Deep Dive on Characteristics of the Adolescent

Deep Dive Summary: Scientific Observation

Submitted by Michael Waski

We started off by grappling with what we meant by “characteristics” and how these were linked to the idea of a need.  Characteristics describe who the adolescent is.  They are universal and timeless, unchangeable, given from nature, and they assist in development and allow us to adapt to our environment.  The needs are the driving force (requirements?PM) which allow them to develop and adapt to their environment properly.  Therefore, the needs and characteristics are intrinsically linked.


    We spent a good deal of time looking over Montessori’s writings and seeing who she said the adolescent was physically, psychologically, and socially.  We then discussed our observations, being careful to try to not misidentify behaviors resulting from needs not being met (lethargy, depression, etc.) for true characteristics.  We also tried to not limit our thinking to what we may see in a specific environment, but tried to understand the true nature of the adolescent. 


    The following table is a summary of what we have discussed, with some of our supporting quotes from Montessori below. 


Physical Developmental Characteristics:

·       Rapid physical change

·       Tremendous growth e.g. longer limbs

·       Coordination challenges (less graceful)

·       Sexual maturation

·       Hormonal changes (e.g. more body odour)

·       Boundless energy <-> lethargy

·       Fatigue/decreased stamina

·       Changes in sleep patterns/need for more uninterrupted sleep

·       Vulnerability to physical damage

·       Susceptibility to (mental or physical) unwellness


Physical Developmental Needs:

·       Regular movement

·       Physical activity to practice using growing body

·       Movement to challenge strength and coordination

·       Understanding and self-awareness of physical and sexual changes

·       Rest and relaxation

·       Healthful diet and sleeping habits

·       Manual work

·       Necessary and sufficient (only) protection


Psychological Developmental Characteristics:

·       Rapid psychological change

·       Decrease in cognitive concentration

·       Developing critical thinking

·       Capable of mature thought (if framed in a personal context)

·       Creatively expressive

·       Increased impulsivity

·       Increased risk taking

·       Egocentricity

·       Developing self-awareness (insecurity and self-criticism)

·       Concern with personal dignity

·       Alertness to social injustice (as righteousness > taking practical action)

·       Emotional unevenness e.g. optimism <-> despair


Psychological Developmental Needs:

·       Adult models

·       Supportive relationships with peers and adults

·       Connection to place and nature

·       Contemplation and reflection (meditation)

·       Solitude (as well as society)

·       Personal dignity

·       Psychological safety

·       Experience of the value of meaningful work

·       Valorisation (through contribution)

·       Creative expression of thoughts and emotions

·       Understanding and self-awareness of habits of mind

·       Skills of self-sufficiency

·       Increasing independence and adaptability

·       Economic exchange

·       Moral experience and ‘grappling’

·      Necessary and sufficient (only) protection


Social Developmental Characteristics:

·       Interplay between personal and social identity

·       Humanistic – observant of and seeking to understand human behaviour

·       Alertness to flaws and hypocrisy

·       Distancing from family

·       Identifying with and belonging to group(s)

·       Solidarity with/loyalty to peers

·       Sensitivity to views of others

·       Questioning of bounds and norms

·       Developing (exercising) capability and contribution

·       Developing social and economic independence

·       Seeking service and purpose/longing for place in society


Social Developmental Needs:

·       Experience in building and maintaining a community (social organisation)

·       Variety of adults and adult relationships as models

·       Contribution (social/economic)

·       Collective work

·       Glimpses of future self (purpose, vision)

·      Necessary and sufficient (only) protection

Supporting original source quotes:

Life in the open air, in the sunshine, and a diet high in nutritional content coming from the produce of neighbouring fields improve the physical health, while the calm surroundings, the silence, the wonders of nature satisfy the need of the adolescent mind for reflection and meditation. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


If puberty is on the physical side a transition from an infantile to an adult state, there is also, on the psychological side, a transition from the child who has to live in a family, to the man who has to live in society . These two needs of the adolescent: for protection during the time of the difficult physical transition, and for an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to play his part as a man. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 60)


These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying : 'Help me to do it alone!' (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


Productive work and a wage that gives economic independence, or rather constitutes a first real attempt to achieve economic independence, could be made with advantage a general principle of social education for adolescents and young people. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 66)


Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of "Help me to do it alone!" ought to be applied. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


From the psychological viewpoint also this is a critical age.  There are doubts and hesitations, violent emotions, discouragement and an unexpected decrease of intellectual capacity. The difficulty of studying with concentration is not sue to a lack of willingness, but is really a psychological characteristic of the age...The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.  (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 63)


These defects may have very dangerous results, either for the future of the individual (timidity, anxiety, depression, inferiority complex), or for society (incapacity to work, laziness, dependence on others, or cynicism and criminality.   (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 63)


 We also read heavily from Development and Education of the Adolescent: Essay from Kodaikanal and feel this is also a fantastic resource of insight into the chracteristics of the adolescent.






Brian SenseMichael Waski
Deep Dive on Scientific Observation

Deep Dive Summary: Scientific Observation

Submitted by Ben Moudry


Scientific observation is one of the cornerstones of Montessori educational pedagogy and a key difference from other educational practices.  This deep dive session briefly reviewed the purpose and basic practices of scientific observation in general, discussed the practicalities and effective practices of scientific observation at the adolescent level, including how to use the information gathered.


  • Clarify the purpose of observation overall and at adolescent level

  • Identify general characteristics to observe and characteristics specific to adolescents

  • Share effective practices for observing and record keeping at adolescent level

  • Identify next steps and future work related to scientific observation

Guiding Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of observation?

    1. And why at the adolescent level?

  2. What are the characteristics we are looking to observe in each plane?  How do we know we’re seeing it?

    1. Throughout planes?

    2. Distinct to the adolescent?

    3. How do those characteristics change from 12-15 to 15-18?

    4. To what extent will we be bringing in current research (especially neurobiology) to inform “what we are seeing”

  3. Practically, what are effective practices for observing and record keeping at the adolescent level?

    1. How do we observe adolescents?

    2. How do we collect observation information?

    3. What are the media for observation at the third plane?  

    4. What are the pitfalls/challenges/things to be cautious about regarding observation, specifically at the third plane?

    5. How do we observe well? How do we prepare ourselves?

  4. What do we do with the information?

    1. How can adolescents learn to appreciate and use observation as a tool?

  5. What is the role of relationships (adult observer)?

  6. If time … ideas and suggestions for future work.

    1. Develop a tool

    2. Bias training

    3. Practice and feedback about observation

    4. Training about participatory observation

    5. Shared data across schools


 “The first step in becoming a Montessori teacher is to shed omnipotence and to become a joyous observer. If the teacher can really enter into the joy of seeing things being born and growing under his own eyes and clothe himself in the garment of humility, many delights are reserved for him that are denied to those who assume infallibility and authority in front of the class.” (To Educate the Human Potential, 85)

Scientific observation is a cornerstone activity of the Montessori educational method.  It is what allows the adult guide to center himself and see the child with new eyes and an optimal and positive vision.  Without scientific observation, Dr. Montessori would not have seen the “secret of childhood” and the optimal ways to support the natural development of humans.  It is a critical and necessary activity for the trained guide, yet scientific observation is often done irregularly in Montessori environments, especially at the adolescent level.

Basics of Scientific Observation

Scientific observation is a specific type of observation that Montessori primary and elementary diploma courses train adults how to conduct and how to keep records for the observations.  The adult must find a location in the environment that does not draw attention and allows for uninterrupted time to observe.  The first step in scientific observation is to become aware of oneself and for the observer to take account of her own state.  The second step is to do the psychological work to become neutral and be open to seeing in actions and situations objectively and with as little bias as possible. Then the adult guide takes notes of all she sees as if writing a narration of activity without judgement or thought.  This type of observation needs to happen many times before drawing any conclusions.

Montessori “style” observation is:

  • not passive, but active.

  • not judgmental, but objective.

  • not general, but meticulous and specific

  • not hurried, but incorporated train of thought/freewriting style of recording

  • written and later reflected upon; analysis may not necessarily immediately follow, more observation is often needed.

  • Not brief, but long enough for the adult observing to become almost invisible

The Purpose of Observation

 “The purpose of this book is to expound and defend the great powers of the child, and to help teachers gain a new outlook, which will change their task from drudgery to joy, from repression to collaboration with nature.”   (Maria Montessori, NAMTA Journal, 355)

The student is center to our work - we observe to see the student exactly as he or she is through objective information gathering, while recognizing that we hold unconscious biases.  Observation allows us to notice the student’s manifestation of human tendencies, realization of sensitive periods, and expression of developmental needs all in the context of this specific stage of development.  To witness the different aspects and elements of a student with a higher degree of objectivity.

  • Doing scientific observation is the regular and daily training to see the new human and to have a positive vision for each adolescent in the environment.

Specific aspects and elements to observe:

  • Work and Concentration

  • Deviations

  • Appropriateness of the work tasks available to students

  • Root causes of behaviors

  • Manifestations of student needs

  • Expression of the human tendencies

Through conducting regular scientific observation the adult will be able to:

  • Reduce own biases about students and see with new eyes, to create a new positive and optimal vision for each child or adolescent

  • Adapt the prepared environment to the needs and tendencies that are observed

  • Take account of oneself and one’s approaches to adolescents, because the adult is also a material in the prepared environment

  • Authentically and specifically address student social, emotional and academic needs and interests

  • Provide opportunity for students to deeply engage in the work

  • Empower the third plane student with this unique metacognitive tool of observation

“The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be the victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society.”  (Maria Montessori, NAMTA Journal, 357)

Characteristics to Observe – throughout planes of development and during adolescence

Flow, levels of independence, engagement (individual and community), etc., are fluid and dynamic based on various factors (including observer perspective, implicit bias, experience) so, we could use the manifestations of the human tendencies as our framework.

  • For example, if we’re observing for 2nd period engagement, we should look for activation of orientation, repetition, work/manipulation/movement, abstraction, concentration, perfection, exactness, etc., with an understanding that these will manifest quite differently for individuals in different circumstances.

Human tendencies have constructive results that guide the individual to fulfill their potential and self-construct.  The adult must understand the human tendencies in order to create a prepared environment, a thoroughly prepared adult, and need to look for activated tendencies as we make observations.  Psychological characteristics are manifestations of how the individual works to create and fulfill their human tendencies individually and within the social context.

