postheadericon Clark Montessori: The First Public Montessori High School

Clark Program Overview - Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) Public Schools
Clark Program Overview

Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, Ohio celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2004.  It is the first public Montessori high school in the nation.  This is the year the fourth class graduates with 98% college bound, and one National Merit Finalist.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in the publication Small, Safe, Sane, Successful Schools, recognize Clark Montessori as an exemplary secondary model.  The small school design provides opportunities for students to learn the skills and values involved in teamwork and group decision-making, long-term project management, and service to the community.  These skills in human development are imbedded within the challenging academic courses required of all students.

Along with state required courses, Clark meets Dr. Montessori’s philosophical intent for adolescents with its unique program design; for example, students must perform 200 hours of community service and take eight intersession courses.  Intersession courses are held twice a year when the entire high school stops the routine of regular coursework and holds immersion courses for two weeks.  Some examples of these intersession field studies are: Sailing and Marine Biology of the Coral Reef; Flora and Fauna of the Appalachian Trail; Southwest Ecology and the Culture of the Hopi; and Erdkinder: A Sustainable Lifestyle.  As if the academic coursework is not compelling enough, during these immersion courses students are coached in leadership skills such as group development, decision-making, and dealing with conflict.

Students culminate the high school experience in a year long senior project, which involves an in-depth study of their choice, long range planning and implementation of the project, and a culminating exhibition.  The senior project showcases the students’ individual skills acquired during their 12 – 15 years in Montessori classrooms.

Clark Montessori is an excellent example of what a group of creative, energetic educators can accomplish when they are allowed to work, just as they expect their students to - with selflessness, sincerity, and collaboration.

Solo-Time at Clark

“Silence often brings us the knowledge which we had not fully realized, that we possess within ourselves an interior life.  The child by means of silence sometimes becomes aware of this for the first time.” 
                                                        ~ Maria Montessori
Montessori teachers understand the value of observation as a pedagogical skill because intraspection and the observation of student behavior encourage productive reflection on their practice of teaching.  As preschoolers, Montessori students play The Silence Game in which they sit very quietly in a circle for progressively longer periods of time.  Older Montessori students are expected to develop the skills of observation as well as silence.  These skills, though often neglected by modern society, are important for individuals and the larger culture since it is almost impossible for one’s spirit to thrive in the constant commotion of daily life. Adolescents are at a particularly important stage for developing the discipline and appreciation for silent reflection as a valuable tool for life.  It is for this reason we incorporate daily solo into our intersession courses and give some time during the school day. 

In Nurturing the Spirit Montessori author Aline Wolf says, “A very important step in nurturing either one’s own spirit or a child’s spirit, is to prepare an environment where stillness can be cultivated with some regular frequency.” The prepared environment is a place that encourages the behaviors we seek in our students.  If we say we are a school that encourages respect, then we create an environment that looks and feels respectful.  That means the room is beautiful, clean, and well taken care of.  It means teachers speak and listen to students in a respectful way and never settle for less than respect when they are spoken to or being listened to.  The prepared environment for silence is one in which the guidelines for silence are posted and clearly supported by the teacher. 

During solo time students may read or journal alone.  Teachers model this behavior.  Students may not whisper, work on computers, walk around, do homework, or sleep.  It is most helpful for teachers to redirect students, as they do when necessary during class time, by walking over and whispering an invitation to observe the established guidelines.  Montessori reminds us that exercises in silence are “an aid in perfecting the child, making him calm, obedient, attentive to his own movements, capable of silence and recollection.”  Let’s remind our students, as well.

Clark Montessori
Montessori's essential priorities involve creating an environment which enhances the adolescent's ability to :
ß .find one's place in society
ß .understand the connection between finding one's place in society and the nobility of all types of work
ß .experience and learn the lessons of living in community
ß .believe in the dignity of humans and that the world is a place of hope and progression of the human spirit
To fulfill this vision, our school seeks the highest and most complete academic environment for each student and to form a human community that nurtures an atmosphere of caring and sets a thoughtful social climate. We strive to be a community of adults and teenagers who respect each other's deepest personal and human qualities.
Through the Montessori Philosophy we have come to have several goals:
1. Learning -i.e. learning in its broadest sense. Therefore we ask and expect commitment to each learning area.
2. Community -and the fostering and nurturing of relationships that build community.

