For students aged 12 to 15 years old
The Montessori approach is to treat adolescents as the people they will one day become. The purposeful work and reality-based learning of the Adolescent Programme takes place within the classroom environment and also in the outdoor environment. Service to the community, business management, maintenance of indoor and outdoor spaces, stewardship for the natural environment, problem solving and oral presentations are important parts of the programme.
What happens in the Adolescent Programme classroom
Recent neuroscience shows us that what happens to the adolescent brain means we need to approach their education in a different way to traditional schools. Learning cannot be passive. As at the preceding levels of Montessori education, the Adolescent Programme is structured to provide broad-based exposure to educational experiences while encouraging detailed, individualised exploration.
During adolescence, the frontal lobe disconnects to allow the reformatting of the whole brain, helping adolescents leave childhood behind and enter adulthood, but leaving them to navigate a kind of no-man’s land in-between. This means a time of greater risk-taking, as they move away from their parents and want to be defined as an adult. As the brain is reformatted, all the unconnected or underused highways get cleared away and what gets left behind gets rebuilt and strengthened. Actions that happened aged below 12 without prompting, such as say putting a school bag away, are now simply forgotten as the highway is remodelled. In order for adolescents to stay engaged in learning, they need to see that it is relevant and has a purpose to them now.
Montessori observed that adolescents have a strong desire to be engaged in purposeful work deemed valuable by the community. The curriculum therefore shifts to a two-week rotation between Humanities (history, or how humanity got to where it is now and where it’s going) and Occupations (science). For Humanities, students for instance may build shelters used by past civilisations and cook the foods they ate. For Occupations, they might want to build a fish tank, because of its calming influence, and for this they will need to learn how to cut glass, how to assemble it and what fish they will buy for the tank. This means they will incorporate maths, biology and chemistry into their learning and at the end of a session have a tank that contributes to the environment around them. The idea is that they never have to ask, “When am I ever going to use this?” because they already are.
Montessori Adolescent Programmes world-wide typically create a micro-business as a core component of their curriculum. A key motivator for adolescents is money, and again the idea is to teach the students real and useful skills, and to relate various subjects to the business so the students see the relevance of what they are learning. Our Lotus class created lil lotus coFFee, which sells sustainably grown beans as a retailer, in partnership with a local UN-recognised thinktank sure.co, plus cups of coffee, teas and juices at a weekly pop-up cafe.
The MSB Adolescent Programme runs Monday to Friday, 8:30am until 3:00pm.