News from the North House Weekly News & Reflections from the Middle School

Week of October 22nd, 2018

Fall Occupations

“Work on the land is an introduction both to nature and to civilization and gives a limitless field for scientific and historic studies.” --Maria Montessori

In developing her revolutionary approach to the education of adolescents, Dr. Montessori wisely observed that work on the environment, outside of the traditional classroom, can naturally lead to deep and enriching studies that can span the academic curriculum while enhancing the social and moral characteristics of the developing personality. These types of land-based interdisciplinary studies have been commonly referred to as “occupations” by both Dr. Montessori and her contemporary John Dewey.

“An occupation provides direct experience, which is by nature urgent, intimate, and engaging. It contrasts with symbolic experience, which can be remote, detached, and even beyond the comprehension of the adolescent.” John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Occupations allow ‘school’ to more accurately resemble the adult world for which adolescents are preparing--a world where learning itself happens not because a test is coming or an assignment is due, but because our contributions to careers, families, and communities rely on our knowledge and skills.

Rooted in their studies of environmental sciences, students recently completed their Fall occupations.

In groups, they collaborated in hands-on work that was inspired by our own community and the land surrounding the middle school buildings.

Their energies were focused in three different areas: the gardens, the bees, and mushroom cultivation.

While working in these areas, students researched topics ranging from plant and bee biology to innovations in medicine related to mushrooms.

Meanwhile, they also worked on creative projects related to their research and even developed some potential new products for North House Specialties, such as beeswax candles and mushroom-based facial masks.

"Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits."

--Twyla Tharp

Artwork inspired by nature artist Jill Bliss is also in its finishing stages and will be on display at their Man-Made Environmental Issues symposium this Friday.

In the end, all the students shared their newly gained knowledge and experiences with one another through formal presentations.

The excitement and richness in their presentations was a testament to the power of meaningful, hands-on work for the adolescent.

Now it’s on to Humanities, which will find students reading the new novel Map of Salt and Stars. This novel will drive studies of the Middle East during the Middle Ages and today and will include a conversation with the author, who has generously agreed to speak to our students via video conference from Italy!

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