It may be no surprise to those who have been following the activities of the adolescents, but our Fall Trimester has been incredibly engaging and productive. A cursory review of the blog from only the first two months of school reveals the varied and numerous activities of the adolescents. There have been events planned, prepared, and hosted; business ideas researched, promoted, and marketed; materials harvested; products created and sold; money exchanged.
If you are a product of traditional education (myself included) and you are unfamiliar with Montessori theory at the adolescent level, some of what we do here in the AP may not seem like ‘school’ activities or ‘academic’ in nature. We strive to ensure that the students have frequent opportunities for meaningful social interaction within the community and society. Montessori says,
“The school which gives only academics, which separates intelligence from practical society, is no longer valid…the school itself is not the goal (learning for learning’s sake is torture!) but rather that learning has a practical application that it can unite and nourish life. It then suddenly becomes a brilliant and living thing.”
~ Maria Montessori, XXIII International
Montessori Course in “The Erdkinder Research and Development Report”
Clearly, there is much more to Montessori than simply nurturing the intelligence. Every parent who has a child in a primary classroom understands practical life lessons like sweeping and table washing produce more than children destined for successful careers in housekeeping. These specific activities in the environment provide an opportunity for the creation of the self and the development of the will. This depth of work applies to the work of the adolescent as well, but for the 12 to 15-year-old, the small, meticulously-prepared and beautiful classroom of the 3 to 6-year-old child has been transformed into society and all of the intricate connections between its parts. Adolescence is the time when we all take our first steps through the world as an individual in society rather than a child in the family. It is the point in our lives where we begin to ask ourselves, “who am I, and where do I belong?”
Our jobs as adolescent guides are to provide for the students the appropriate exposure to society and the context for them to navigate through it. One of our best tools for this purpose, and the reason it may seem as if the adolescents are always offering their goods and services in exchange for your money, is that the mechanism of “production and exchange, on which economic life is based” provides “an opportunity to learn both academically and through actual experience what are the elements of social life.” (Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, Appendix A). Thus, the Micro-economy functions not only as a way for students to generate funds for their projects and trips, but as an integrated curriculum that provides the opportunity, the context, and the practice as a member of society.
Montessori observed that there is more than the intellect that requires nourishment during adolescence, which is why nearly half of her written material on the subject of adolescent education focuses on the practical considerations for the organization of social life. She saw the importance of adolescents having opportunities to be useful to their peers, to be valorized through their own labor, and to join in the actions of society.