Observe for activated tendencies: Exploration, order, orientation, repetition, communication, imagination, abstraction, work manipulation and movement, perfection, concentration, exactness

Characteristics and Tendencies in Adolescents to Observe

Work – chosen, repeated, work partners, physical or intellectual

Social Organization / Connection to Community

Social Relationships

Economic Independence



Maturity – intellectual, social, emotional, physical

Physical Changes

  • hormonal activity, reproduction

  • sexual maturity – attraction to another person

  • rapid growth & weaker health

  • Developmental changes in brain structures and pathways

Psychological Changes

  • decreased intellectual or academic capacity

  • fragile and volatile emotions

  • may demonstrate impaired judgement – lack foresight

  • very sensitive to criticism

  • values appearance

  • has a strong desire to fit in

  • may suffer from lack of confidence

  • may question and doubt himself and others

Social Changes

  • gathers in groups by interest

  • may rebel against or question authority

  • has concern for humanity and the world and wishes to contribute

  • developing sexual attraction

  • searches for heroes

Needs of Adolescent

  • economic and emotional independence

  • to understand his place in society and history

  • to strengthen self-confidence

  • to investigate sexuality

  • to experiment with personal space

  • love, respect and security

Tina Booth compiled the list above with the advisors at the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies over many years.

Possible Sub-Plane Specific Differences Linked to Human Tendencies

Sub-plane Specific Observations

  • Human tendencies have constructive results that guide the individual to fulfill their potential and self-construct

  • Tendencies must be understood in order to create a prepared environment, a thoroughly prepared adult, and need to look for activated tendencies as we make observations

  • Psychological characteristics are manifestations of how the individual works to create and fulfill their human tendencies

To Orient; To Explore

  • Orientation allows humans to explore safely

  • Exploration is curiosity coupled with experimentation

    • Adolescents move from focusing on the self to self as part of the outside world

  • 12-15

    • Orient to their peer environment, define themselves based upon their peers, they need a group for self-definition

    • Valorization of the group cushions the growing awareness of belonging

    • Concern with being “normal” – new bodies, gender specific codes and awareness, sexuality

    • Experimentation with new expectations for more adult like behaviors – looking at value systems, trying on different identities, etc.

    • Struggle with the more complex environment of the adult world – challenges in the organization of their academic materials, challenges in logically breaking down large, complex work

  • 15-18

    • Orient themselves to the greater environment, they define themselves by their chosen actions, they no longer need (as intensely) the group to define them

    • Valorization is sought through the adult world in work to the greater community, or through assessment (assessment is orientation to the adult world)

    • Reduction in anxiety related to body, gender, and sexual identification

    • More grounded sense of identity, less anxiety about personal values, increased facility to adapt behavior to situational requirements

    • Less struggle with executive functioning

To Order

  • Order allows humans to put things into relationships

  • Order supports sequential planning, such as mathematics, communication, and language

    • Adolescents look to identify structural order in society, look at hierarchies, try to identify manners of society –especially sensitive to the order of priority/relevance

  • 12-15

    • Struggle with both external and internal order

    • Experiment with social structure and their roles in them

  • 15-18

    • More regular external and internal order, which is indicative of a more consolidated personality

    • Experiment less with social structures, but specialize more within the structure

To Communicate

  • Communication connects humans together for survival, knowledge, and motion

    • Self-expression is self-construction that leads to self-awareness

    • Adolescents communicate to test perspectives, express emotions, and build connections to ideas and people

  • 12-15

    • Test different forms of expression and the resulting impact (social babbling)

    • Very interested in what they have to say – interest in descriptive and expository writing

  • 15-18

    • More effectively picking and choosing different forms of expression to elicit different forms of responses – situational communication

    • More easily use what others have said to support their own conclusions – have more facility at analytical/argumentative writing

To Imagine; To Abstract

  • Imagination coupled with abstraction is the tool to create what did not exist before

    • Adolescents use imagination to try out different societal roles

    • Adolescents allows adolescents to see something from multiple perspectives, which allows them to manipulate ideas and concepts

  • 12-15

    • Adolescents imagine themselves in powerful human dramas, running through exaggerates experience of emotions – this is why dramatic performance is key for the early adolescent

    • Imagination can lead to grandiose problem-solving strategies

    • Abstraction will be a little spotty – they’ll have a concept down one day and then they will come back and have completely forgotten it

  • 15-18

    • Use imagination to envision their immediate role in the world and their role in the future

    • Imagination feeds more precise and realistic problem-solving strategies

    • The ability to abstract is more secure and regular

To Be Exact; To Repeat; To Perfect

  • Exactness relates to the human tendency of imagination because it ensures that what we have imagined or made continues to serve our needs

  • Repetition relates to exactness because repetition allows individuals to refine abilities

  • Perfection relates to repetition because we repeat until we are satisfied

    • Adolescents practice an image of themselves that they wish others to perceive – create their social identity

    • Repeat behaviors they wish to become part of their identity

    • Perfection of the social identity is related to valorization and the group’s recognition of a unique and valuable contribution

  • 12-15

    • Repetition of behaviors may result in mimicry

    • Will experiment with repetition of negative and positive behaviors as they strive to create their identities

  • 15-18

    • Less likely to mimic behaviors as the personality becomes more consolidated

    • Become more interested in perfection of interest-specific skills and tasks as this is an expression of their unique, productive role in society

To Work; To Be Active

  • Underlies all other HT and it implements the practice of all other tendencies

    • The work of the adolescent is self-construction

    • Adolescents work to understand social organization, they want to know how human groups get things done

  • 12-15 - Interested as work as an application of knowledge

  • 15-18 - Interested as work as an analysis of knowledge

Tina Booth compiled the list above with the advisors at the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies over many years.

In working with adolescents, it is important to remember the tenant that the adult can only work on the periphery by creating and adjusting the prepared environment.  The adult does not work directly on changing or adjusting the child or adolescent.  With all that we observe, we always need to go back to reviewing the environment to see what needs to be adjusted and then observe the effects of those changes.

Another important aspect of observation is knowing that “work” happens in many different ways and Montessori teachers are interested in observing all types of work, including the process of choosing work.  For example, at the primary level productive and developmentally useful work includes: children learning by watching others, navigating their environment, making mistakes, meandering (before choosing a specific material).  At the adolescent level, some productive and developmentally useful work could include:

  • talking to peers (bouncing ideas, asking for instruction, asking for help, working together),

  • excessive movement (looking for a better place to work, fidgeting from lack of hands-on/experiential work, body language communication with peers to create social bonds)

  • stillness (taking a mental break from work,  thinking or processing information, hesitancy before forming questions, listening to others)

  • doodling (seeking creative outlet, processing information, expressing frustration or impatience)

Effective Practices at Adolescent Level

Each plane of development is different and requires a slightly different approach for observation.  At the adolescent level there are a few significant factors that need to be taken into account.  First, adolescents are highly sensitive to the adults’ emotional state.  They are experts at unconsciously sensing the emotional state of adults and then reacting to that emotional state.  Second, the adult is an important material in the adolescent environment.  This dynamic creates a challenge for true scientific observation of the adolescent and often results in more participatory observation.  Third, as a person reaches the end of the Third Plane of Development they have become highly conscious and have a heightened awareness of themselves and their role or connections to their community.  The ability to be more conscious and aware of themselves and their actions allows an adolescent to learn how to be self-reflective so they are more aware of their emotional and psychological state.  This increased awareness will help them to make decisions about their actions, words, and behaviors.

Due to the developmental characteristics of adolescents, it is critical that adults:

  • take time to reflect on their own state of mind, emotion and bias, then to take steps to become neutral before starting an observation

  • practice scientific observation regularly to gather data consistently in order to make adjustments to practices and the environment

  • observe adolescents individually the community as a whole, and for the adult to become centered in their work and have a positive vision for each adolescent 

  • learn about how to conduct participatory observations

  • review the work adolescents produce; their writing, presentations, self-expressions, social skills, group work, and how their work individually

One suggestion for observation at the adolescent level was to observe the manifestations of human tendencies and also observe how they change as adolescents move from the sub-plane of 12-15 years old to 15-18 years old.  The objective for the adolescent level is for economic independence (highly related to social and societal interactions) and social independence.  These areas are where much of adolescents’ work happens.  Therefore, adults need to look for manifestations of these areas of independence and observe adolescents’ activities and behaviors related to economic and social independence.

It is important to conduct observations regularly and create a culture of observation.  This is critical because observation is central and necessary to the method of Montessori education.  Some ideas for creating a culture of observation are to:

  • offer support and development for teachers regarding observation and specifically participant observation, anti-bias training, and how to ask questions in search of objective information

  • have regular dialogue about observation

  • discuss how and when observation happens and how it is documented

  • discuss and decide a realistic goal for observing

  • when teachers talk about their opinions of a student or their evaluation, there could be an expectation that multiple observations are required before drawing a conclusion

  • how can adolescents be involved in observing their own community and collecting data about neutral topics or community topics

  • create time for adolescents to work on self-reflection and observing their choices, behaviors, interactions, and habits

  • create regular time for discussing the notes from observations as colleagues


Three types of observation at the adolescent level are:

1.       Traditional scientific observation – sitting away from the action and observing silently

2.       Side by side work observation – working with students and also taking time to observe

3.       Observation of the work that adolescents produce or demonstrate

The tools or strategies used in scientific observation continue to be valid, such as:

  • Global observation

  • Observation of an individual and mapping their movement and interactions

  • Mapping the environment and the adolescents interaction with it

  • Universal criteria based on human tendencies

  • Time charts of engagement and concentrated work

  • Students’ work

Observe in multiple situations

  • Classroom / lesson

  • Activity – practical work, seminar, group project, etc.

