Philosophy and Practice
Clark Montessori is guided by the spirit of Maria Montessori. She never developed a full curriculum for adolescents, but she gave specific guidelines for adolescent programs and wrote her observations about adolescents and how they learn. Using her writings on the adolescent and the guidelines for her elementary school curriculum, Clark Montessori adapts these ideas to design effective, challenging and interesting curriculum for our students.
- Student-centered classrooms with a sense of community — The classroom set up is versatile so that students can work individually or in groups. Teachers use a variety of lesson modes, including whole class, small group and individual.
- Seminar used as a tool to develop respect, listening skills, insight and understanding — This becomes a building block for community. Students gather in small or large group conversations, referencing text and responding to one another’s comments.
- Curriculum encourages both convergent and divergent thinking — This is developed by passionate teachers
- Hands-on work connects themes and concepts learned in class — Students are engaged in projects that interweave subject areas, and they regularly leave the school to do field studies.
- Multi-layered projects allow for a variety of modes of learning
- Blocks of work time that last for at least 1.5 hours — This allows for collaborative projects and hands-on activities.
- Variety of instructional and assessment practices
- Clear objectives, rubrics and tools for self-evaluation — For more involved assignments, students are given stated objectives and rubrics with detailed descriptions of the level and kind of work they are expected to do. They are also expected to evaluate their own work based on these rubrics and receive peer and adult evaluation based on those rubrics.
- A focus on service with the support of instructional lessons — Meaningful service work happens when students are prepared for the work of the heart. This is an essential component to a developmentally appropriate curriculum for the adolescent.
What makes it Montessori?
The parts of the school that “make it Montessori” are hard to see with the eye.
The Montessori Learning Environment
- A curricular context for cosmic education — In what way does the coursework encourage the adolescent to find their place in society?
- A curricular context that fosters a sense of hope and progression of the human spirit — This curriculum includes action in stewardship of the earth and humanity.
- A structure in place for the care of the environment — Charts for classroom maintenance and jobs ensure that everybody feels responsible for the classroom.
- Opportunities for economic independence are not an attempt to create a love of money, but to help the adolescent feel useful, capable of effort and proud of their own transition to adulthood — Students are encouraged to develop mini economies or micro businesses. At Clark, there have been a number of small businesses: wood fired pizzas from our pizza oven, honey from our bee hives, eggs from our chickens. Mostly students are compelled to find ways to make money due to the expectation that they will pay half of their field study fees, themselves.
The Montessori Teacher
- Student and teacher interactions that exhibit courtesy and respect — this includes using soft voices in the classroom. Teachers and students are clearly on task and speak in a way appropriate for the situation — a little more loudly when addressing the whole group and very softly when in small group.
- Whole to part (and part to whole) learning — What is the big picture that will pique his or her curiosity and draw the adolescent into the work? The teacher reminds students to move between the whole to the parts and back again to help them understand relationships and concepts rather than facts in isolation. Field studies apply the concepts of “Pedagogy of Place.” These studies take students into the world, concretely show them the concepts they have studied in abstraction, and help them to develop compassion for all of life.
- De-emphasis on competition and re-emphasis on cooperation — How do we encourage a sense of generosity and abundance rather than scarcity and fear? Teachers design activities and lessons to show students that “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”
The Adolescent as a Spiritual Being
The adolescent is the social infant and, as such, must be treated with great care and tenderness. They need the guidance of wisdom, compassion, and clarity on the part of the adult. Just as the adult creates a safe haven for the human infant’s “absorbent mind,” now the adult creates an environment to help the social newborn achieve “valorization of the personality” (development of character). Field studies and meaningful service work are two very essential components of the Montessori high school that guide the adolescent to develop a sense of stewardship and a heart of compassion.