Men with hands and no head and men with head and no hands are equally out of place in the modern community.
Dr. Maria Montessori saw the need for a radical change in secondary education as early as the 1920s. She identified the physical, emotional and cognitive changes of adolescence as a time of great turmoil and was concerned that the traditionally rigid educational practices could be detrimental to students.
In Montessori’s view, a student confined to a desk being forced to study subjects that hold little interest for him or her is apt to rebel or shut down. Her other concern was that the world and technology were moving at a pace far exceeding society’s ability to keep pace. She believed that while there had been great leaps forward in science and technology, education had remained stagnant; students were taught subjects with little relevance to the modern world. The goal of her adolescent program was to produce adults who are equipped with the confidence in themselves and actual skills to live in the real world.
Dr. Montessori’s vision for the adolescent (12-15 years old) was a farm school. The students would learn practical skills in horticulture and animal husbandry. They would be self-sufficient, selling their surplus and attaining financial independence. They would also run a guest house where parents could come to visit. Their work would be real and meaningful; they would have a connection to the earth and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. There would be academic classes, of course, such as math and language, but the bulk of the day would be spent on the land-learning skills from experts. The experts, while teaching practical skills, would also teach the History of Human Progress, the contributions of previous generations. In Montessori’s view, a three-year farm experience would yield a confident, independent, balanced and focused individual ready for the next educational step: the university.
At Alsion, our goals are to prepare the students for their next educational step and to provide the students with the practical skills to be successful in the real world. Though we are not a farm school, we do provide our students with a connection to the land with our garden and chicken projects. We strive to create a dynamic and high interest hands-on experiential curriculum to allow the students to develop practical skills pertinent to the 21st century.