One of the amazing qualities of Montessori materials is the way they change throughout the course of a child’s school experience to correspond with their stage of development. While we may think of Montessori materials as carefully crafted objects at earlier ages, in the Jr. High, they often simply look like real life items – because they are!
The well stocked kitchen in the Jr. High House is an important material for the development of Social Organization, one of the key components of the adolescent program. Dr. Montessori describes adolescents as “social newborns,” who are beginning to explore the roles they will carry out as adults. Working side by side with adult guides allows them to experience many new skills.
Students prepare lunch each week for the entire Jr. High Community, including adult guides and visitors. Along with the obvious benefit of refining their cooking skills, students learn to menu plan, shop, and keep a budget. Balancing meal prep and clean up with their other academic work also provides practice with time management. But most importantly, children learn to collaborate and communicate as they contribute to their community in a meaningful way.
Does this look familiar? It may remind you of the Practical Life exercises in Early Childhood. Like our youngest students in the toddler community, adolescents appreciate side-by-side work with adults. Dr. Montessori described these two stages of development as parallel planes. While children in the early childhood program use the exercises of Practical Life to learn about their world and develop independence, adolescents take on these roles as fully contributing members of their communities, now leading where once they followed.