aspects of the adolescent community and reach agreed upon solutions and ideas
- school community service, where students
- assist with maintenance tasks
- help with morning and afternoon carpool
- engage in all-school community work on Friday afternoons
- sharing community meals, where students
- prepare, eat, and clean a full lunch together two days a week
- prepare a lunch addition (i.e. salad, fruit, etc.) three days a week
- spending overnights at school
- monthly Friday night overnight
- after school break, prepare dinner, movie/game time
- Saturday morning engagement in an off campus community service
- occasional school night overnight
- after school break, prepare dinner, study hall, personal time
- school-based community service the next morning
- prepare baked goods for staff
- assist with morning carpool
- early morning story time in Children’s House rooms
- quarterly two school night overnight
- first day: normal class time, after school outing, prepare dinner, study hall
- second day: breakfast/off campus community service/day long adventure, break, prepare dinner, study hall, personal time
- third day: breakfast, class/work time, regular dismissal
Personal values, interests and beliefs change rapidly during adolescence. As a result, young people are often drawn to express themselves through the arts.
Students in the Adolescent Program have many opportunities to engage in creative work, not only within the context of project work, but also during times dedicated to the the development and use of creative skills. Under the guidance of faculty, skilled members of the parent community, or through the use of visiting specialists, activities in creative expression might include the following:
- music and movement
- music skills exploration
- formal music lessons
- theater and performance
- creative writing
- story telling
- communications technology
- video production
- sound editing
- manual arts
- ongoing skill lessons
- specialty workshops
- jewelry making
Physical expression is also important to adolescents as their bodies strengthen and grow. Under the guidance of faculty, skilled members of the parent community, or through the use of visiting specialists, these might include things such as the following:
- a personal exercise regimen or a chosen sport
- outdoor recreation such as canoeing, distance biking, or hiking
- cross-country running
- dance, yoga, tai chi
Working on the Land
Dr. Montessori wrote that education should include two forms of work, both manual and intellectual. Through practical experience, she believed, the two complete one another, and are both essential to a civilized existence.
In the Adolescent Program, students have many opportunities to work in the natural world, including activities such as:
- organic gardening
- bee keeping
- creating a pollinator garden
- monitoring stream water quality
- wetland restoration
Each of these, and other projects like them, offer young people opportunities to take on work that is of real value to the community, and which serves as a valuable platform for the study of physical and biologic science, chemistry and mathematics. Writing, speaking, and other presentation skills serve as tools for the students as they consider and communicate what they have learned.
The knowledge demanded for a project-based style of learning, Dr. Montessori wrote, is not a subject to be covered, but rather knowledge to be applied to the greater good of the community through the work of common enterprise. Students in the Adolescent Program have many opportunities to learn important academic information while also applying knowledge and skills in important ways.
Micro-economy in a Small Business Setting
Operating a small business offers students early exposure to the meaning of money and the logistical foundations of economic systems. In the Adolescent Program students plan, operate and account for business ventures such as selling garden-raised produce or hand-made jewelry.
In the creation of a small business, students come to understand the principles of production and exchange, marketing, accounting, the use of capital resources, and the division of labor as they contribute to a local economy. Examples of specific goods which could be produced in a student operated business include the following:
- soaps made with herbs grown in School gardens
- salad greens grown in School gardens
- handmade jewelry
- honey/bee products
- a magazine of student writing and art
With the operation of a small business, students also develop a sense of entrepreneurship, and a take part in a variety of opportunities within a multi-disciplinary curriculum:
- mathematics in budgeting and money management
- reading, writing, research and telephone skills
- data organization
- cooperative relationships in the logistics of production
- applied sciences in the logistics of production
- community awareness in the development of integrity in business
- writing and computer skills through marketing and community interaction