Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not just by listening to words, but also by experiences in the environment.
Overview of Montessori
The West Wind Junior High program encompasses the foundational core elements central to Montessori programs;
- Multi-age grouping
- Focus on grace and courtesy
- Hands on, theme-based learning
- A balance of individual and group learning
- Environmental and peace education
- Service learning
WHAT IS MONTESSORI ABOUT?
From the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA) http://www.ccma.ca/
Montessori is an individualized approach to education for children from toddler through high school that helps each child reach full potential in all areas of life. It is a student-centred approach that encourages creativity and curiousity and leads children to ask questions, explore, investigate and think for themselves as they acquire skills.
The “Whole Child” Approach
The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive skills. Under the direction of a specially trained teacher, the holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning, gives the child time to enjoy the process, ensures the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge.
The “Prepared Environment”
In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment – facilities, room, materials, social climate, and experiences – must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. An atmosphere of support and trust enables the children to explore and discover confidently.
Originally called a “Directress”, the Montessori teacher functions as designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record keeper, and meticulous observer of each child’s behaviour and growth. The teacher acts as a facilitator of learning.
ADOLESCENT PLANE OF DEVELOPMENT
Adolescence is time of rapid development and growth. What happens during these critical years shapes a lifetime ahead for children, and determines the path taken into adulthood.
Montessori observed four distinct phases of development that all children go through as they mature. Students at aged twelve enter into an acute stage of development, in which their learning helps them to achieve social independence. During this key plane students take their prior knowledge and use it to form themselves. As they develop, they question and explore who they are as a person and how they fit into society.
Characteristics of Adolescents
- Immense Physical Change
- With the exception of infants, adolescents are growing more than any other time of life. This rutted path leads them to sexual maturation, but takes them through periods of both exceptional energy and lethargy. Their need for adequate food and sleep is paramount at this time. All of the changes to their bodies leave teens feeling self-conscious and vulnerable. They constantly feel judged by others, and are open to hurt and humiliation.
- Need for Moral Dignity and Social Justice
- Adolescents feel passionately about justice, and feel personally impacted when they perceive injustice. At this time they began to question beliefs and rules that they previously just accepted. They are drawn to social causes, and feel empowered when they are able to help others. During this plane they also tend to seek or create heroes in an effort to counter all the imperfections they see in the world.
- Ability to Visualize and Idealize Perfection
- For the first time in their lives, adolescents are able to imagine what perfection is. They can visualize what the ideal family, flawless school, and perfect world would look like to them. As a result, they can become preoccupied focusing on the problems around them. Adolescents often blame those closest to them for life’s imperfections, which can cause tension in home and school.
- Need for Creative Exploration and Self-Expression
- Adolescents forming their own identity tend to have a need for creative exploration. This involves playing with different creative mediums (ie. music, fashion, cooking, dance, formal arts, etc). Not only do these pursuits allow an outlet for energy and emotions, but they enable the individual to see what they are good at and how they fit in. Youth are able to think abstractly and analyse, as long as the subject is presented within a personal context.
- Ability to See Self as an Individual
- The adolescent has a huge task of taking all of their separate identities and amalgamating them into a new self-identity. Previously they have viewed themselves compartmentally. They were a sister, a son, a guitar player, an artist, a friend, etc. Now they are taking all of those different roles to view themselves as a whole person. As they are very judgmental of others and themselves, this also tends to be a time of dissonance. This change of behaviour is a normal part of the passageway to maturity.
- Need for Peer Group
- Peer relationships are of utmost importance to adolescents. They identify strongly with their peers and have an innate need to belong. It is important for teens to feel that they can help others and add value to their community. They are motivated by working with peers, and often need time to “just be”. This time along and together with peers aids in the formation of their identity.
WHY OUR PROGRAM IS DIFFERENT
The rapid development of adolescents creates a winding path to maturity, often full of ups and downs. It is vital that a Junior High program is aware of the very specific needs of adolescents, and is able to provide an appropriate environment to allows students to thrive. We recognize the unrest that adolescents are prone to feel, and our awareness of this helps us assist youth moving through our program. We value a strong classroom community, which helps to assist all youth to feel a sense of belonging. This frees their minds up to be able to focus more on academic growth.
Keeping in mind the characteristics of adolescents, our program aims to provide authentic, purposeful work that engages the mind and body. We focus on projects that require action and put practical life skills into action. WWJH offers an academically rigorous program that challenges students. Our individualize goal setting and group work encourages accountability for each student. The session topics we offer are interesting and relevant to students and interdisciplinary by nature.
Having a prepared environment at this plane of development requires allowing for meaningful experiences. We focus on hands-on learning opportunities and projects, helping students feel that their work is necessary and relevant. We aim to have students learn through experience.
The things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.
The illustration above shows the best methods for learning retention. The nature of our program allows us to work on the bottom half of the pyramid, focusing on discussion, practice, and teaching others.
At WWJH we feel strongly that students need to be prepared for life beyond school. As part of this youth need to be equipped with the skills and information that will inspire and motivate them, while giving them the flexibility to tackle some of the difficult problems society will no doubt continue to face once they mature inth the world. Environmental and peace education are imbedded into every aspect of our curriculum, and remain the strongest themes in our program. Our hope is to empower our youth to know they can make a difference in the world. That is the tangible and lasting benefit of their time at WWJH.