  • Chores

  • Small group

  • Large group – community meetings, outings,

  • Individual work

  • Group work

Ideas and Suggestions for Future Work

  • Learn more about participatory observation techniques

  • Have trainings about understanding and working through bias (anti-bias training)

  • Look to other schools or areas of science in how they use and train for participatory observation

  • Coordinate a database of observations globally

  • Decide on types of data can be collected and share easily

  • Develop a clear method of scientific observation for teachers working at the adolescent level to learn and practice, including how to keep records of the observations


Montessori, Maria. From Childhood to Adolescence

NAMTA Journal, “Observation.”  Vol. 41, No. 3.  Summer 2016

National Montessori in the Public Sector resources on website

Observation Areas - Listed in NAMTA Journal Summer 2016 (p. 68-72)

Choice of Work

  • Independent choice

  • Suggested / guided choice

  • Directed choice

  • Peer influence


  • Guide initiated

  • First presentation

  • Representation

  • Points of consciousness


  • How long

Work Types

  • Working independently

  • Collaborative

Work States

  • Working distracted

  • Working with concentration

  • Deep concentration

Completion of Work

  • Putting work back independently

  • Putting work back with reminders


  • Grace and courtesy

  • Snack table

  • Book corner

  • Walking the line

State of Disorder

  • Slight disorder

  • Disorder

  • Uncontrollable

National Montessori in the Public Sector - Observing Work at Different Levels

Primary Level

Engagement in Work - concentration

Using work as a prop

Choosing work

Receiving help

Wandering / interfering

Behaving disruptively


Sensorial, Practical Life, Math, Language

Elementary Level


Cultural, Math and Geometry, Language, Practical Life


Julia RichardsBen Moudry
Deep Dive on Psycho-Disciplines

Deep Dive Summary: Psycho-disciplines

Submitted by David Kahn and Michael Waski


          For this topic we first decided to tackle what is meant by the term “psycho-discipline” and found quickly that there was not a lot of this term used specifically in Montessori’s writings.  So we first looked at the word “discipline” and said that it is a human construct that helps us organize and classify the complexity of information we encounter in the world which has both a body of knowledge (content) and ways of interacting with that knowledge (methodology).  Disciplines are the bridge between the natural world and human understanding of the natural world.  They help humans to orient and put order to information.  They are human constructs and can thus evolve and change over time as culture changes.  The word “discipline” also comes from the same root as “disciple,” meaning following out of love.


          A “psycho-discipline” then can be defined as the study of a discipline (subject) based on the psychology of the child.   It connects the psychology of the developing human with the qualities and attributes of each discipline, for the purposes of: teaching the discipline and supporting the self-construction of the human being.  It includes which aspects of the discipline we share at each stage of development, how we approach the discipline to support the developmental goals of each stage, and an awareness of the human tendencies and how they can be supported by our approach to teaching the discipline. 

          One visualization for the multiple facets of a true psycho-discipline is as a three-dimensional sphere of intersection of the individual’s psychology, the discipline itself, and trans-disciplinary connections.  At the center of that sphere: the soul, psyche. It’s a mystery what goes on inside. But when we experience learning as psycho-disciplines, what’s learned becomes incarnated in us (the developing human) and become a part of us.  As the psycho-disciplines integrate into the soul of the new human, and also as our knowledge in any area deepens, silos fall away. When all the disciplines are deeply a part of you, you can no longer exist or think solely within a single silo.  The disciplines in isolation, with no consideration of psychology, can lead to fragmenting, fracturing and siloing of knowledge-- the old human. When we isolate ourselves in a silo, how can we be a citizen of the world?  This creates a deep experience of interdisciplinary knowledge, while still respecting the nature of each discipline.

          Psycho-disciplines liberate us from teaching the disciplines as “arid transmission of knowledge” (p. 84 From Childhood to Adolescence) and allow the discipline to give aid to human development. A psycho-discipline should elevate the spirit, and open the way to cooperation and action.  From the Latin, discipline means “Order necessary for instruction.”  A psycho-discipline, in a Montessori context therefore could be defined as “order necessary for self-construction.”

          Lastly, the use of the psycho-disciplines are a support to peace.  “If man were to grow up fully and with a sound psyche, developing a strong character and a clear mind, he would be unable to tolerate the existence of diametrically opposed moral principles within himself or to advocate simultaneously two sorts of justice-- one that fosters life and one that destroys it. He would not simultaneously cultivate two moral powers in his heart, love and hatred. Nor would he erect two disciplines, one that marshals human energies to build, another that marshals them to destroy what has been built.” - Education and Peace p.20

Third Plane Approaches

          We then identified ways we took the disciplines and strain them through the sieve of adolescent psychology to have an approach to the discipline informed by the needs of adolescents; hence psycho-disciplines.  These include:

  • We don’t expect learning for facts’ sake but for how it can be applied to serve the community (1st sub-plane) or in the broader world (added in 2nd sub-plane)

  • We offer work for the hand, head, and heart

  • We provide for group work

  • We offer choices connected to the human tendencies: pace of work, type of output or activity

  • We respect the diminution of intellectual capacity in early adolescence by connecting academic work to immediate practical application

  • We work side-by-side with the adolescents (this is connected to problem-solving and application)

  • We call in specialists, who serve a social function as role models as well as sharing their knowledge

  • We connect the discipline with adolescents’ social interests and with the larger community

  • We consider how the discipline can support adolescents’ need to understand society today and to become fully oriented to their time and place

  • We don’t usually give lists of things to memorize; ideally they have learned lots of needed terminology (names and parts) in 1st and 2nd plane

  • We offer adolescents “just-in-time” learning, not “just-in-case” learning

We also identified subtle differences between the sub-planes:

First sub plane

  • Process in class with group, then take home to consolidate understanding

  • “How will I use this?”

  • Inductive is enough; just want to know through experience

  • Manual side by side work with adults

  • Real work in the school community and connected to larger world, collectively

Second sub plane

  • Work independently for homework, then process together in class the next day

  • “How does it apply in the world?”

  • Deductive approach is appealing; see value in defining precisely and creating rules (Euclid’s Elements)

  • Intellectual side by side work; internships with experts

  • Real work in the real world, more individualized

          Working in one discipline may provide a supportive limit for young adolescents.  For older adolescents it is especially beneficial to have contact with experts who know the discipline.  The complexity of content within each discipline is respected by having specialists to work with older adolescents.

          We also considered different components of adolescent programs.  Residential life supports psycho-disciplines by allowing students to engage in the work in a different way, providing time, space and community to support real work, and allowing for greater ownership of the environment.  Land-base education has the adolescent is at the center, the land as an organizing agent, and the disciplines as a framework and engagement point.  Organizing around the work that needs to be done on the land necessitates breaking out of silos but not leaving behind disciplines.

          There is also a connection between the second and third planes.  As students transition to the 3rd plane, the focus narrows down from the whole universe to “my community and me.”  Cosmic education is all still there, now as background for the more local and personal 3rd plane work.  At later adolescence, the knowledge gained in the 2nd plane can explode in the student’s areas of interest, in Intensity and immediacy of approaching adulthood.  Seeds sown in the second plane germinate in the first sub-plane of adolescence (as we keep education broad), then focus into more specialization in 2nd sub-plane.

Key Experiences

          The group did not spend as much time discussing key experiences, and recommend further study and exploration be done in this area.  We thought of a “key” as “ intentional opening up of something that comes after.”  We raised questions such as Does it follow a key lesson?  Does it open a door to further study, or can it be a consolidating experience?  Should it be common to all programs or is it site-specific?  Is it a highlight?  A pivotal experience or peak moment?  Is it one-time or repeated or both?  Does it connect to multiple disciplines and areas of inquiry?  Are they adult-created?  Can they be student-initiated?  They’re keys to what?  Formation of the new adult?  Opening of a discipline?  Do key experiences integrate disciplines? For the adolescent, do key experiences integrate disciplines and social organization?

          We did discuss that there is a connection between a key experience and the formation of self.  We believed that seminar is a key experience for younger adolescents

Deep Dive on The Educational Syllabus

Deep Dive Summary: The Educational Syllabus

Submitted by Laurie Ewert-Krocker

The context for understanding Montessori’s intention with the Educational Syllabus that she describes in Appendix B of From Childhood to Adolescence is the framing of the adolescent’s needs in Appendix A - the mindset needed to apply the Educational Syllabus. “The plan aims above all at ‘valorization of the personality’ in the present social conditions.,” says Montessori, and she posits that the adolescent has two central needs: protection during a vulnerable time of development and understanding of the “role he will play in society.”

Work, she says, should be seen as initiation into the knowledge that is the “pride of our civilization,” and as a “product of life.”

Two other points that give significant context for the syllabus are:

“There is a need for a more dynamic training of character and the development of a clearer consciousness of social reality” (From Childhood to Adolescence, 62 Clio).

“Education should therefore include the two forms of work, manual and intellectual, for the same person…… these two kinds complete each other” (From Childhood to Adolescence, 65 Clio)

The three sections of the Educational Syllabus are not presented as content to be covered or disciplines to be studied in isolation but developmental imperatives for the adolescent:

Part One: The opening up of ways of self-expression--cultivation of self and voice

Part Two: Education in relation to psychic development: Application of the mind and creativity in developing moral character in order to work with other humans harmoniously

Part Three: Education as preparation for adult life (general education): receiving human culture and moving it forward

Part One: The opening up of ways of self-expression for the purpose of “the difficult development of the personality”

The adolescent needs to develop awareness of the qualities of being human and the discovery of what each person brings to society through their gifts of self-expression. Adolescents need to develop an inner self awareness and voice: to express what they think, what they see, what they understand, what they struggle with, what they love.

Self-expression needs an audience, other people to connect with and share appreciation of the human experience. Society as a whole is enriched by each person’s contribution and ability to freely express themselves.  All of the expressions that Montessori lists (music, poetry, writing, dance, art) are languages that bridge us to and allow us to see the beauty and value in the OTHER.

Part Two: Education in relation to psychic development

Mathematics and language, as the vehicles for social interaction and human interdependency, give voice to and are avenues of moral development. Morality, the source of spiritual equilibrium, is part of everything we do in collaboration with other human beings, but for the moral development of the child and adolescent, math and language need to be both practiced and brought to consciousness. Character (the development and valorization of the personality) is the building of inner strength and connective tissue between humans which allows us to be interdependent. We become active members of society by being literate in both mathematical thinking and in languages. We are born with both of these abilities, but they need to be trained toward proficiency and moral interaction.

Part Three - Education as preparation for adult life (general education)

Part three of the Educational Syllabus provides the context for placing the human being in the universe in their time and place in history, giving them the field of activity to engage as a contributing member of society.

  1. The study of the earth and of living things: cultivating a sense of wonder about the universe and how it works;

  2. The study of human progress and the building up of civilization: progress as the accomplishments of human groups and cultures and their ability to create “supernature” towards a universal scientific culture;

  3. The study of the history of mankind: a telling of the stories of people in other times and places, appreciating their discoveries, inventions, and gifts to us throughout time; a growing awareness of the forces that bring people together and integrate them (despite violence and conquest); an appreciation of the supernature of our time and our trajectory for the future.

