Middle School students have an increased need to explore the world around them and to feel they are a vital part of the community. The ideal learning environment for adolescents, the Montessori process encourages life-long learning and an approach to every experience as an opportunity to acquire knowledge, continue personal growth, and positively impact the environment.
The role of a Montessori teacher is one of guide and observer, whose ultimate goal is to intervene less as the child develops. With the older students, the teacher is more of a partner, explaining new concepts and then allowing the student the time they need to fully grasp the concept. The teacher provides guidance to finish projects within a certain timeframe. This guidance includes scaffolding - breaking up projects and assignments into smaller more manageable tasks and teaching and modeling how they might be accomplished. Knowing when to observe and when to intervene is a skill the Montessori teacher develops during a rigorous, specialized course of training.
Assessment of a student’s progress is ongoing in the Montessori classroom. Each teacher is a trained observer and accountability comes from being in touch with individual students every day. In the Middle School, students create weekly and daily goals on their work charts. Teachers and students both monitor their progress, and students are held accountable for finishing their assignments on a daily basis.
Homework and in-class assignments are corrected rather than “graded.” This is a hallmark of mastery learning as students work on tasks and assignments until they’ve demonstrated mastery and understanding of the learning objectives and subject content. Montessori standardized testing is used to measure this mastery of learning goals and objectives. The test results help the teachers identify on what to focus their individualized curriculum for each student. In addition, conferences with parents take place twice each year, providing the teachers an opportunity to present an overview of the student’s progress.
Middle school students extend the skills that have been introduced in the elementary years. For each student, an individualized program is developed for reading, mathematics, and writing (creative and research). Students work on the Language Arts skills needed for editing, including sentence structure, vocabulary, syntax, and parts of speech. Research projects develop an understanding of Social Studies topics. Literature studies focus on the exploration of themes expressed in prose, poetry, and drama.
Specialists instruct in science, garden, physical education, art, music, and Spanish. The foundation for social skills development and bonding as a classroom community happens during the traditional beginning-of-school week-long camping trip. Field trips based on curriculum and community service events keep students interested and active. Furthermore, the use of technology is woven throughout the classroom as students continue to develop skills in research, typing, and multimedia presentations.
Students in the Middle School program also continue to develop the Practical Life skills that are evident in every Montessori classroom. When disputes arise on the yard, students are guided to take a role in problem solving; older students learn the importance they play in the community by reading to younger children or, serving the food during the Friendship Feast.
Even though the benefits of process-oriented, non-competitive education and a nurturing environment are evident in the daily Montessori experience of each child, parents still tend to be goal-oriented when it comes to their children. They need to know that their child will be ready for the “next step,” whatever that may be. The faculty and staff at MSO are equally concerned with making certain that every student is prepared for life after MSO.
Middle School teachers tailor the students’ 8th grade year to the high school they will most likely attend. For example, if a student is going into a public school, the teachers familiarize the student with the common core curriculum. If a student is hoping to attend another independent school, they are taught testing skills and provided with interview practice. Teachers also join students when they meet with their new high school counselors to insure they are entering into the most appropriate classes.
Our High School Prep Program includes:
Organizational skills and time management
Meet & greet with high school counselors
High school observation & shadow visits
Discussing goals and objectives
The Council Class attended weekly by students, helps prepare them on both a social & emotional level. This specialist class allows the children to talk with their peers and learn constructive methods of interacting such as “active listening”.
Montessori Model UN
Middle School students in the 7th and 8th grades have the unique opportunity to travel to New York City to participate in Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN). MSO participates in this program every two years, and it is a highlight of the MSO experience for most students.
This program combines the scholarship and global citizenry of Model United Nations with the pedagogical insights of Maria Montessori. At the conferences in New York, students assume the role of either an ambassador or a Press Corps reporter. Because the committees and their relevant topics are taken directly from the United Nations’ agenda, the students become deeply engaged in critical and contemporary world issues. Moreover, the conferences are designed to meet the needs of each student at his or her current stage of development.
At the beginning of the school year, the MMUN program assigns a country to to each participating school based on the size of the class. For MSO, countries have included Slovenia, Cambodia, and Ecuador among others. All Middle School students, including 6th grade, spend the fall semester researching their assigned country and writing resolutions. The program uniquely combines core middle school teaching of history, culture, geography, writing, reading and politics.
By working to solve real-world issues in a developmentally-appropriate setting, students become active members of the world they will inherit as adults. MMUN strives to foster this process by providing more than just a UN simulation. The MMUN project gives students the opportunity to study how another country or cultures within that country have developed their economies and their laws
Some of the things students in the Middle School classroom look forward to each year:
Annual Camping Trip and Beach Cleanup
Building go carts which are personalized with their own design and painted in their art class
Building a miniature golf course for the school’s annual “A Day In The Country” festival, utilizing wood, pipes and other materials repurposed for the course design
Building the grape arbor in the garden