Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Many have asked this question, and we are happy to share a more thorough answer below from our Middle School Guide and Curriculum Developer, Ryan Tucker!
(A brief introduction: Dr. Montessori acknowledged that children go through periods of specific growth, or what she called "Four Planes of Development". These developmental planes are divided into six-year periods, with the first plane being 0-6 years, the second 6-12 years, the third 12-18 years, and the fourth 18-25 years. She acknowledgement that this is number of years it takes for a newborn to fully develop an adult being, and that each period needs a completely different educational method, reflecting the child's specific developmental needs at the stage they are in. The six year periods are in turn divided into sub-periods of three years, which is what is reflected in typical Montessori mixed-age classrooms, including middle (12-15 years) and high school (15-18 years). To learn more about the Four Planes of Development, we can recommend this article for a quick introduction, or read Dr. Montessori's publication From Childhood to Adolescence.)
What does a Montessori Education look like at the Adolescent Level?
"These two needs of the adolescent: for protection during the time of the difficult physical transition, and for an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to play his part as a man, give rise to two problems that are of equal importance concerning education at this age."
From Childhood to Adolescence
For those parents who have younger children in the Toddler, Primary, or Elementary classroom(s), or who is considering enrolling your child at our school with no prior experience in Montessori, you might be wondering what your child’s experience will look like in the Middle and High School level. The purpose of this post is to share with you what you can expect when we open the Middle School this September, 2022.
The adolescent is a “social newborn”. Just like the 0-6 year old in the first plane of development is constructing themselves physically, socially, and intellectually, the adolescent during the 12-18 years is similarly constructing their new social self while also going through the extreme physical changes that accompany puberty. This is an age of big transition.
So what should education look like at this age? A Montessori education - or any education, really - should address the needs of the child. Therefore, the education of the adolescent in Montessori can be summed up as “Preparation for Adult Life”. The adolescent needs real, authentic experiences in a supportive environment at this age. They need to be able to build themselves in a social environment, where they can take on adult roles and learn from them.
Montessori stated that the best environment for this age period was a farm. “Therefore work on the land is an introduction both to nature and to civilization and gives a limitless field for scientific and historic studies.” (From Childhood to Adolescence) Fortunately for us here at Bovina Center Montessori School, we are blessed with the ideal environment that Montessori describes. As we grow as a school, this environment will allow our adolescents to truly thrive.
The adolescent, instead of learning science from a textbook, learns from doing work on the land. This work naturally includes the disciplines of biology, chemistry, earth sciences, physics, etc. However, instead of learning these things individually and theoretically, with abstract examples, the student is learning them all in a real world setting, inter-disciplinarily. For example, if we are working with chickens, the adolescent will be exposed to biology, when we look at the different breeds of chickens for different purposes. We might need to build a coop or improve an existing one. We will then need to explore physics and engineering. These are just a few examples, and the list of projects on the farm is limitless. The most important thing is that the work is real, purposeful, and immediate.
The adolescent also studies the history of societies and humankind, to gain an understanding and appreciation of what has come before them. As the adolescent community works to organize itself on the farm, connections can be made to society at large. How do we divide our labor amongst ourselves? How do we organize ourselves? How do we solve problems as a group? Again, these issues are real, purposeful, and immediate. We can look to our rich past, to gain guidance for our future. Literature and history is read to look at figures from the past. Government and politics are studied to understand how societies have attempted to organize themselves in the past, and in current times.
Through the work on the farm, the adolescent also learns how to grow to economic independence, a critical part of this plane of development. Entrepreneurship and economics are taught in real time as the adolescent learns the value of their work on the farm. What can we produce on the land or create in the wood shop? How can we sell this? What do we need to sell it for to turn a profit so that we can produce more? These real world lessons are taught, as we seek to produce animal products, vegetables and plants, maple syrup, hand crafts, etc. on the farm.
If you are interested in learning more about the program we plan to offer, how this translates into a strong educational foundation, and how this can fit your child's educational needs, and I am available for a chat on phone or video. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to connecting.