In a time of political and economic inequity and threat to the balance of nature and supernature on the planet, Montessori’s Educational Syllabus frames our work in the context of finding  a “new morality.” “Therefore, a new morality, individual and social, must be our chief consideration in this new world. This morality must give us new ideas about good and evil, and the responsibility towards humanity that individuals incur when they assume powers so much greater than those with which they are naturally endowed” (From Childhood to Adolescence 78 Clio).

Deep Dive on Social Organization

Deep Dive on Social Organization

Submitted by Jenny Höglund

“Social organization” is spoken of in Montessori primarily at the adolescent level, since it is a central component of the work of that level; it is the thread that ties many other principles together.

The way in which a society is organized is going to change as children move through their development. The idea of social organization is a continuum. Ever-growing groups with an expanded feeling of belonging. It all begins with love between parents and child.

For the first plane (0-6) we speak of a ”society by cohesion”, where the group is bonded by love.

Children are parallel individuals working in the community. The young children work in their environments, side-by-side. They are kind and helpful. They do not work together but, rather, for their own development. Social cohesion in the first plane is focused on the inward construction of the self.

The second plane children (6-12) practice society, and the group is bonded by work still constructing themselves as individual. However they are group-oriented; they work best when they can work with peers. The work and the development of the intellect bonds them socially.

At the third plane (12-18) they need live society bonded by adult work of production and exchange. They develop a realization of their individual role within a community, and they experience of interdependence. Someone who knows their individual place within the context of an interdependent community.

It is a continuum. The 12 year old is not the same as the 18 year old but they are all adolescents.

Needs and characteristics are the same but they manifest themselves differently.

12-14 (period of preparation); 14-16 (period of blooming); 16-18 (period of perfecting) is one way Montessori describes the plane of development.

“The school of the erdkind covers all the period of puberty up to 18 years. During the last two years, it is necessary to assist the pupils in preparing for university…” -- From Childhood to Adolescence

Because of the needs and characteristics of the third plane, adolescents require a certain kind of living in society. In order for this society to function well and to provide the opportunity of adolescents to achieve social and economic independence, there needs to be some kind of organization or structure. All of that is their social organization. We prepare the environment according to the Plan of Work and Study. Various forms of activity should join this establishment -- half-hearted effort will lead to failure. Work in the store, hotel, and farm will complete the whole. This is the work provided to offer the key experiences of adult life. There is a birth of a new social being, that of the adult.

In the third plane, they are living society, they experience responsibility and consequences because of the level of the work. This work cannot be contrived; as soon as it is contrived, it is not real work, and there are not real consequences. Real work and real consequences.

One important aspect is that there has to be work for everyone, so that they know they are part of a community. They need to be able to get to know one another. Now, society is built up by various activities and not only by purely intellectual ones. The greatest element in its construction is the growing sentiment of the conscience of the individual, which develops through and by means of social experiences.

The fundamental mechanism of society, that of production and exchange, on which economic life is based,  comprises the elements of social life.

There is a social practice of production and exchange (all the social components that go into production and exchange) are the key experiences. Inherent in production and exchange is morality, connections with others, interdependence. Production and exchange provide work through which the adolescent experiences interdependence and morality.

“We have reached a stage in our social organization that makes it impossible to live in nature. Of necessity, each and every one of us depends on the work of others and is obliged to work for others.” ( San Remo lecture p. 12)

What should be present is work that gives them the experience of working for others and depending on others. Our social organization must provide this experience of adolescents. Real work that implies division of labor. Food production as an example. They must do something that someone else depends on.

An ownership of accountability that is not imposed by adults, so that if someone does not fulfill their obligation to the community, the community holds that person accountable without the adults intervening. This must be a “measurement of life.” You are an essential cog in a working community. There must be sacrifice on the part of individuals.. Work is sacrifice for the community. Work should be experienced as a contribution to the community.

The freedom in the third plane is the freedom of the community to run their own community life.

The purpose of social organization in the third plane is a constructive activity that contributes to self-construction. What makes it distinct from adult social organization is that in the third plane social organization is still in a prepared environment. Adult life is an unprepared environment.

It has to be lived and cannot just be a lesson on morality and values. Morality has to be experienced; it can only exist in a social context. This fosters discipline and association and supports the need for personal dignity and justice.

Adolescents understand the strengths of their friends, and they do not ask more of them than they can handle. They are not looking for equality. They can respect the differences and the needs of others. Equity is more inherent in social organization - or should be.

Where the children live gives them the opportunity for social experience, organizing for comfort, order, maintenance, financials, etc. They need to be really doing it (freedom from family).

They have to have the experience of building supranature, of transforming the earth, so that they can see that they make a difference. Our hope is that they do make a difference when they go out into society. Adolescents need to have experience of shaping their environment, and we have to provide that for them.

The qualities/characteristics of social organization:

  • Morality, “a form of adaptation to a common life for the achievement of a common aim” (“Moral and Social Education”) Discipline

  • Interdependency (division of labor)

  • Work that contributes something to the community

  •  Interaction with various adults, experiences adult life and work

  • Production and exchange - their economic independence lies in the fact that they, as a community, have a choice about how to earn and spend their money

  • Association -- individuals in association with one another (relationship)

  • Mixed age groups

  • Freedom and responsibility -- choice within the parameters of the organization

  • Duty -- because they are part of a community; duty to the community and to oneself

  • Self-discipline (the extension of joyful obedience within the social context)

  • “Adaptability -- this is the most essential quality.” -- p. 61 appendices -- have to be able to move along with the change of or within the elements of social organization (as explicated in the Plan of Work and Study)

    • Continuing progress to the world and the link to supranature -- we adapt to our changing environment by change it and changing ourselves

  • Build-up of love -- love of the community, love of the environment, and love of the self

    • “This man has genuine qualities -- love, which is something different from attachment; discipline, which is something different from blind submission; the ability to relate to reality, which is something different from flights of fancy.” -- p. 88 Education and Peace

Julia RichardsJenny Hoglund
Denver Colloquium

The first Colloquium of the Adolescent Initiative sponsored by Great Work, Inc. brought 60 Montessori adolescent practitioners, administrators, and organizers together in Denver, Colorado to participate in five simultaneous Deep Dive sessions to discuss and distill key Montessori principles for the third plane. Practitioners represented Montessori adolescent programs and organizations from Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, California, Oregon, Florida, and Colorado. Programs that were represented encompassed sites with farm, urban, urban-farm, and suburban settings. The groups discussed key principles such as “Observation,” “The Educational Syllabus,” “Social Organization,” “Psycho-Disciplines and Key Experiences,” and “Production and Exchange.” An open forum session invited discussion on topics such as equity and inclusion, social justice, the nature of a Diploma Course for the third plane, and pathways for professional development. One attendee described the event as “the most delightful, intense, concentrated event that I have been to in a while. I am ever so grateful for every minute I sat around the table with such inspired people.”


Keep checking the Great Work, Inc. website for more information on Deep Dive discussions and Colloquiums as well as forthcoming information about a diploma course, professional development opportunities, and ways to be involved with the Adolescent Initiative.

Deep Dive on "Ideal Outcomes of a Montessori Graduate"

Montessori Deep Dive Executive Summary

     Outcomes of a Montessori Graduate

Cleveland, March 23-25, 2018

Summary by Michael Waski

What does this work represent?  Through our observations, readings of Montessori, experience with adolescence both through observation and in speaking with them and having them be reflective while they are in adolescence, and further in speaking to graduates in both the fourth plane of development and beyond, these are some of the most outstanding and universal attributes of a Montessori adolescent education.  

If our methodology in years 12-18 foster the development of these ideals, we should see growth in these areas throughout their adolescent years, though many of these ideals will not be fully realized until adulthood and maturity.  We should also focus our program elements on helping to develop the natural growth that is happening in these years and assist nature with its goals of the adolescent phase. 

We have also identified some essential tools which we use to create a prepared environment in order to help the students.

Also, the list is a continuation of developmental aspects which may be indirectly prepared for during the primary and elementary years, but which are now have prepared for more directly.

Outcomes - From Observations of Practitioners

The realization of one’s own value born into consciousness...p.87 CtA

  • Capable of Self Assessment

  • Knows what they find fulfilling

  • Contributor to family/ community/ world

  • Demonstrates competency navigating adult world

  • Understands their position in a global context

  • Socially and morally conscious

  • Ability to make healthy sexual and relationship choices

  • Understands diversity

  • Has a growth mindset

  • Is friendly with error

  • Has developed a will

  • Has a sense of self efficacy/ awareness of one’s own capacity

  • Has a healthy curiosity about the world

  • Appreciates and understands the human progress and the building up of civilization

  • Is in awe of human intellectual endeavors

  • Respectful of the evolution of human intellect

  • Recognizes the nobility of human endeavors

  • Appreciates the heroic nature of the human spirit

  • Safe and healthy choices including strategies for mental health


ATTRIBUTES OF A MONTESSORI GRADUATE (As informed by interviews with graduates)

  • Self-reflective

  • Adaptable

  • Independent Self/Directed

  • Metacognitive

  • Confident

  • Comfortable with the adult world

  • Self advocate / Self disciplined

  • Belief in limitless potential

  • Respectful of the learning process/Personal/Quality

  • Responsible/ Sense of Duty and Honor/Service/Citizenship

  • Collaborative

  • Ability to critically evaluate the world

  • Ability to work with increasingly abstract knowledge

  • Curious

  • Demonstrates a Strong Work Ethic

  • Comfort with Error/Failure

  • Empathetic/Humble

  • Compassionate

  • Joyful


  • Side by side work, Intimate with adults


  • Engaging students as young adults

  • Opportunities to create learning opportunities

  • Opportunities for authentic student voice

  • Seminar, Socratic dialogue

  • Learning through the disciplines

  • Exposure to the adult community beyond the school

  • Provide Environments that promote living in experienced interdependence (community)

  • Purposeful work (authentic)

  • Interactions and exchange with outside adults

  • Care of the environment


Deep Dive on “Work”

Deep Dive on “Work”

Hershey Montessori School, March 16-18, 2018

Summary by Laurie Ewert-Krocker


  • Scribe: Ana Montanye

  • Laurie Ewert-Krocker

  • Tina Booth

  • Juan Manuel Cordova

  • Emily Dowell

  • Erin Foley

  • Lennart Hoglund

  • Susan Holmes

  • Chris Marks

  • Jacqui Miller

  • Colin Palombi

The central themes of our discussion centered on the following topics:

  • What “work” means as a developmental principle (as a Montessori principle);

  • What the developmental work of the adolescent is;

  • How the developmental work of the adolescent manifests itself in work of the hand, work of the intellect, and work in the community (What can we observe?);

  • How “work” is purposeful—made so by the needs of the “society” or social group of the adolescent community;

  • How “work” is the thread which binds the social organization together and makes the experience of interdependency possible;

  • What the role of the “farm” or “work on the land” is for the adolescent; how to envision the activity of purposeful work in the context of “a school of experience in the elements of social life.”

