Hear from Mike Madgiak, one of our head teachers in junior high here at Near North, with over a decade of experience co-leading the spring junior high trip at our school. Mr. Madgiak explains the 8th-grade spring trip and the important connections to Montessori curriculum.
Third Plane of Development (12 - 18 years old)
Child at this stage are in the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Significant physical growth, self-scrutiny, impatient expectations, lack of self-confidence (often disguised as bravado), desire to belong, desire to contribute to society, questioning of rules and the belief that their experience cannot be understood by others characterize this period.
As an adolescent’s body is undergoing an amazing transformation, the adolescent’s mind and personality are changing radically as well. Their cognitive abilities improve in three major areas: thinking abstractly, thinking hypothetically and thinking about their own thought processes (meta-cognition).
The primary task of an adolescent is to form a coherent sense of self. While humans undergo significant identity changes throughout childhood, it is not until adolescence that we have the capacity to recognize these changes in ourselves. Forming an identity facilitates our ability to take on adult roles in society; if we know ourselves, we are better able to make choices about careers, religion, politics, and personal relationships.
Dr. Montessori stated, “Now is the time…when they should develop the noblest characteristics that would prepare a human to be social, that is to say, a sense of justice and a sense of personal dignity.” The development of these characteristics in a classroom, as well as in the urban environment beyond the classroom, is what NNM offers the 12-14 adolescent in the third plane of development.
The NNM Adolescent Program (also known as junior high or seventh and eighth grade) covers the broad spectrum of traditional subjects necessary for success, literacy and cultural understanding in today’s world, including reading, science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, technology, art, Spanish and physical education. Students are also empowered to go far beyond a traditional education as they continue the daily life lessons they began in the 0–6 classrooms. During an adolescent’s career at NNM, he or she will take part in several week-long trips out of the city, help operate Sandwich Shoppe, a student-run business, explore the city of Chicago on weekly off-campus day trips, help tend to garden-plots at NNM's urban farm, and participate in meaningful community service both on and off campus.
Teachers in the NNM Adolescent Program act in two main capacities. First, they are instructors, working to ensure their students are academically prepared for the future and to inspire them to expand and master their studies. Second, and just as importantly, they are guides, channeling their students’ own curiosity and lending structure and discipline as they take on the exciting tasks of learning and discovery.
More than anything, the Adolescent Program is designed to fulfill the mission that Maria Montessori set forth over a century ago: to act as an “aid to life.” Students should leave NNM not only as students able to complete academic tasks and solve practical problems, but as young adults prepared for the myriad challenges that life will throw their way.