One of the greatest needs of the adolescent is, “an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to play his part.” Maria Montessori identifies the history of humanity, human progress, and the building up of civilization as important areas of study for the adolescent as a preparation for their adult life.
One goal of the humanities curriculum is offering keys to understanding human societies. In the Arbor Adolescent Program, the students study agriculture, religion, economics, governance, geographical explorations, social movements, scientific discoveries, and inventions. Understanding any one aspect of society opens a door to a better grasp of history as a whole.
To take their place in the human story, students need to understand the stories and events that led up to their own time. Focusing their studies on human greatness and human progress cultivates a sense of responsibility to use their incredible powers for good.
In Montessori’s vision, the goal of reforming education was to change the world. “Everything that concerns education… must aim at improving the individual in order to improve society,” she wrote. At the early adolescent level, humanities studies provide indirect preparation for this great work. Through projects, students develop the skills that will make them effective and powerful citizens of the world.
Students apply qualitative analysis (interviews, perspective taking, persuasive essays or speeches, debates) and quantitative analysis (collecting numbers, looking at averages, interpreting demographics, budgets, etc) to understanding societal issues past and present. Through historical and biographical studies, as well as engagement in current issues, students understand how society works and how people accomplish things in our democratic system.
The humanities curriculum strives to treat the history of humankind as a complete whole, with selected topics chosen for in-depth study. Students come to see themselves as part of the total human experience. They understand the differences and commonalities of human peoples throughout time and place through in-depth study of selected topics. We highlight connections and causal relationships between events so students sense how historical events connect across vast sweeps of time.
As each humanities project ends, students write responses to the question, “how has your understanding of the human story changed?”