“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future.” ~ Maria Montessori
The Montessori Middle School philosophy provides opportunities and support for adolescents as they gain self-knowledge and self-confidence. They belong to a community in which they are responsible for their own behavior. They learn to be adaptable, academically competent and challenged, and to create a vision for their personal future. These adolescents become empowered to be peaceful, accomplished, and involved citizens of the world.
The Montessori Middle School includes traditional subjects as well as the design and production of our school’s yearbook and creation of service and business enterprises. “Wake Up Montessori” is a breakfast Cafe that is operates during the school year week and all aspects of the business are run by our middle school students and staff.
Sun Grove Montessori School uses a National Montessori Curriculum guide and a team-teaching model.
Montessori Prepared Environment for the Early Adolescent (12-15 years)
Educational environments prepared for adolescents by Montessori educators are designed to build an adolescent community in which young people gain social experience that prepares them for adulthood. The right environment for adolescents, according to Dr. Montessori (1992 : 109) is one in which they can have ‘effective, practical experience of every aspect of social life’. One of the central roles of the Montessori environment prepared for adolescents is to initiate these young people into the world of adult work.
While Dr. Montessori’s adolescent curriculum emerges from a rural blueprint, it is not possible for all Montessori adolescent communities to live and work on a rural farm.
Our environment adapts the principles established by Dr. Montessori’s framework. Our goal is to provide students with land and nature connections, and to introduce them to the world of adult work and connections to our wider community.
While each year choices will vary, the following list details possible projects, occupations and micro-enterprises:
- gardening, horticulture, landscaping, hydroponics, vermicomposting
- land and nature trail care
- recycling and managing water resources
- managing “Wake up Montessori Cafe”, incorporating management and financial aspects of the business, incorporating garden produce
- maintenance of computers, grounds, sports equipment and more
- keeping bees or poultry
- making and marketing items such as herbs, jewelry, belts, soap, candles and/or baked goods
- planning, leading and participating in school-wide events, fundraisers, and community service
- planning fundraisers or other events involving school-wide participation
- mentoring or tutoring younger students
- management and design of the Sun Grove Montessori School yearbook
Our program also includes extended trips, organized by the students, such as camping, ropes course, Florida West Coast Montessori conferences, Yearbook Palooza, learning & adventure trips, and internships. The emphasis is on integrating study and work in an environment that combines participation in community life and contact with the natural world. We cannot emphasize enough how integral these activities are to our overall program and curriculum.
Work Organized as Social Life
Through work, the students in the Montessori adolescent community engage with the natural environment and the wider society. The work undertaken within this community, called “occupations” by Dr. Montessori, is often incorporated as part of the science curriculum. Occupations in the adolescent community have the following characteristics:
- The work is meaningful to the students.
- The work is both physically and intellectually challenging.
- The work is valued in the wider community, society and culture.
- The work has economic validity.
The Moral, or Ethical, Dimension of the Environment
The work in the adolescent community provides students with opportunities to take on a variety of roles. These include ongoing companionship within the community and the building of relationships with neighbors and wider community. Through experience of different social roles, adolescents learn to understand the difference between right and wrong actions in relation to work, study, the environment, and social responsibility. They also become aware that, through their own effort, they can make a difference in the world. When the work is meaningful, the students feel valued and their contribution is tangible.
The study undertaken in the adolescent community also contributes to moral development. Through their study of history, for example, adolescents build their knowledge of the past, and possible futures in the context of sustainability and the well-being of planet Earth. Studying human history from an ethical point of view, especially the relationship of humans with the natural world, brings into focus current environmental questions. A study of how humans have, or have not, used water and land, plants and animals, air and energy sustainably in the past raises moral questions for humans in the present and into the future.
Moral, or ethical, outcomes for the early adolescent stage of life, following Kahn and Stewart (2001: 561), include:
- learning to respect others and their roles
- learning that work is noble and involves taking on adult-like responsibilities
- the ability to engage with social and moral problems, for example, the ethical use of the natural environment and the ethics of science
- displaying individual initiative, including the ability to commit to freely chosen work
- learning to take pleasure in one’s own progress, as well as the way one’s own progress can contribute to others and enhance the progress of the whole group
- developing the concept of ‘service’ orientation, including service to the needs of a wider humanity
- introducing moral questions, including ‘What makes for a virtuous life?’; ‘How can we build a better world?’
- developing an ethical conscience, community values and responsible dialogue with others
Cognitive/Intellectual Dimension of the Environment
The cognitive, intellectual dimension of the environment covers the study of the earth and human civilization. It not only involves the study of knowledge, but how to apply this knowledge. In this way, students have the opportunity to expand understanding and skill, both through practical problem-solving and intellectual reasoning. Cognitive or intellectual outcomes for the early adolescent stage of life include:
- learning to express oneself using a variety of modalities, including artistic, verbal, musical and electronic, in ways that relate directly to the occupations and roles in the community
- addressing philosophical questions and analyzing scientific causality in nature
- building understanding of the mathematics directly connected to the practical needs of the community and the mathematics needed to represent in scientific observations in symbolic form
- building knowledge and skill in a variety of languages and how to use language to engage with different cultures and to improve human understanding
- connecting the history of life on earth and its civilizations with one’s personal evolution and with society
- building a global view of the whole of history and the future destiny of humans while reflecting on the individual contribution one makes to the creative direction of the future
- understanding the nature of interdisciplinary studies, the relationship between the disciplines and the totality of the natural and human-built worlds
- using available tools and technology to continue the inquiry into how knowledge can best be applied
The Emotional, or Nurturing, Dimension of the Environment
Emotional outcomes for the early adolescent stage of life include:
- understanding the connection between personal vocation, a person’s life work or mission in life, and the larger effects on community
- feeling self-sufficient and confident, based on an ability to care for oneself and others
- developing inner harmony and happiness through a love of work, study and achievement, and participation in and contribution to the work of society
- feeling hope for future world progress
- experiencing the joy of relating one’s own life to history and recognizing the importance of carrying on traditions of culture
- experiencing freedom in the spontaneous collaboration with others
- experiencing the value of life and experiencing a sense of belonging
- enhancing inner discipline, creativity, aesthetics and productivity through learning about hand-crafted art and practical achievement
- gaining a sense of control over change, both internal and external, in one’s personal and social evolution
- building a feeling of usefulness, and an understanding of one’s own strengths and talents
- building a belief in the human capacity to solve problems and to overcome adversity
Terri Zuidema joined the Sun Grove Montessori Elementary team in 2003. She came with over 10 years of Montessori teaching experience, experience as an American Montessori Society Consultant to Interns and founding owner of a Montessori Pre-school in Michigan. Terri has held several roles within our school. In 2013 she began leading the Montessori adolescent program taking primary responsibility for the integration of science, mathematics, and the student Cafe. In 2017-18 her primary areas will include Humanities, Language and writing and the creation of Sun Grove’s student produced yearbook. Terri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science with a Minor in Elementary Education. She holds a State of Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate, with middle grades endorsements in Social Science and Mathematics for grades 5 -9. Additionally, Terri holds a NAMTA/AMI Adolescent credential and AMS credentials in Early Childhood, Elementary I and Continuing Education. She also serves as our school’s Education Director.
Rossella Carone joined Sun Grove as a Montessori Intern in 2017. Rossella was born and raised in Italy where she earned a Master Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and then a Master of Science in Chemistry from Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro. Her science education, second language, background in Latin and Ancient Greek, enthusiasm and desire to work as a Montessori guide are sure to benefit our middle school program and beyond. Rossella is completing her 6-12 AMI training before hitting the ground running in mid August.