Work as a Developmental Principle

Humans as a species work to adapt to and change their environment in order to meet their needs, survive, and thrive. Children born into this world construct themselves, build their humanness, develop toward adulthood by working—acquiring skills, developing capacities, interacting with their environment, including the people in it. Humans build themselves through working, through activity. Work is a natural instinct, and adults need to trust that the child who is working is developing a self. Work can look different in different cultural and historical contexts, environments can be different and can change over time, requiring adaptation, but the fundamental activities of constructing a human being—and of being human—meet the same universal needs and follow the same tendencies. The drive to work is in all humans and leads us to interact with and change our environment to live and thrive. The work of development is internal but has external signs and manifestations. Our human tendencies shape the nature of work, and the sensitive periods guide the work of development. We work with our hands, our intellect, and our psyche; the work we do and the nature of what we experience shapes our being.

Work is observable. Whether it is an adult transforming the environment or a child engaging purposefully in the environment, aspects of work can be observed as “spontaneous maximum effort toward self-perfection.” The self-construction, however, is something we cannot necessarily see. The work changes from developmental plane to developmental plane, and the environment must change to support the current developmental needs of the child or adolescent—to make possible the kind of work that is needed for that stage of development. The work of the adult in general is to contribute to the interdependency of human activity and to pursue spiritual preparation and growth. The work of the adult in relation to the child is to prepare an environment for maximum developmental activity supporting self-construction.

The Work of the Adolescent

The work of the adolescent is to become an adult and join society, to “take their role in society.” Supranature is not perfect; human society is imperfect, and environments change and evolve, so human beings need to adapt to and interact with changes and imperfections in the environment to survive and thrive. The task of adults is to work in interdependent ways to improve human society and supranature. The work of the adolescent is to continue self-construction and develop human potential but also to begin to transform themselves into adults and practice adult-like activities in their immediate environment and community. Their work is to become an independent adult who can meet their own needs and who productively contributes to the interdependency of human social organization. They must experience the value of their own role and contribution as well as the value of roles and contributions of others, so we create a structured social organization, a microcosm of society, for them to experience and practice in.

How the Work of the Adolescent is Manifest

Since work is an interaction with and adaptation of the environment, the prepared environment for adolescents needs to provide aspects of nature and supranature to manipulate and a society to work within and contribute to. Engagement in the social fabric often drives the work. (“Sometimes they don’t even know that they are working.”) Adolescents manipulate the land and the human infrastructure on the land. They experience what humans have universally experienced throughout time in establishing, organizing, and enriching societies and civilizations. Adolescents work with “maximum effort” when they have a clear sense of purpose in the work and how it meets their own needs or the needs of the community. The adults sometimes have to frame the work, articulate its purpose, and get it started before engagement occurs. Adolescents need context for the work and connection to social organization and nature/supranature. Without the farm/land, this doesn’t happen naturally. The farm/land is always inclusive while the classroom can sometimes be exclusive. When we look at Montessori’s Plan of Study and Work (as we have extracted it into a chart), although the components of the environment are listed under “Practical Considerations,” and the Educational Syllabus lists the areas of study to be integrated into the activity in the environment, the chart doesn’t clearly indicate the totality of activity that is possible in a social organization that reflects the workings of and origins of civilization. It is perhaps the reference to “a school of experience in the elements of social life” (From Childhood to Adolescence, Clio, 64) that best articulates the nature of the activities that are the work of the adolescent manifest in the environment. If we consider the range of activities that are universal in cultures and societies, they include:

·       Social organization: the interdependent activities of the community/society

·       Division of labor and roles

·       Living together (levels of responsibility of care for self, others, and the environment)

·       Economic production and exchange

·       Providing food (growing, harvesting, preserving, preparing, serving)

·       Constructing and maintaining housing and other structures

·       Using natural resources

·       Cultural sharing (story-telling, ritual, exchange with wider community)

·       Governance (rules, structures, codes, conflict resolution)

·       Intellectual engagement/study (sharing ideas, teaching, debate)

·       Engagement in the arts (self-expression, exchange of ideas, historical context and record)

These components cannot be separate from each other; they must be overlapped and interconnected to be a complete system to offer a clear picture and genuine experience of a healthy, successfully functioning human system.

What the Adolescents Had to Say (Adolescents who shared insight into “work”)

Work has something to do with knowing that what you are doing will benefit others or affect the future—to have an impact and make a meaningful contribution. Gaining skill and being able to do the work independently is also important. Doing the work well is necessary for good outcomes. Having choice in your work results in self-reflection about what the value of the work is for you or for the community, or what you need to know to do it well. Being able to work together allows for “common success through the work of various individuals,” which is both meaningful and unifying. Work on the farm remains valuable for all six years. As you get older, being able to teach others or pass on knowledge is important as is having a direct impact on the living things you are working with and doing the work an adult might do. Recognition of your work by others in the community is not as important as knowing your own impact.  Adolescents have a “genuine desire to do something good, something important” and to be trusted. What are the obstacles? Failure, (but then you learn), interruption of work cycles, peer perception and critique, feeling helpless and alone, and inconsistency in adults: adults need to be there in the moment they are needed.



Deep Dive on the "Prepared Environment"

Deep Dive on ”The Prepared Environment”

Montessoriskolan Lära för livet on the Farm

May 4-6, 2018

Host: Jenny Höglund


Attendees:      Baiba Krumins Grazzini  (Trainer AMI 6-12, Italy)

            Lars Brunborg (OAS, weekly access to farm, guesthouse, 12-15, Norway)

            Paul Pillai (OAS, AMI 0-3, 3-6, residential with land, UK)

            Roman Klune (OAS, urban with access to land, 12-18, Austria)

            Ivana Baborova (OAS, urban, 12-18, Slovakia)

Lesley Patrick (OAS, parent, former house parent and co-ordinator of adolescent community)

Sasa Lapter (OAS, AMI 6-12, residential with garden, 12-15, Austria)

Zorian Patrick (alumni, 22 years, farm experience with boarding)

Jenny Höglund (host)


Observers:      Arlette George (OAS, AMI 3-6, parent, Scotland)

            Tor Hylander (alumni, 18 years, 4 years on the farm boarding)

Sven Burger (OAS, urban, 12-18, Germany)

Ida Arnesen (OAS, AMI-6-12, farm with boarding, 12-16, Sweden)

Karl Brun (OAS,  AMI 6-12, weekly access to farm, guesthouse, 12-15, Norway)

Gabriela Jiroskova (OAS, urban, 12-18, Germany)

Nina Willwock (OAS, AMI 6-12, administrator, Germany)


Scribe: Karolina Spodarzewska (OAS, AMI 6-12)



The Prepared Environment

One of the two pillars for a Montessori approach


We are dealing with what belongs to the child (the psychology) and what is around the child – the physical environment, the social environment – the prepared environment


What is the goal? Optimal development


Physical environment requires a group of people

The adolescents get their feedback from peers, animals and plants –this takes away from the personal confrontations between adolescents and adults

A prepared society (adolescent community) – from which to leave and move out to an unprepared society

The materials are implements of adult work



Aspects to consider:

·       Basic social aspect – community life, experience society, school of experience in social life, living together away from the family, life organized around the needs of the adolescents, responsibility to others (social),

·       Deal with reality – plants, animals, the reality of adult work, adolescents take a reality check, adult quality to what the adolescent do,

·       Nature vs. Supernature – transforming the environment

·       Environment as the teacher – feedback, control of error

·       Solititude

·       Be away from their family – a must, to get away from the roles superimposed on them

·       Self-expression, vocational apprenticeship (experts coming)

·       Economic independent – shop – appreciate work, time, effort, knowledge, discuss money, decision making with consequences, natural cycle – the prepared environment gives the full cycle (e.g. the farm and selling potatoes), responsibilities to others, have a proper perspective of money, ‘temptation’

·       Adults – not only teachers!, as materials, adults share the role of teaching, side by side work, experts, adolescents get a sense of pride working with them, with many adults easier to see how the world functions as a whole, interconnectedness, but also the stability of a community, not just about specialization but needing all the different experiences, all work is noble, houseparent, farm manager, all work has its dignity, all work is valued

·       Freedom – essential freedom to be part of the decision making of how to spend money, morality, all about the relationship with money, a community thing as well as an individual thing,

·       Practical Life Independence

·       Appreciating order, organization. A society is not a collection of individuals, that is why *organization’ – social organization

·       Protection – no pressure from parents, teachers, etc.

·       A place for study – developmentally based education, aid to life – as a means, study connected to hear and now, part of the independence is not to limit oneself to what the teacher says or what the text book says

·       For everyone! Special needs

·       Ownership – taking care, looking after, love of the environment through practical work

·       Museum of Machinery

·       Enough students to create the work, generate the work, offer more work – challenge, opportunities to make decisions,

·       Kitchen, work shop, land, house, barn, shop, guest house, laundry room

·       Mixed age-group in all areas


After exploring many different environments and their usage the group understands why Montessori suggested a farm.

The most important thing is that you need an ongoing reality – a farm with boarding offers that, developmental need to be part of a community. It offers one more dimension, without the farm the work will only become projects, one after the other. There is a cycle in nature and in super nature – the possibility to see a project through in a real way and not just a project constructed by the teachers.

Instead the prepared environment should offer a new way of life.

The farm is the laboratory, the material, reproducing the experiments when evolution of knowledge, story of the disciplines

It is when you do not have farm that you run into problems, because you lack the materials

The farm is the work of super nature, the story of human work, humanity – man as the transformer of the Earth, thus the farm is the constructive aspect necessary (Camillo Grazzini), the bridge between nature and super nature, all the necessary aspects are covered by the farm.

