Author: Chaithanya Yalamanchili
The Erdkinder or the adolescent program is Dr. Montessori’s vision for the adolescent. It is designed to meet the developmental needs of the adolescent. The adolescent is not a child anymore. He is a young adult eager to find his place in the society. The elementary curriculum introduces him to the marvels of the universe and the creations of man. Now, it is in the hands of these young adults to fulfill their cosmic task in shaping the world into a better place for all its beings.
The Erdkinder program gives adolescents such opportunities which have meaningful contributions to the immediate society. The young adults undertake projects like agriculture, catering, food products, running a hotel etc. which involves meaningful work and has an economic aspect to it. This meaningful work valorizes the young adult. It puts them in the path of adulthood allowing to understand the means and ways to serve the world and finding their place in it.
Work on land or agriculture plays a significant role in the development of the adolescents. The study of nature and origins of human civilization can be accomplished through farming. It gives the adolescent limitless opportunities for scientific and historical studies. Work on the farm requires careful scientific planning which imbibes in the young adult a desire to study the academic aspects of the occupation and succeed in providing purposeful work.
Just as the first plane child desires physical independence, the adolescent works towards economic independence. The adolescents sell their products and produce and gain economic benefit from them. It introduces them to the ideas of production and exchange and opens up the study of trade on which our economic life is based. Economic independence should not be misconstrued as adolescents building up their savings but should be understood as the value of the service the adolescents provide. They derive satisfaction from realizing the value of their work than the monetary gain attached with it.
There is a moral aspect attached to work as well. It develops the attitudes of the adolescents towards real meaningful work and guides them in exploring the constructs of the society. It helps them realize the grandeur of human creation and aids them in finding their place in this grand scheme. Work on the farm opens them up to various social interactions with both the inside and the outside world. The activities/occupations offer practice in social life. They learn to work as a group and the concept of division of labor. They understand the grace and courtesy required when addressing to people and also learn to understand other’s perspectives.
As functional young adults in the adolescent program, they require careful study and planning to undertake various occupations and projects. Study and work go hand in hand and the work on the land guides the study. The Erdkinder program opens up many facets of social life for the adolescent to experience. It truly functions as a school of experience in the elements of social life.
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