Montessori Middle School? We Thought It Was Just for Preschool

Over 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori revolutionized the young child’s world with her dramatically new approach to child development. Dr. Montessori worked primarily with the preschool-aged child, 3 to 6 years, during her initial studies. She discovered that children of this age learn best while engaged in “hands-on” activities, presented by trained professionals in a nurturing, family-like setting of mixed ages. She later spent time studying the elementary-age child, ages 6 through 12, and as she did with the younger child, developed an entire curriculum based specifically upon the developmental needs of this age level. Dr. Montessori’s approach has always maintained the belief that traditional methods of education were too limiting for most students; that children needed much more of a challenge in a positive setting in order to allow for the individual’s potential to emerge. Her method, which was light years ahead of her time, has not only stood the test of time, but current research has confirmed much of Dr. Montessori’s scientific findings. Today, there are thousands of successful Montessori schools worldwide.

The missing link, however, was middle school for children aged 12 through 15. Dr. Montessori died just as she was beginning to study and write curriculum for the early adolescent. Today, Montessori researchers have devised excellent programs for the middle school Montessori student. One of these researchers, Dr. Elizabeth Coe of Houston, Texas, has developed a middle school program based upon Montessori philosophy, current research about early adolescent and human development, and recommendations from a task force put together by the Carnegie Corporation, in order to prepare middle school students for the 21st Century. Dr. Coe’s program incorporates “real-life” skills, such as running businesses, making learning meaningful through business internships and community service, and using high standards as a goal for all students to aspire to, no matter what the challenge. All students acquire excellent communication and leadership skills, and they learn how to work with, and respect different types of people. They are also engaged in a myriad of real life projects, such as building a water irrigation system, a green house, and a dormitory. Houston high schools have begun to recruit Dr. Coe’s middle school students because of the well-rounded young leaders emerging from her program. Now there is a Montessori program for every level of development through 15 years of age. Next stop, high school!

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