In the Austin Montessori Adolescent Community the adults collaborate to prepare an environment which meets the cognitive, social, and physical needs of adolescents so that they can continue their individual self development. The students learn within a small community structure, taking on both academic and community responsibility and contributing their service and their expertise. They are provided with avenues of self-expression and social interaction as well as with opportunities for “adult-like” work and economic independence in the form of small business ventures. Austin Montessori recognizes the value of work, both intellectual and practical, that is valued by the community as an avenue to self-construction and an enriched sense of self worth.
In order to orient the adolescent during this time of transition, we endeavor to articulate the history of knowledge, ideas, discoveries, and inventions which have shaped humanity’s progress. We use an integrated project approach in order to engage students in the pursuit of ideas and expertise, encouraging them to become better thinkers, problem-solvers, and responsible and informed citizens.
It is vital for adolescents to belong and participate in a small community, in order to discover their place and value within the greater society of humanity. We have therefore prepared the framework of the class structure to allow for the evolution of a culture of community. One way we cultivate this community is by preparing rituals and routines which allow the adolescents to operate relatively independently in the prepared environment. We stress the importance of civility in the community in order for everyone to feel comfortable and safe. This type of environment encourages adolescents to put forth their best effort to and take emotional risks in their work. It is in an environment such as this, where adolescents can let down their defenses and work sincerely, that we see real investment into the community. Such investment is the best preparation for valorization, the process by which an individual finds self-worth through his actions which are beneficial to and valued by a greater community. We believe valorization is important because it leads to the strengthening of one’s self-image. With a more positive self-image, the adolescent will find within himself the courage to release his human potentialities. It is only when these potentialities begin to achieve reality that the possibilities for human greatness and peace can be realized. Therefore it is the combination of adolescent need for protection, social development, and valorization that is primary in our thinking when we prepare the environment for them.