Montessori's Secondary Vision and EARTH School
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Most Montessori secondary programs focus on the goal of developing student independence and believe that this will lead a better society. And in some ways, this is true. Free and democratic societies need independent thinkers to be successful.
However, Montessori’s full vision was the improvement of our current society, a social transformation. The key to this social transformation is developing the individual through education, but in service to life and the universe. At EARTH School will achieve this by using the spiritual inspiration and science-based cosmology of the Universe Story to help orient adolescents in time and space.
Montessori’s original suggestion of having students run a farm or business to encourage independence is fantastic. I've worked at schools which have done both. With a farm, students benefit from a better understanding of human connections to the land and nature. With a business, students develop skills for financial responsibility. Both involve elements of teamwork and responsibility. However, there is a certain artificiality to both when they are created as enclosed entities within the school community. While this might be best for early adolescents, by high school students need to be learning not just how to be part of society but how to be part of the transformation movement.
Instead of farm work, EARTH School students engage as teams in work which is explicitly socially transformative and guided by the Earth Charter’s 4 pillars:
Research skills, systems thinking, group organization skills, executive function skills and ethics are taught through projects which are not just “real-world,” but which involve value-driven purpose and deep experience. Examples of project topics include access to nutrition, waste reduction, alternative energy, environmental restoration, consumption awareness, and environmental justice. Instead of just studying these topics from a distance, the program will integrate around local community impact. Then through cross-cultural exchange with communities across the globe through the Earth Charter and other organizations, students will have opportunities to see how their efforts fit into the big picture.
Academically, these projects connect learning to community purpose in a way that is transformative. We emphasize civics and citizenship through a lens of activism. The backbone of our curriculum covers much of traditional high school content but with greater emphasis on Earth Science, Biology, Global Communication and Statistics. English Language Arts, World Cultures and the Arts integrated through the Universe Story/Big History show how humans explore humanity’s place in the universe. This draws out the importance of Humanities as both a means for personal development and for social action. Instead of entitling them as individuals, this program inspires students to engage with issues in a way which empowers them as community members.
Because education should be a world changing experience.