Author: Mridula Chunduri
Many decades ago, Maria Montessori said “it was high time secondary education system was revisited to reconstruct a society that is morally able to keep pace with the fast moving technology.” She did not just leave us with her opinion. Dr Montessori also left behind a plan.
This plan was to provide an organic extension to the work the children have been doing since they first entered the children’s house. From gaining independence in movement in the Casa, to understanding their cosmic task in Elementary, the children in their adolescence are now ready to realize their emotional prowess and find their place in the larger society.
The AMI Adolescent Introductory Workshop organised by Great Work Inc was hosted by Pragnya Montessori School in Hyderabad over November 9 to 12, 2019. It opened up this plan of Maria Montessori for the education of the adolescents. The four day workshop dealt with two phased plan for adolescents: Education, study and work and Practical considerations- social living.
The workshop was led by Jenny Höglund who is an AMI 6-12 trainer with AMI Primary and Elementary diplomas. She is currently working as the director on the AMI/NAMTA Adolescent Orientation in its present form since 2003, along with leading AMI Adolescent consultations in Europe.
Having worked with children of all ages in her native Sweden and USA, Ms.Höglund’s insights and experiences were a real eye opener for all the 120 participants in the workshop who had come to Hyderabad not just from all over India but from Vietnam and Romania as well.
Ms Höglund who heads the farm school in Sweden, was a teeming pot of anecdotes. Over day long sessions, she stressed on how work for adolescents cannot be anything less that a simulation of real adult life. Her stories had the workshop participants in splits sometimes over the antics of her students. At other times the work at the farm school forced the participants to ponder the role played by social organisation to help develop morality, interdependence, self discipline, work and contribution, adaptability, and love for self, fellows and nature among the young adults.
Erdkinder takes its name from German words meaning earth/land and children. These adolescents were meant to be the children of the earth, according to Maria Montessori. Taking this thought forward, the farm schools were established for the 12 to 18 years old where the adolescents are expected to live and work on the farm, rear animals, do farming, run a shop and a restaurant and sell their produce gaining an amount of economic independence that is vital for this age group.
They would interact with adults outside their immediate family, adapt to changing everyday scenarios and learn on the job. And while doing each of these they are to learn the math, language, botany, trigonometry and zoology that was relevant to the projects they undertake. The farm school’s practical considerations include having council meetings, seminars, self expression, country living, diet, social relationships, skill development, physical exercise among others.
Ms.Höglund’s students from the farm school went on to become volunteers for the United Nations and also fashion models in Milan. Each of them had scrubbed floors, cleared the pig sty, fed the horses, built barns, painted cabins, sold purchase and balanced accounts. The experiences of social living in the farm school gave a young woman the confidence to enjoy her craft as a fashion model and also fulfil her academic aspirations at London School of Economics with equal respect and flair.
Both Ms.Höglund and Y Chaithanya of Pragnya Montessori School showcased the two great outcomes of the programme – self-confidence and dignity of living. Mr Chaithanya beautifully showcased his own school’s Erdkinder programme with one of his students presenting an accounts reports that left the audience mesmerised.
With videos, photographs and first person accounts, the duo was able to convince all the participants that they can adapt the farm school model for adolescent education in their respective environments.
It was indeed a unique and unprecedented insight the participants received into the running of the farm school. The workshop left everyone with a reassurance that Maria Montessori’s vision and foresight towards education remains unparalleled to this day.
This is the sensitive period when the adolescent should develop the most noble characteristics that would prepare a man to be social, that is to say, a sense of justice and a sense of personal dignity. It is just because this is the time when social man is created, but not yet reached full development, that is in this epoch practically every defect in adjustment to social life originates