Production and Exchange is a key component of Escuela’s Jr. High study. Dr. Montessori recognized students at this age as ‘social newborns’ who are beginning to explore adult roles in their community in practical ways. This component of a thriving adolescent community allows students to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways, and to develop economic and social independence.
More than a fundraising project or a micro-business, production and exchange is a way for students to contribute to their community. It takes on many forms and reaches out into the wider community beyond the school campus. Currently, Jr. High students are creating bath and body products for their business, [UN]Earthed. These products are made with ingredients grown and harvested on Escuela’s urban farm, an outdoor laboratory for hands-on science. Students conceive of and create various products with recipes they research and test themselves.
Determining overhead costs, pricing and selling items, and keeping inventory are all opportunities for applied math. Production and exchange is also an opportunity to learn about economics, types of economies, alternative economies, and the ways these systems can be both supportive and harmful to communities. It gives students real experience with money, budgeting, and decision making around how to spend money, and where and why. Additionally, production and exchange is about producing something or offering something to others that can be of benefit.
In past years students have volunteered to help local farmers in exchange for crops or skill sharing. Currently, they are using what they learned in Spanish vocabulary lessons to create games for sale to younger children that promote learning a second language. The students have also reached out and engaged with the other classrooms as they developed a school-wide composting system, and gave lessons about composting throughout the school.