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Adolescent/Middle School Program

The Damariscotta Montessori Adolescent Program provides an innovative land-based educational program in which adolescents can excel academically, engage in meaningful work, acquire leadership skills, and learn to care for themselves, their peers, the environment, and their community.

 Montessori philosophy views adolescence as a period of great transformation and extraordinary potential. The primary mission of the adolescent program is to serve the vital needs of adolescents through work that challenges both the mind and the body. This is carried out through a supportive teaching staff that creates a prepared learning environment that empowers adolescents to set and exceed their own goals, to engage in real community experience and meaningful, noble work; all of these contributing to their sense of purpose and worth.

The Damariscotta Montessori School Adolescent Program provides:

      individualized instruction within small classes;

      logically integrated, challenging and rich curriculum;

      development of life and learning skills: self-direction, critical thinking, time-management, collaboration, and personal responsibility;

      development of community: respect, responsibility, democratic problem-solving and interdependence;

       development of critical thinking and creativity;

       integration of technology;

       a learning environment that helps adolescents to discover their capabilities through meaningful work and real-life problem solving.

Curriculum

The Montessori adolescent curriculum fosters critical and analytical thinking.  The curriculum provides students with the experiences and skills that they will need in order to build a foundation of life-long learning and to be successful in any secondary school setting. The learning environment in the adolescent community reflects the developmental need for social interaction, self-expression, and self-knowledge.

Humanities: The adolescent humanities program is an interdisciplinary exploration of history, geography, creative and expository writing, literature, philosophy, and grammar. Students are exposed to classical and contemporary literature and philosophies.  Confidence in self-expression is developed through the use of the seminar, oral presentation, debates, drama, visual arts, essays, play writing, poetry, short stories and historical fiction.  The research and expository writing skills obtained in the elementary classroom are deepened as students continue researching topics of interest.  The seminar (Socratic and literature circles) is used to develop critical thinking skills in the analysis of thoughts, ideas and philosophies.  American history and Maine state history are the focus of the adolescent program.

Mathematics: The student 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. 

Science: The science curriculum stresses a hands-on, inquiry based approach to an understanding of the interdependence of the natural world and human life through interdisciplinary study of ecology, geology, biology, physics, chemistry, and comparative anatomy. The land provides a natural laboratory for this study.  The implementation of science in the program follows the National Science Education Standards.

Second language and grammar: The student revisits grammar through the study of a second language and reviews complex sentences and paragraph structure in English.

Practical life: The student manages reality-based operations in economic enterprises including agriculture, continued care for their own classroom and school environment, fund-raisers, travel, volunteerism and service, apprenticeship, and technology.

Fine arts: The student utilizes a discipline-based arts education plan which presents individual artistic areas of painting, acting, music appreciation, photography, and sculpture, and includes a general education for aesthetic literacy which integrates the arts with other academic endeavors.

Important Program Components

The Farm: The farm provides for the adolescents need for connection to the land.  The students engage in elements of farming as an economic enterprise through the care of plants and animals, the maintenance of simple machines, the understanding of land use, and the operations of accounting, sales, personnel records, and working relations in ongoing projects.  The farm provides both real and meaningful work that enables adolescents to discover how capable they are and that they can make a meaningful contribution.  The agricultural component offers a tremendous amount of opportunities to use academic disciplines in real world context, thus answering the age old question of the adolescent, “Why is this important?” (See Erdkinder Mission Statement)

The Odyssey Trip:  The Odyssey Trip is a key component of the Montessori adolescent program academic and social experience.  The goal of the Odyssey Trip is to provide a rich educational experience for the students with a focus on learning and bonding.  The trip is broken up into two 1-week adventures:  The first being at the Leadership School at Kieve, where the students focus on team-building, decision making, communication and cooperation skills, in a retreat-like environment.  The second trip is a curriculum focused trip that allows the students to experience first-hand what they are be learning in the classroom.  Examples of curriculum focused experiences are: Colonial Williamsburg, Plymouth Plantation, Luray Caverns, Museum of Natural History (NYC), Monticello, Smithsonian Museum, Gettysburg, etc. 

Both pieces of the Odyssey Trip provide the much needed element of “bonding” as a community. The students live and work together for extended periods of time, which gives them the opportunity to forge strong working relationships with their peers.

The Seminar:  The seminar format, or Socratic Circle, is a foundational format of discussion, used in the curriculum, designed to develop critical thinking through listening, reading, critical analysis, questioning and reflecting.  In the seminar true classroom discussion and dialogue take place as the students work together and share their own ideas, build knowledge based on prior information being applied to new situations, test out their own hypotheses and perspectives against those of their peers, and arrive at an answer that has been constructed through personal experience, critical thought, rhetoric and discourse.  Students examine texts, and rather than read, listen and answer, students engage in lively, respectful discussion and learn to ask probing questions in order to construct meaning from what they have read and avoid focusing on a “correct” interpretation of the text.

The Classroom Meeting and Peer Problem Solving:  Because the adolescent years are an incredibly sensitive social time of their lives, learning to form healthy relationships, make good social decisions, set and respect appropriate social boundaries, and work together despite differences is critical.  In the Montessori Adolescent Community, students work together to solve social and community difficulties in the Classroom Meeting and through Peer Problem Solving. 

The Classroom Meeting provides a format where students can come to the community to help one another solve problems, whether they are social, academic or community issues.  Students are given an opportunity to be listened to, and to share their perspectives, and to find solutions in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation.  The Classroom Meeting allows children to become problem solvers, to think critically, to create their own respectful solutions, and see mistakes as an opportunity to learn. 

Peer Problem Solving is quite simply conflict resolution.  In the Montessori Elementary Classrooms the children learned how to resolve interpersonal difficulties through a time tested conflict resolution model.  When they needed help they asked a teacher for help.  In the adolescent program, students learn to become peer mediators and help others.

Daily Structure:  The 3-hour morning work cycle is still the core of the day in the Adolescent Program, and is the time when most of the academic work takes place, including individual work, seminars, daily assignments, long-term assignments, planning, and a variety of means for demonstrating mastery: tests, projects and presentations.  The afternoon is generally set aside for focused work like Spanish, art, music, farm projects, large group projects and writing workshops.

Farm chores and care for the classroom environment take place first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon.  (See weekly schedule.)

Preparation for Life Beyond Montessori:  One of the primary focuses of the Adolescent Program is to prepare students for successful transition into high school.  Students will be introduced to critical skills needed in high school, such as note taking, test taking, essay writing, report writing, and oral presentations.  Testing is introduced as a practical life skill with the emphasis on preparation, test taking strategies, experience and skills. This is, of course, vital as students prepare for an academic environment where testing will be used as a primary source of student assessment.  Assessment in the adolescent program is accomplished through student-teacher conferences, written assignments, and some testing.

Students in the adolescent program still make choices and are encouraged to pursue topics of interest.  This is a cornerstone of Montessori philosophy.  Ultimately, the goal of the adolescent program is to help develop independent, confident, prepared, respectful and curious life-long learners.