If there is no farm, it is only nature (land based) and that does not work for the adolescents

One cannot live on a ship, cannot transform the sea

Self-expression – farm, guest house

Each element of the social organization provides material, tools

There is also refinement of the senses – morality – self-expression prepares to change the world, powerful tools

Self-expression for yourself e.g. diary, poem

Self-expression for the masses, the expression of the group

Vocational – living on the farm provides many different job experiences, finding out what one is capable of

Deep Dive on Characteristics of an Adolescent

Characteristics of the Adolescent

(based on Laura Marchioni’s lecture in Milan in March 2018)



Changes in body – in different stages – the preparation, the blooming, the perfection

There are very intensive changes, which can be compared to the changes the new born has to go through. But the new born needs to change rapidly and the adolescent does not change with the same speed. Instead it is a long period of change, six years approximately.

Now the adolescent needs to complement his education, which does not pay attention to the physical and psychological needs of the adolescent.

As the body changes, as there are physical changes, the body concentrates on this and therefore the adolescents do not have the energy left to focus on study.

Physically the adolescent is weak, thus the need of open air and a different environment, an environment that offers practical work to strengthen the mind and the body.

There is a complete change of the individual, but it happens step by step, one part at the time.

Nature works with change gradually and only reaches its goal at the end.

Today we know that many illnesses have their origin during the period of puberty.



(Here Dr Montessori uses the same terminology as Carl Jung.)

Change of the psyche, there is a psychic unrest, a confusion and acting without reason.

There are emotions the adolescent himself do not understand.

The adolescents have very delicate minds.

This needs to be paid attention to because it will determine the future use of his intelligence.

The personality develops very quickly, important that all aspects of it develop equally.

Intellectually the adolescent seems weaker, which is because of the great physical change taking place. Intellectual work is not suitable for this period in time, therefore important that the intellect is satisfied in the previous period. But, the adolescent needs to practice what has been accomplished and learned earlier, what the adolescent is prepared for.

There is a difficulty to focus, to concentrate, an unwillingness to obey (all typical of the second plane child). But we must not judge the adolescent.

There is a longing for a new life, a grander life, but the adolescent does not know anything about this new life.

The adolescent is not yet aware of who he is and what he can do. He needs help to get to know himself.

He must not be addressed or treated as a child any more. He is in a new stage of life.

(Cf. Winnicott)



Wants to free himself from the family, must overcome the relationships which is there in the family and move on, so that nature can reach its goal. This is necessary for the adolescent.

The adolescent does not yet know his destiny.

Seems rebellious, but is confused and needs to orient himself to a new environment, a new world.

The adolescent is sensitive to the views of others. He tries different emotions, behaves irrationally, tantrums and isolates himself.

He belongs to two families – one that he knows (his own family) and one that he does not yet know, his future family.

A becomes a new being, who will live for others, sacrifices himself, etc.

This is now a social man ready to step by step take part in the organization of society.

The adolescent will experience that his society is a product of the work of civilizations.

There is a calling for the adolescent to participate in this life. He thus needs a larger environment, a society, as well as a larger community. Through experiences in a society, a community, the adolescent will get to know what his task will be and what he is called to do.

It is therefore important that the development of the adolescent’s personality is supported so that it can develop and the personal and social identity is constructed.



Deep Dive on the TOPIC OF INDEPENDENCE: Report to the Executive Study Team


Attending this discussion were:

Kathy Hijazi, St. Catherine’s Montessori, Houston, TX (grades 7-10)

Tom Lepoutre-Postelwaite, Wavecrest Montessori, Santa Cruz, CA (grades 7, 8, some 9th)

Maria Jose Velasquez Patina, HalaKen Montessori, Queretaro, Mexico (grades 7, 8, 9)

Gena Engelfried, Golden Oak Montessori, Haywood, CA (grades 7, 8)

Patricia Pantano, Camino de Paz Montessor, Santa Cruz, NM (grades 7-9, some 10-12)


Independence is a hallmark of Montessori education.  The type of independence to which a human is propelled changes at each plane of development. In adolescence, the conquest of independence relates to society, social structure. The social environment is the stage for valorization and increasing independence.  Independence cannot be attained without some measure of freedom of choice.


Aspects of Independence

Movement refers to navigating in the wider physical and social world, with emphasis on wider circles of transportation (e.g. driving).  It also refers to the development and refinement of skills of a physical nature such as sports or arts (dancing). It involves the opportunities to use one’s hands in concert with learning and is intimately tied to physical independence.

To care for one’s self: health, nutrition, money management, learning work skills and the value of work are all aspects of physical independence. It implies negotiating the wider world in terms of typical, everyday tasks and skills and the value of adaptability.

Being responsible for one’s actions, feelings, the ability to articulate one’s thoughts and feeling are important factors in emotional independence.  Important to emotional independence are self-reflection, an awareness of one’s own value and ability to contribute and the understanding of one’s impact on the community and other individuals. Montessori would refer to this as morality and it reflects the development of the will on an adult level.

Social independence allows the adolescent to navigate personal and professional relationships with grace and courtesy: respect, tolerance.  Free choice of relationships as well as the ability to give or serve are aspects of social independence, as are the ability to negotiate, prioritize and make informed choices.

Thinking independently to create new solutions, ideas or change beliefs are goals of intellectual independence.  It allows the ability to consider many sides of an issue, to embrace one’s creativity and to set goals and make decision.

“Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of “Help me to do it alone!” ought to be applied,” writes Montessori. Economic independence is an initiation into the adult world and unique to the development of the Third Plane. Money is seen as the “materialized abstraction” of the adult world: a manifestation of energy and work, which cycles and circulates.  Money is also a demonstration of our interdependence – from local to global.

Adolescents need experience in facing the issues around the distribution of money.  Key questions among practitioners whose communities earn money are:  do the students work for individual earnings, to put back into the enterprise or to contribute to the community?

The focus of economic independence seems to change from ages 12-15 and 15-18.  Younger students have been observed to be more interested in production – the physical work, actual selling of product and handling of money.  Older students gravitate toward management, accounting, long-term planning, evaluation of sales and marketing.

The foundation of “putting adolescence on the road to independence” is Montessori’s use of production and exchange. As described by her, it is a tie to the land, the cycles of nature and the beginnings of civilization.  Production and exchange gives adolescents the opportunity to demonstrate responsibility through practical experience and natural consequences.  It implies true production or “value-added” production rather than re-sale of others’ items. The work required must be authentic; it must truly be meaningful to the community.  There is also an implication of stewardship of the land and animals.

The group worked to identify key elements in the relationship of economic independence to production/exchange, residential life, freedom of choice and moral development. Work was the foremost element as it is the basis for normalization and valorization.

Work should be an outgrowth of the environment. It must be important, adult-like and not tokenistic or contrived.  It must include a physical component, practical application and work with the hands. It should call for critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Finally, there needs to be an element of choice in work and we seek to find how to balance manual work with society’s expectations of academic work, especially for ages 12-14.

Residential life and/or the building of a true community is another important factor in independence.  Community meetings, seminars, group discussions, journals and work are focal points for consistent, meaningful dialogue and reflection. When students are involved in their own economic enterprises, the need arises to consider moral questions around money, work, production, profit and use of funds. Production  and exchange establishes the adolescent community’s relationship to the wider community and serves as a demonstration of students’ competence in the context of the wider society.

The question of independence, dependence and interdependence arose in the discussion. We seek to cultivate an awareness of these complex relationships of the individual versus the group.  An adolescent who has practiced independent thinking, prioritizing, collaboration and problem solving would have an ability to choose, to self-regulate:  do I choose for me or for the community? When can I be independent? When do I ask for help? How can I help? This aids their development of social consciousness. 

The role of the adult was also considered.  Adolescents need experts, professionals in all fields who can demonstrate society’s expectations of professional standards, quality work and pride in a job well done. The adult role is to question flaws in reasoning, always asking questions.  Side-by-side work is necessary to develop students’ confidence and build positive relationships with trusted adults. Adults need to learn more of how to be “coaches” rather than “teachers.”  Finally, it is important for practitioners to share their mistakes and failures, what didn’t work, as well as those that had positive outcomes.

What are the signs of independence that we seek in a Montessori graduate? It would include an adolescent’s having:

  • A greater sense of self, a deeper confidence, a sense of self-reliance

  • Finding one’s “voice” – an ability to articulate and advocate on behalf of self and others

  • Things on one’s self in the context of a larger community and as a global citizen

  • Seeking knowledge both for agency and for love of learning.

  • Ability to take initiative and to make a contribution

  • Ability to collaborate

  • Understanding of money and how it works

  • Experience in questioning moral and social aspects of money through production and exchange

  • Social equilibrium: ability to navigate social responsibility

  • Ability to take care of one’s own everyday needs: food, money management, job application, permits.

  • Experience of valorization as an outgrowth of work and their own individual process, not external rewards

  • An understanding/realization of one’s own value, strengths, weaknesses and potential.









Brian SensePatricia Pantano
Deep Dive on Role of the Adult

Role of Adults Deep Dive - Executive Summary


Date:     February 15-16, 2018

Topic:    Role of the Adult / Adults



Adolescents construct themselves to be adults in the world.  They need to interact, work, and talk with adults to learn about adulthood and being an adult in society.  This Deep Dive exploration will involve participants with diverse perspectives to review key writings of Dr. Montessori and other reputable authors or studies and share their experiences, knowledge and understanding from the field of Montessori adolescent education and general experience working with adolescents.  


The goals of this exploration are to:

  • document Dr. Montessori’s theory about the role of adults in the required readings

  • create a consolidated view of the role of adults working with adolescents, both broad and deep

  • document the training that currently exists and consider how to improve the training of adults working with adolescents,

  • document the “on the job” training that happens at Montessori schools

  • consider how adults in different roles support adolescent development, those roles that are central and those that are peripheral, including adults in the larger community


Guiding Questions:

  1. How is the role of adults connected, supportive of and part of the prepared environment?

  2. How is the role of adults connected / supportive of other goals like independence, valorization, economic independence, etc?

