“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education." -Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori believed that adolescence was a time of vulnerability, self-reflection, and exploration of the community (and the world) and one’s place in that community. She believed that middle schools should encourage adolescents to forge a connection with the land and the community, and begin the process of becoming independent in a safe and supportive educational environment. These are some of the hallmarks of the Peace Pioneer (Middle School) Program:
Grace and Courtesy – is an attribute of practical life in the prepared environment. It is learning and experiencing etiquette, how to speak, act, etc… As a child develops, grace and courtesy needs to be reworked and refined. The micro-economy as well as interaction with adults are just two ways to do this. The Pioneers venture out into the community as part of their educational experience, and whether it is in the library, at the Farm, on the phone, via e-mail, or in person, they are constantly honing in on the importance of grace and courtesy.
Hand/Head – The idea of the hand/head is the Montessori theory of balance. The hand and head complement one another and can reach their full potential with the assistance of the other. When the hand and the head do not work together, the head suffers. The idea of the hand and the head begins in Elementary years where a child realizes that the coordination between the two is needed to move and experience the environment. The Pioneers learn the art of “drafting” which immensely improves the quality in their work. Something as simple as turning off auto-correct on the computer forces both heads and hands to become more attune to their work process.
Moral Development – Adolescents are trying to figure out the moral standards of the community, which gives them a sense of morality. It is an intellectual ability that comes with achieving valorization. Through practical experience and work on the farm, moral orientation develops in our Peace adolescents. Like many ideas regarding development, moral development comes to fruition through trial and error.
Social Development – Social development is lifelong, and is culminated through development. For personality to develop there must be social interactions taking place. Work has a two-fold interpretation in that it helps to develop personality and economic independence; both interpretations affect the social development in a constructive method. The adolescent needs a prepared environment which offers opportunities for social development and vocational development (to serve the community/humanity), along with an environment that is productive and calm.
Valorization – Valorization is an integral part of the child’s development which is not necessarily bound to only adolescents. Valorization comes as a result of work with a social experience in the community. It takes place in a prepared environment where all of this can happen.
Work – Work has to be both demanding and intellectual. Work that makes the adolescent feel that he or she can shift for him or herself is needed for the personality to develop. Work helps the continuum from an adolescent to an adult. Work promotes independence and at the same time encourages social interactions. Everything the Pioneers do is encompassed in work: academics, extra-curricular activities, and the Farm experience.
Erdkinder – The idea of Erdkinder, literally meaning “land-children”, is a place where adolescent independent work is supported through the outside environment. In our case, being located in a suburban setting where it is not quite practical to have a residential farm, it is perhaps just as important to strive for an Erdkinder environment as it is to have one, since the act of striving for it can allow the adolescent to develop economic independence and develop towards maturity. Peace Montessori has a partnership with a local organic farmer, and while the Peace Pioneers aren’t living at the farm, they do have the meaningful experiences that Maria Montessori believed each adolescent needs in order to be valorized. The Pioneers learn that everything connects to the Farm, whether it is the humanities, math and sciences, technology, or the arts.