Grape harvest with the Middle Schoolers
Maria Montessori, when studying early adolescents, realized that there was much in the way to teaching them academics. Rapidly growing bodies and minds and the distractions associated with both made for some tough going book learning, so she figured out a way to “teach” these children by radically changing their environment. The environment she selected was Erdkinder, “earth children,” in reality, farm school.
Middle-school aged children, therefore, were to live and work on a farm. Under the tutelage of adult farmers, the children would be able to see how the business of a farm worked, and thus learn the math, chemistry, biology, marketing, and various skills associated with a productive farm livelihood.
Early adolescence is a tough time all around. Frankly, I do not think I learned a thing between 12 and 14, except how to get into trouble. Becoming aware of yourself in the scheme of the world, the great “what do I do, what do I know” abstraction that is oncoming adulthood: it’s tough, especially when you have one foot still firmly planted in childhood. Erdkinder removed that abstraction, because earth children were valuable assets to the farm. The responsibilities assumed by the children were adult ones, thus creating an immense sense of accomplishment, and an immense boost to the children’s self-esteem.
And strategizing the picking, figuring mechanical things out (like the grape squisher above), working together to accomplish these tasks, getting over one’s fear of bees and bugs, and then figuring out how to market their harvest of juice: granted, they’re not LIVING at our farm but they certainly learned from it.
I have a feeling they’ll be back.