  3. How do adults influence or affect adolescents?

  4. Does the role of adults change in the sub planes of 12-15 and 15-18?  If so, how and why?

  5. What training, preparation, and skill sets are required for being a prepared adult in order to work with adolescents?

  6. How is the role of adults different at the adolescent level from primary and elementary? And how is it different within the adolescent level, specifically in working with younger (12-15) and older adolescents (15-18)?

  7. How do the roles of adults differ in the adolescent community?

General Ideas for the Deep Dive

The adults working on uncovering and discovering the role adults need to take when working with adolescents as they develop during the third plane need to continue to stay in a learner’s mindset.  We need to continue to innovate, experiment, and practice within our work and take time to observe and reflect the results and feedback we get from adolescents directly and indirectly.  What are they showing us and telling us in their responses?  What are the activities that serve their developmental needs?  What do they need for optimal development? 

We also need to continue to share our ideas, experiences, and observations of this work so we can learn from each other in how to serve the developmental needs of the adolescent.  It is critical that we work collaboratively within the community of Montessori educators and that we reach out to other organizations, institutions, philosophies, and pedagogies that study adolescence to learn from them.



One of the principle topics of Montessori education is “the role of the adult” in relation to the education of the child.  Dr. Montessori repeatedly writes about the adult’s responsibility is to be an “aid to the life” for a young person as they grow and develop.  Supporting life and development of a young person has general principles, as well as different responsibilities depending on the age of the young person.  For example, one of the keys to supporting a child who is 3-6 years old in their development is to provide interesting and engaging lessons to connect that child to materials and activities that will help the child learn about the physical world and its properties.  The child of 6-12 years old is working on learning about the whole universe and the roles of all elements of the universe and on the planet Earth, including the history and culture of humanity.  Therefore, the adult is responsible for making the connection to all of those elements and engaging the child in the work of learning about every facet of the universe, the planet, and human history.  During the period of adolescence, a person’s purpose is to learn about the micro and macro elements of the social world through experience, practice, and reflection, while finding a meaningful vocation that fulfills her and a need within a community.  For the adolescent, the adult role is to provide a model of living in a community and making a positive contribution to that community.

The adult’s role is critical at every stage of development because of the adult’s responsibility to support human development to its fullest.  There is a significant change in the third plane of development because of the adolescent’s need for a diversity of adults doing a variety of work.  It is no longer just one adult in a classroom guiding the child, instead it is a multitude of adults on the land and in the town who are modeling the variety of work available to adolescents as they prepare themselves for adulthood.  This is a key difference that determines the type of work and the different roles adults exhibit for the adolescent to observe, interact with, and attempt to perform to assist in their development as an adult.


Roles of Adults

The adolescent has a developmental need to interact with a variety of adults in different roles in society.  These interactions inform the adolescent about different roles adults have in society and, just as important, the different personalities adults have and how adults interact in different social situations.  The adolescent needs a tremendous amount of information about adult work, social interactions, both interpersonal and intrapersonal, as well as the different adult personalities in the world and how they work in different social situations.  For these reasons, adolescent Montessori guides often remark that the adults are a main material in the prepared environment from which adolescents learn through observation and interaction. 

Dr. Montessori writes about the role of adults in the adolescent prepared environment in From Childhood to Adolescence in Appendix B under “Practical Considerations” and in the article “Reform of Secondary Education” (AMI Communications 2011/1-2).  Dr. Montessori wrote about three distinct roles for adults in the adolescent prepared environment in the publications named above.  She defines the roles as: “house parent”, “young visiting teacher,” and “technical expert.”


House Parent

The House Parents should be a married couple that “develop a moral and protective influence on the conduct of the children” (From Childhood to Adolescence 75).  She also states that teachers “should be allowed to live in the school in return for taking part in the directing of the daily work of the institution” (75).  


Young Visiting Teacher

Dr. Montessori describes these teachers as being able to come and give lessons to students, have proper qualifications for teaching in secondary schools, but should not use their own methods, but must adopt special methods and cooperate in the adolescent community.  They need to be young, open-minded, and want to make a contribution to the community.  There cannot be too many of these teachers, only the minimum amount to teach the group of related subjects. (76)


Technical Expert

There is a need for technical instructors in specific areas, such as agriculture and gardening, business manager, handicraft teacher, and others in practical work, such as cooking, sewing, and an intelligent handyman capable of giving instruction in various trades while helping with daily work.  This way the adolescents can learn to “‘put things right’ when necessary” (76).

Dr. Montessori also mentions that there needs to be adult workers who start the different parts of the adolescent community to show the adolescents how the work is done and then allow for the adolescents to learn as they go and take over more responsibility over time (76).   

The three roles were discussed in detail from a practical perspective and what the group has experienced and observed in our work.  We discussed the need for full time faculty who are the adults “in residence” with the adolescents as they go through this stage of life.  These are the adults who are “living” with the students every day and doing the job of the House Parent, for those schools without a full time boarding option for students.  This role was also described as the “culture keepers” and “anchors” for the adolescent community.  It is critical that these guides are well trained in Montessori theory and practices.  It is also important that the lead guides of the adolescent community have completed a full Montessori training for the primary or elementary level that will ground them in understanding the full spectrum of a developing human from ages 0-18.

The role of the young visiting teacher was seen in practice as adults who are new to the field of teaching and to the school.  These are less experienced teachers who are brought into the adolescent community and learn on the job about the Montessori approach at the adolescent level.  They could also be recent alumni who return to support the adolescent community.  These young visiting teachers could stay and become the more established adult guide who is “in residence” with and mentors the adolescents.   

The technical expert was discussed as a part time teacher or guest who comes in and works with the full time teachers and the adolescents to provide current information from their experience in a specific field of study or with specific practical work.  The technical expert could be someone who is hired by the school, a volunteer, or someone who works at a organization or institution that the school partners with to provide technical expertise as needed.


Psychology at the Center of Community (not curriculum)

Dr. Montessori is clear in her writing that the role of the adult is to connect the child and adolescent to the world and provide opportunities for them to learn as independently as possible.  For this reason the prepared environment for adolescents requires the adults to work as facilitators, more than in the conventional role of a teacher.  Adolescents learn will learn deeply when adults work side by side with them as partners and collaborators on projects.  Adolescents need adults to work with them, not just give them instruction on what to do.  It is equally important for adolescents to choose their work, so they are able to do work that is personally important.  With choice adolescents can continue to construct their personalities.   

It is also important that the work maintains a balance of physical and practical work with intellectual work.  Practical work that is necessary to complete a project will help them learn more deeply about the project and themselves because it is authentic and real.  All of these aspects of how the adult creates the learning environment about the work and their relationship to the adolescent in doing the work are critical for supporting the development of the personality and inner spirit of an adolescent.  When it this optimal environment of authentic and balanced work connects to the individual personality and also benefits the community in which they live, then the adolescent can experience valorization, which is the ultimate goal of the developmental period of adolescence.  


Personality and Characteristics of the Adult

The following list was determined through review of Dr. Montessori’s writings about adults working with adolescents and the experience of the adults at the Deep Dive.  They are:


·        Authenticity

·        Humor (of self)

·        Authoritative not authoritarian or permissive (high warmth, high control)

·        Intervening rather than interfering

·        Reliable, trustworthy (able to gain students’ trust), consistent

·        Optimistic and enthusiastic

·        Facilitator: “Aiders and promoters of enthusiasm”

·        Life-long learner, “rich in knowledge and experience, full of life.”

·        Impacting students and impacted by students

·        “Friend of the family”

·        “Real re-animator”

·        Friendliness with error; significance of owning our own mistakes and missteps.  (in the classroom and on the course).

·        Being responsive and spontaneous, but having a plan

·        “There’s nowhere we’d rather be than here with you.”  We need to convey our commitment.

·        Stamina, ability to work extremely hard, self-care

·        Feeling heart, love

·        Keen interest in the adolescents and their optimal development

·        Self-expressive and are a source of inspiration for students (creative)

Works Cited


Montessori, Maria.  From Childhood to Adolescence. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company, 2014. Print.

Montessori, Maria.  “The Reform of Secondary Education.”  AMI Communications: Journal of the Association Montessori Internationale. 1-2 (2011): 79-86. Print.

Brian SenseBen Moudry
Deep Dive on Needs and Characteristics of Adolescents, Sensitive Periods, Human Tendencies, Development in Context of Place.

Executive Summary


Needs and Characteristics of Adolescents, Sensitive Periods, Human Tendencies, Development as Universal to Urban and Rural Farms

by David Kahn

The aforementioned themes were blended with implementation discussions about a new Urban Farm Project at Japhet Creek, flatlands, fields, waterways,  downtown, Houston Texas. There is one topical sentence below that is a universal question in largest type. All the rest are follow up questions to extend the topical sentence .


Topical Question: How is the optimal  prepared Environment (the FARM) impacted by and Urban location and what are reasons to do An Authentic Farm in the city?

St. Catherine’s Montessori, Houston, Texas

How an Urban Project evolved from Rural Erdkinder

Case Study Proposal by Kathy Hijazi


St. Catherine’s Montessori, founded in 1966, started an adolescent community with 7th and 8th year students in 1996 and added the first 9th year class in 2002. This fall of 2017, we have our first class in the high school with four 10th year students.

For the first 19 years of our program we traveled to a land institute one hour away from our urban campus for our students to experience residential life and work on the land for brief stints ranging from 5–12 days. These trips gave the guides opportunities to observe the adolescent in a community of his own and the adolescents made it clear that a residential experience is key in the prepared environment. The students enjoyed the work on the organic farm and surrounding land and thrived in the home environment they created in the residence. Students planned and prepared each meal, enjoyed free time playing in the woods, and spent evenings working with friends on homework and playing board games, as well as entertaining us with music they created.

In our assessment, these experiences were valuable but lacked two key components. The first was that the students had no true sense of ownership of their work at the institute. While they were valorized by projects they contributed to while at the institute, other school groups visited at different times and worked on the same projects. This method might appear to be collaborative, but the student groups were not connected in any way other than sequential work on a project, so they didn’t benefit from the “shared” experience. Second, given the limited number of days, students did not need to fully commit to community life, knowing that eventually they would return home, leaving peer conflicts behind. Meanwhile, students tended an organic garden, chickens and bees, and ran a weekly market on our urban campus. These too were valuable experiences, but we realized that students did not take full ownership of this work, because they left school at the end of the day, or week or year and moved on to different roles in their lives away from school.


 Prepared Environment :What is the benefit of having a farm of your own in the city?


