By Kim Taylor, Adolescent Guide
Dr. Montessori believed that during adolescence “the individual child is becoming a new born social being who did not exist before…in this sensitive period he is prepared to take up his part in the social life of humanity” (Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s Third Lecture). Here at Arbor, our Adolescent Program guides keep this idea at the forefront of their pedagogical planning and discussions. As Montessorians, the guides in the Adolescent Program have been entrusted by Dr. Montessori to guide adolescents, the “social newborn,” toward realizing their capabilities through providing independence and liberty in an appropriately prepared environment, so that they may be of service to greater humanity as a moral adult functioning effectively in society.
Dr. Montessori asserted that early adolescence (ages 12-15) is a time similar to infancy with regards to physical growth and mental development, that both periods are times of great transformation (Standing 115); the 12 to 15 year-old must observe and experiment with how adult society works, much like the 0-3 year-old observes and experiments with materials in their environment and how they work. Dr. Montessori recognized that one’s work with the head, or intelligence, and the hand is quite interrelated; she offered several examples, such as: that the hands of man express his thoughts, the development of manual skill keeps pace with mental development, artistic creativity is materialized in some form of work and for that the hand is necessary, and she goes on to say that perhaps the whole business of intelligence is to guide the work of the hand (The Absorbent Mind 150-1).
In our Adolescent Program at Arbor we fulfill this aspect of Montessori’s philosophy regarding Adolescents and their education in many ways, including our studies of the Sciences through Occupations, Community Work, and Micro-economies. During Occupations units students study science as it relates to the real world through real and meaningful work; whether it’s in the micro-farm studying the components of healthy soil and working to create healthy soil, in the kitchen studying how fermentation occurs and preparing food for the community, or through the study of physics and improving our outdoor classroom by building structures. Students will all have valid experience with biology, chemistry, and physics by 8th grade graduation.
Community Work occurs every Wednesday afternoon and students are responsible for caring for many aspects of the Arbor Community. For example cleaning animal cages in elementary classrooms, campus recycling, grounds care and maintenance, growing crops for market in the micro-farm, micro-economy preparations, and special projects. “Maria Montessori steadily repeats about how noble it is, that both kinds of work are important, manual and intellectual, and that the attitude one develops towards work follows one throughout life. The work needs to be real work though—real adult work with the responsibilities that come with it” (Höglund, 164).
Another way we provide real world experience through work with the head and hand is our micro-economies. The Arbor Adolescent Program has several student run businesses, which provide our Community with meaningful goods and services. These businesses include: Coffee Corner, Coffee Corner Express, Market, Garden Market, and Pizza Day. With guidance, students write their own business plans for the year, design and distribute marketing materials, prepare products and provide services for the Arbor Community at large. We hope you can make it to our next Market and Garden Market on Wednesday, December 15th and to our next Coffee Corner & Coffee Corner Express on Thursday, January 11, 2018. Don’t forget Pizza Day on Thursday, December 14th!
Maria Montessori was very specific in her teachings that the goal of adolescent education is to “put the adolescent on the road to achieving economic independence” (From Childhood to Adolescence 64). In our Adolescent Program at Arbor we prepare our students for life beyond our doors through partaking in social structures that prepare one for adult life, experiencing independence, feeling the interconnectedness of people completing genuine work, having adult-like responsibilities and challenges, participating and engaging in social organization with many roles, and working with production and exchange endeavors. These experiences result in valorization of the adolescent and helps them feel “capable of succeeding in life by his own efforts and his own merits” (64), thus producing responsible, loving, and effective world citizens.