3. Hard Work -and the effort and willingness to meet difficult challenges, both personal and academic.
4. Respect -manners are an essential aspect of the way we show respect and caring for others. To act in a civilized way means, in part,  to act with manners.
5. Peace -we strive to be a community that values the complex global and personal aspects of peace.
 Montessori Secondary

Through the Montessori philosophy we have established curriculum based on our vision, mission, and goals:
• Each member of the triangle (student, parent, and teacher) has a primary focus: to assist the child in her quest to take her place in society.
• Every child deserves a rich and rigorous curriculum.
• Each course prepares the student for whatever they choose to do after high school.
• Each program decision must uphold our goals, values, and beliefs.
The following aspects are evident at all levels of Montessori education and take on new significance in secondary school.
Academics - The academic program for this age is more content driven than ever before. Teachers develop their course work to accommodate a variety of learning styles~ so there are varied approaches to presenting material. Lecture portions of high school classes are more predominant than in middle school because of the content involved and because students are developmentally ready to deal with lecture. Lecture in classes at the high school are not an attempt to simulate college lecture~ but should prepare students for the college setting where listening skills need to be well developed.
Formal research – Each quarter students take part in humanities or science research.  Research allows greater opportunity for the student’s critical thinking and skill development. This is also the component that ties together the curricular aspects that follow on the next page.
Choice and Responsibility –
CURRICULUM - Projects and classroom design allow students some choice in how to use their time. There is accountability built into work time so that students internalize a sense of responsibility to themselves and an ability to prioritize the way in which they use time. The long term assignments that are inherent in projects help students examine the ways in which they make use of time.

SCHOOL GOV’T -Each student can effect the operation of the school by being on or attending student council. In this way students have real decision making power and responsibility for the operation and spirit of the school.

INTERPERSONAL -Communication is a component of responsibility.
Students are expected to follow the same guidelines they used in their earlier years in Montessori classrooms.  This model is used in staff and student communication.
- assume goodwill
- take concerns to the person directly involved for clarification or resolution
- do not seek sympathy or enter into collusion
- if resolution is not satisfactory~ both people seek the help of a third person to serve as a non-   biased coach ~ or agree to disagree.

Care of the Environment - Care of the classroom, hallways, and lockers is evidence of the pride students have in their new building. Teachers create a system for classroom maintenance and students agree not to deface school property. This care is extended to the society beyond the school walls by our community service curriculum that emphasizes the nobility of work and the dignity of humans.

Community and World as Classroom - Projects help students use the world outside the classroom walls. All projects require students to learn to use research materials, including the internet and the public library. Often projects require interviews and data collecting. Projects also require students to think critically about the issues of history and science and to form opinions and back them up with appropriate resources.

Field Studies and Intersessions - are ways in which the goals of community building are supported. These studies also allow students to make applications of their studies to the world outside the classroom.

Collaboration -Teaching the skills of collaboration is a hallmark of Montessori education. Projects, and going-out classes are the vehicles to teach these skills. These opportunities also give us varied applications for using our model for communication.

Specific real world application of interdependence - Each class makes connections to the world in which we live and to the life of the child. We attempt to help students understand deeper connections of interdependence because this is the way in which information becomes relevant to students and is more likely to help them make more thoughtful decisions.
Experts as resources - Experts as resources are used as often as they can be worked into the curriculum because this is one way in which our courses can inspire students and create respect for the topics they study. This is also a tool to help them consider the possibilities for their own lives after high school.
Self-evaluation - The judgment of a student's work by the teacher is important feedback, but more important is the student's ability to evaluate his/her own performance. In the preschool and elementary classes this is called "control of error". For the older student, we set up our courses so that standards, objectives, and criteria for evaluation are clearly stated.  That way the student understands what is expected and can evaluate his/ her own work before turning it in for the final evaluation of the teacher.

Rationale for Field Studies at Clark Montessori

Adolescents need to face challenges and to be successful at meeting them.  Learning and developing this ability (perseverance) leads to Valorization of the Personality.  Adolescents are reminded that challenges are built into the intersession and field study curriculum for this reason.  Varying the types of challenges is a good idea (cooperative, physical, academic, etc.). Field studies help our school meet the developmental needs of the adolescent by providing natural situations (such as weather, living with one another under intense circumstances, and lack of rest)that require problem solving, cooperation, and resilience.

