Dr. Maria Montessori observed students of all ages and envisioned the ideal environments for each of the Four Planes of Human Development. Her vision of educational reform was to have educators objectively observe the natural needs of students and create an environment ideal for their development.
The Third Plane, from ages 12 to 18, was revealed as the age that children explore and discover their place in the adult world. It is an emotionally sensitive age, an age of uncertainty and a time to discover one’s strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Montessori saw adolescence as typified by being in a “state of expectation” and having specific characteristics:
- Need to strengthen self-confidence
- Sensitivity to rudeness and humiliation
- Exploration of new roles and abilities as an adult
- Desire to perform useful, productive, and creative work
- Desire for adult activities
- Desire for increased self-sufficiency
- Need for large muscle activity
- Self-exploration in conjunction with exploring society
- Exploration of personal ethics, of physical and mental ability, and usefulness to society
- Need for justice and personal dignity
Social sciences, science, and geography: The child integrates history utilizing themes from earlier studies in natural and cultural history, including interdependency, evolution, life cycles, matter and energy, behavior and cultural mental health, physical health, agriculture, government, manufacturing, communication, world systems, earth preservation, and so on, in the context of social responsibility and governance. Primary readings from each historical period are emphasized. Special attention is given to American History during Middle School.
Language arts: The child develops confidence in self-expression utilizing the seminar, oral presentation, debates, drama, video, photography, essays, playwriting, poetry, and short stories; explores related accounts of historical and philosophical material through literature utilizing components of style, genre, characterization, and interpretation. Group discussions are important as a means for encouraging students to compare and contrast the thoughts expressed by others and to more critically examine their own thoughts.
Spanish and Latin: Middle School students are introduced to basic Latin vocabulary and grammar via the Cambridge Latin Course, Unit I, which is a widely-used textbook both in the United States and abroad. It follows a Pompeiian family on the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuviusin 79 AD. An emphasis is placed on Roman culture, English derivatives, and learning to read Latin without using English as a crutch.
In Spanish, students cover the vocabulary and grammar typically taught in a first-year high school course over the two-year Middle School program. The teacher-created textbook emphasizes personalization and authenticity in the use of the language. Students spend most of class time using Spanish to discuss their own lives, and use their independent work time to practice writing about themselves, their friends and families. Cultural topics are treated as they arise in class, and a Spanish-language film is shown as a culminating activity which enables students to focus on a fictional family from a Spanish-speaking country
Mathematics: The child uses higher-order thinking skills to solve problems in relation to a variety of challenges, from practical money transactions to algebraic relationships; explores in-depth numbers, properties, simple equations, higher measurement, computer calculation and graphics, geometric proofs, and algebraic equations.
Fine arts: The child utilizes a discipline-based arts education plan which presents individual artistic areas of painting, acting, singing, composing, photography, dance, and sculpture, and includes a general education for aesthetic literacy which integrates the arts with other academic endeavors.
Service Programs and Practical Life: Working in a soup kitchen, farming as a community venture, and apprenticeships or mentorship in the workplace are part of an advancing “going out” that gives the adolescent a combined vocational and liberal arts curriculum with a particular emphasis on economic enterprise. Students can also be involved with fundraising, organizing a trip, building shelves or materials for the school, or any number of activities to enrich the students’ educational journey.