When entering a Montessori Primary classroom, the observer is often first drawn to watching Practical Life activities.
Seeing young children transformed
through this work often evokes a sense of awe in the observer.
The children clearly value these activities profoundly.
In the Middle School environment, adolescents are also transformed through their Practical Life work.
In the Middle School, Practical Life works grow in scope to what we call “Occupations”.
At this level, the student is presented an authentic social role, meaning real work with value in the adult world. The skills gained in an occupation are skills that could one day contribute to economic independence.
Middle School students choose their occupations every few months.
This year’s occupations will include: food production (meal planning, test cooking/baking and production for large enterprises such as our Community Lunches and Coffee Shops); land stewardship and woodworking (charged with maintenance of the greenhouse, garden, compost and a variety of related woodworking projects); micro-economy (overseeing myriad logistics, finances, customer service, pricing, projections and so on); and Media Production and Communication (wait and see!).
Adults support students who plan and execute tasks with a larger goal in mind.
When pursuing the woodworking occupation, for instance, students will have the goal of making benches to enhance the community’s enjoyment of the school’s natural areas.
The end goal makes clear the necessity of learning how to work with tools, as well as how to design, measure, follow plans and site/install finished projects.
Since these creations are being marketed to the school community, an additional set of goals will have to be undertaken. The micro-economy team will be consulted to assist in developing an informed approach to pricing.
Micro-economy supports students’ developing understanding of how humans bond through economy. Whether baked products sold at a coffee shop, beautiful woodwork enhancing the environment, or cherry tomatoes grown in our greenhouse, the economic value of the student’s hard work is clear to them.
They work within a business model to determine how to make products more economically profitable while meeting the variety of goals set by the students.
Students are responsible for meeting established financial goals and must adjust if not successful. (Student ownership of decision-making is a critical hallmark of occupations.)
Maria Montessori spoke frequently about the role of the adult in offering the developing child the keys to unlock their potential within the context of Practical Life work. At each developmental stage, these keys unlock different things: the physical world for the primary child; the universe for the elementary child; and society for the adolescent.