"Preventing conflicts is the work of politics;
establishing peace is the work of education."
The Adolescent Program (Junior High) Ages 12 to 14 years (Grades 7 - 8)
The Montessori vision for an early adolescent program is as different from traditional junior high as the rest of Montessori education is from conventional preschool and elementary education. Dr. Montessori observed that tweens and young teens needed to work with their hands, as well as their minds, needed to understand the way the adult world worked, especially the economic world, and needed to explore their own developing personalities in order to find their places in their communities. For this, she prescribed work on the land, work that showed them the adult world and provided the necessary skills to join it competently, and work in all kinds of self-expression within a community.
A Classroom Study of Socrates
Work on the Land occurs both at the 22-acre main campus and at historic Woodstock farm, and students spend much of their time engaged in this. At Woodstock, there are sheep and an orchard, as well as an historic farmhouse. Work on the land might include: caring for sheep, rabbits and chickens, gardening and landscaping; observing frogs, birds and other wildlife in and around a vernal pool; measuring and documenting our habitat, including land, water and trees; building a greenhouse or a stone wall for a planter bed; even helping to care for toddlers and observing human development. Sometimes this work takes the form of routine daily chores to help care for the school community. At other times this work is integrated into the applied science curriculum, called Occupations, as well as our Lab Science curriculum.
Hiking in Virginia during the Odyssey Trip
Preparation for Adulthood is clearly a concern of junior high students, who have one perennial question about schoolwork: "What has this got to do with MY life?" Too often in adult society, the only answer is, "You need it to pass a test." While students are prepared to do well on the necessary high school entrance exams and standardized tests, academic work in the BMCH adolescent program is also designed to answer this question in more relevant ways. The main academic areas are Languages, Math, Humanities, Occupations, and Lab Science. All of these subjects are taught in a hands-on, exploratory fashion, giving the students many choices of individual and group projects so that they can tailor their research to their own interests. Many projects, across the curriculum, are tied to the land and the community, so students can see the effect these skills and information can have on their real-life work. There is an additional area of study called Microeconomy, where the students plan and run small business ventures that actually earn money (which is usually applied to the cost of their off-site trips). These have included pizza sales, the school yearbook, the school book fair and producing videos for the school website. In addition to academics, community-building through class meetings and shared work, learning to discuss and resolve conflicts in mature ways, and intersections with community outside the school prepare students for life in the adult world.
Self-Expression and Community are so important because early adolescence is both an intensely social time and an intensely introspective, even self-centered, time of life. Adolescents need a lot of time to explore who they are becoming, who their friends are becoming, how they fit into their newly developing bodies, and how they fit into social circles from the intimate to the global. Time and space are provided for many kinds of personal and social self-expression through the arts, journaling, class social events, and class meetings. The year begins with a community-building camping rip to an outdoor education program, where the focus is getting to know one another and learning to work as a team. Throughout the year, there is time for studio art, drama, chorus, music, class meetings, Spirit Week, and parties. There are even opportunities for a community-building form of recess; the students vote on one game, and all participate in it together. Physical education (PE) is offered in both large and small groups, in order for students to have time to develop physical expression through both team sports and individual skills.