Education for Peace and Community Service
The First Step in Learning to Care for the World

Man cannot be understood as an individual.  It is only in a community that he becomes human and that his potentialities can be realized.  However convinced someone may be that he is working only for himself, he is in fact working for the community; and only the results of this communal activity, which we call civilization, show continuity and progress.

(Mario Montessori, 1976)

Maria Montessori had a vision in which people would learn to consider
themselves part of a larger community-a world community.  "In order to unite all men as brothers, we would have to tear down all the barriers, so that human beings the world over would be like children playing in one vast garden" (Montessori, 1998).  Montessori charged educators with educating our youth for peace. Educating for peace is not an easy task.  The key is to develop a moral foundation through action and example. 

There are several key values that need to be awakened in the child's inner spirit. These values include: a sense of justice, the ability to challenge authority in a respectful manner, the value of hard work, the desire to have a low impact on the planet and to place a low value on materialism, the ability to empathize with all races and cultures and religions of the world, and the need to celebrate the differences in humanity.  Community service will give the student life long lessons in empathy, hard work and cultural awareness.  This experience teaches students that they can have a positive effect on their community and eventually the world by identifying problems and then solving them.

With these aims in mind, Clark Montessori requires all students to perform 50 hours of community service each year (approximately 1 hour a week).  It is hoped that by making this commitment to the community a regular part of their lives, students will continue this endeavor on into adulthood. 

Projects may include, but are not limited to, the following ideas.  Students are also encouraged to use their imagination (Please note if you are not doing work for a social service agency-then clear the project with your advisor first).

ß Work for your church, synagogue or temple
ß Visit local nursing homes-perform music, plays or just visit
ß Plant community gardens
ß Clean up trash along roads and waterways (ORSANCO sponsors a river sweep in June)
ß Work around the school (see classroom teachers, the plant operator, or show up with a parent at the monthly work night
ß Care for school plants and animals (see classroom teacher)
ß Help recycle school paper, aluminum and plastic                                             Donate blood
ß Help injured, disabled, or elderly neighbors with chores
ß Help tutor students at school or other community centers
ß Serve food at local soup kitchens or food pantries
ß Care for animals at local shelters
ß March in MLK Jr. activities
ß Attend Community Council meetings
ß Work for election campaigns
ß Picket, protest and march to end injustice
ß Create program theatrical program to take on the road to daycare or senior programs
ß Work with Clark MH students
ß Student organized activities to raise money for charity (Talent show ticket money given to Red Cross, etc)
ß Cincinnati Enquirer lists activities every Sunday in the Tempo section
ß Consult the United Way's "Whatcha Gonna Do?" manual for a list of hundreds of agencies by topic or geographical area
ß Coach a team
ß Lead a scout troop

Final note

The submission of 36 hours each year for middle school and 200 hours (over four years)of service is necessary for graduation from the high school.  The student's advisor will collect the documented service hours at the end of the first semester and at the end of the second semester. 

Students are encouraged to use summer vacation as a means to meet this
requirement, although a weekly commitment may be better in establishing a life of service.  Parents are also encouraged to work with their children.  Use this valuable time to build family and to get to know your children's friends. 

Students who are having problems finding activities should see Eric Brock or their advisor.  All advisors will have copies of the United Way's "Whatcha Gonna Do?" and "Volunteer and Go Guide" listing hundreds of community service opportunities. 

Students who continue to be delinquent in their service hours will be required to attend school on records days, in-service days and team-based release days to make-up missing hours.  All transcripts will also be held until hours are complete.  Continued failure to submit hours may lead to dismissal from the school according to the school's dismissal policy.

Maria Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts help children and encourage them to believe they are the heirs to a world of increasing liberty and rising hope. (Kramer, 1995).  I hope that we can continue to pursue her legacy here at Clark Montessori.

Works Cited

Kramer, Rita, Maria Montessori, A Biography.  Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts, 1988. Pages 14, 21.

Montessori, Maria.  Education and Peace.  Translated by Helen R. Lane. Clio Press, Oxford, England, 1995. Pages 360.

Montessori, Mario M., Jr. Education for Human Development, Understanding Montessori.  Ed. Paula Polk Lillard. Schocken Books, New York.  Page 38.

Last Updated (Sunday, 24 September 2006 02:17)