We spent several years looking for the ideal farm to call our own. We searched a 100-mile radius from Houston and while there were many potential farms, none of them fully addressed the needs of our adolescents, their families, and our school. We also realized that living in the fourth largest city in the United States provided opportunities for our adolescents that they wouldn’t have living far away from our metropolis. Ultimately, our search ended at Japhet Creek. Located five minutes from downtown Houston and having access to Buffalo Bayou to the south, Japhet Creek is uniquely suited to meet the needs of the younger and older adolescent. The work on this property represents an intersection of both the adolescent community and high school students. While the younger adolescents are developing the garden, orchard, livestock enclosures and residential housing on the property, the older adolescents have begun environmental testing of the soil in collaboration with the City of Houston and the EPA. The students completed Phase 1 in the spring of 2017 and are moving forward with Phase 2 soil sampling. The property is situated in a heavily industrialized part of town with steel recycling, converging railways and industrial lots; this necessitates the study of the environmental safety of the soil and water on our property. Relationships with city planners and professionals have already begun and we recognize the real work this brings to the older adolescent.


 Prepared Environment: How does Japhet Creek Embody Adolescent Farm Characteristics?

Our property is nestled just below the towering skyline and there is ample space and quiet for reflection near the creek. From the banks of the creek, you cannot detect how close you are to the city. Buffalo Bayou was a key waterway in the founding of Houston and continues to figure prominently in twenty-first century Houston. In the last three decades many organizations have pulled together to revitalize and transform Buffalo Bayou into a beautiful public greenspace and arts destination. Much of the work has been done on the west side of downtown and now this work is expanding eastward, and with this expansion the near Eastside is experiencing the beginnings of gentrification. Adolescents can see the benefits and negative impacts that growth can bring, arousing both optimism about the future and an awareness of the social responsibility they have to the economically disadvantaged population of long time residents who currently live in a food and retail desert and may soon be displaced because of rising property values and concurrent tax burdens.

Japhet Creek, one of the last remaining spring-fed creeks in Houston, flows directly into Buffalo Bayou, which meanders to the Turning Basin and Ship Channel, home to the Port of Houston. This affords the adolescent a unique grounding in a sense of place. From the early cotton, sugar and rice farming to the global trading hub and petrochemical industry of today, our adolescents investigate Houston’s origins from its humble beginnings to the grandeur of our twenty-firstst century city, which reaches to the exploration of space.


Development: How do urban oral historians who reside in surrounding  urban neighborhoods help adolescent development?

We are inspired as we see the adolescents building their own community on this property and are certain that we are providing them with the most authentically prepared environment possible as the authentic oral historians Jim Ohmart and Eileen Hatcher, former property owners, aroused the history behind the neighborhood. Lastly a permaculture specialist brought out the need for land rehabilitation and water and soil intervention and conservation.



Urban programs innovated ideas that, when placed in a rural setting, were revisited and survived well: elements of humanities, emphasis on the seminar, the cabaret/coffee shop, the whole class council, mathematics, experience-based creative expression, key experiences, the adolescent three-period lesson, etc. In an evolutionary sense, the urban programs have had more time for curriculum focus simply because they do not have farms to tend. That freedom from practical chores makes the urban program a critical testing ground for new ideas that emerge from the land-based programs in a boarding school context and from revisiting Montessori’s ideas.

But the curriculum work must rally around common principles such as a list of agreed-upon essentials suggested above. What results would come from developing common principles from the start that are derived from Montessori writings?

1.      Urban and land-based programs would communicate without judgment.

2.      The land-based programs would provide a different prepared environment and community reflection that would add to the urban innovations. Conversely, urban settings could test their ideas in farm settings.

3.      The overarching Montessori theme of the relationship between nature and supra-nature (the human-built world) has rural and urban experiments that correspond.

4.      Urban programs and rural programs would provide critical mass for the “experiment for the experiment,” together creating a more significant sample for study and distillation of program design.

With the advocacy of the Erdkinder, the adolescent work slowly gravitates to a unique context for the third plane of education. In order to see the whole of the third plane of education, the boarding and land-based program model needed to be in place and accessible to evolving urban programs. Erdkinder projects make the principles listed above come alive; Montessori adolescent theory is embodied in the work of the adolescent, which the Erdkinder Appendices (in From Childhood to Adolescence) have so vividly illuminated. With a handful of land-based programs in place, working toward the materialization of Montessori ideals, “the experiment for the experiment” will find a healthy partnership between rural and urban, which will, in the final analysis, bring the fifteen-to-eighteen design into clearer view.


The Adolescent Colloquium: Summary of the Proceedings. Comp. & ed. Renee Pendleton. Cleveland, OH: Montessori Teacher Education Collaborative, 1997.

Erdkinder Atlanta. “Erdkinder: The Experiment for the Experiment.” Interview with A.M. Joosten and Margaret E. Stephenson. The NAMTA Quarterly 3.3 (1978, Spring): 17-30. Reprinted in The NAMTA Journal 26.3 (2001, Summer): 209-231.

Gang, Phil. “Report from Erdkinder Atlanta.” The NAMTA Quarterly 4.1-2 (1979, Fall/Winter): 62-67.

Grazzini, Camillo, & Baiba Krumins G. “A Montessori Community for Adolescents.” Grace and Courtesy: A Human Responsibility. [Rochester, NY]: AMI/USA, 1999. 9-18. Reprinted in The NAMTA Journal 29:1 (2004, Winter): 173-203.

Jordan, H.J. “Montessori High School.” Trans. John Carson. AMI Communications (1971, #3): 14-20. Reprinted in The NAMTA Journal 26.3 (2001, Summer): 259-269.

Kahn, David. Designing for the Needs of Adolescents: An Interview with John McNamara.” The NAMTA Journal 18.3 (1993, Summer): 33-42. Reprinted in The NAMTA Journal 26.3 (2001, Summer): 103-112.

Montessori, Maria. From Childhood to Adolescence. 1948. Trans. The Montessori Educational Resource Center. New York: Schocken, 1973.

Why Does Louise Chawla, researcher and Professor at University of Colorado suggest as beneficial to an Urban Environment a Social Environment as well as a Natural World environment for adolescent Development?


The variety of land uses in the city combined with a social mosaic, in which the well-to-do lived in imposing Italianate and Victorian homes on the main avenue, the working class in shotgun homes on secondary streets, African-American families in blocks of extended kin scattered around the community, poor whites and African-Americans in the alleys, and the poorest families in a shanty town by the wharves.

In this integration of diverse land uses and social groups, the city was characteristic of other old “walking industrial” communities built when interdependent classes and services had to be located in proximity. In its racial integration, it was also characteristic of other old Southern cities in the United States, where geographic segregation remained low into the twentieth century.

What were the consequences for children? For one, nature and commerce coexisted, and children penetrated both settings: commons and quarries, overgrown river banks and canal locks, tree lined avenues and rail yard, orchard and corner grocery, parks and local dump. (Chawla “Revisioning Childhood, Nature, and the City”)

A closer look reveals that the urban counterpart may have the environmental richness of the city. Japhet Creek in downtown Houston is a place where adolescents penetrate both “commercial, educational and nature settings” as best conditions for learning history, sociology, farming (on vacant lots abandoned due to foreclosure and demolition), mathematics, language, wood shop, urban geography and neighborhood dynamics. Observing the St. Catherine adolescents in this urban environment was compelling.

The experienced Montessori adolescent farm managers who observed this urban activity found urban living engaging and courageous. For example, commercial ventures were recycling rags and steel from the Bayou or warehouses, removing junk from the creek, testing the water table, checking the minerals in the soil, establishing garden beds, and more. The visitors from Montessori farm communities stood in awe and respect of St. Catherine’s widespread outreach and saluted the joy and optimism the youth expressed about the heavy work ahead. Work was their joy. Their home base was a nineteenth century house with a fence that they were rebuilding and painting, still preserving its original characteristics as a modest home.

The city qualities celebrate a part of the human condition and the Buffalo Bayou mystique: the work of removing invasive species, meeting the homeless, learning the expansive ethnic neighborhoods and the sounds and sights of the city at work, living out of doors, bonfires, dancing in the parks and streets, andopen markets. Hopes, and dreams chase away the potential dangers and put the adolescent in charge of his or her terrain without the usual urban phobia.

Essential Principles for Urban and Rural  Adolescent Prepared Environment

Psychological Characteristics and Needs of Adolescents

The psychological characteristics and human tendencies are the basis for designing the prepared environment


Real and meaningful intellectual and physical work

Economy—Production and Exchange

Relating to selling what one produces in exchange for money

Experiencing Nature and Supranature—Science Studies

Looking at the connection between the natural and human-built world

Living Community and Community Extensions

The cohesion and cooperation of the group through physical

and intellectual work enhanced by living together, sharing practical life, and experiencing personal needs in relation to the whole community

History of Humanity in Relation to Community and Life’s Purpose

Full view of history as it is relevant to the adolescent community, leading to the “vocation of man.”

Self-Expression and the Artistic Occupations


Pedagogy of Place—Beyond the Classroom

Utilization of place to build a sense of belonging and responsibility

Emphasis on Character

Valorization through Noble Characteristics

Roles Beyond Childhood/Reality Base

Work is meaningful, real, and necessary to the environment

Easy Access to a Broad Range of Activities

Activities offered to challenge many different kinds of skills and aptitudes

Key Ongoing Experiences/Seasonal

Organizing experiences and materials that meet the needs of development

outside of the classroom.




Deep Dive Conversation at St. Catherine’s Montessori

January, 2018

Facilitated by David Kahn


Andrew Gaertner - Lake Country (commute farm)

Jesse Gevirtz - Austin Montessori, Director of Adolescent program (urban campus)

Eileen Hatcher - Pioneer generation Japhet Creek

Alexander Heil - Head of Middle School, St. Helena’s Farm Campus, Northern CA (Farm Campus)

Kathy Hijazi - St. Catherine’s founding faculty for Farm

David Kahn - Adolescent rural and urban farm

Amy Lindsey - St. Catherine’s scribe

Jacquie Maughan - NAMTA President, rural farm

Jim Ohmart - Early pioneer historian of Japhet Creek

Patricia Pantano - Operating farm

Catherine Ruff - St. Catherine’s faculty

Dusty Simpson - St. Catherine’s faculty

Susan Tracy - Head of St. Catherine’s

Brian SenseDavid Kahn