The Montessori Adolescent Corps (MAC) program is the equivalent of “middle school” in a traditional public school environment. However, our Montessori program is uniquely designed to serve the developmental needs of this “middle school” age. Building upon the work of the Montessori Primary and Elementary levels, the character of the adolescent is actively recognized in a space where the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual environments are designed to support the growth of the emerging adult.

In adolescence, the main need is to learn how one can be part of the society by sharing thoughts and feelings with others, and by contributing to it in real and meaningful ways. As a result, contributions need to be recognized and put into a context where they can see concrete returns for their efforts. Adolescence is a very practical age when gains need to be recognized not just in terms of abstract academic marks on school assignments, but also in forms of recognition that adult society uses every day.

The adolescent is also undergoing major physical and psychological changes as they begin to acquire their adult personality while transitioning from childhood. Opportunities for creativity, risk-taking, intellectual abstraction, and a healthy emotional setting help them understand who they are in the context of their world. This age needs guidance from prudent, well-educated adults with a great love of the adolescent personality and intellect, and appreciation for their unique development.

The classroom structure offers a rigorous, responsive curriculum guided by a core teaching team and a range of specialist teachers, multi-aged grouping of 12-15 year-olds, large blocks of learning time, and peer and cross-age teaching. The adults in the program actively nurture the adolescent intellectual, social, and physical need to become independent functioning members of adult society. Parent-teacher-student relationships are fostered as partnerships. Conferences between the teachers, the adolescent, and parents are one way in which these partnerships are developed and cultivated.

The middle school educational syllabus is an integrated two-year curriculum. Over the two-year cycle, students investigate the broad tapestry of human achievement with specific study on the constructs of human societies, scientific discoveries, geographic explorations, and relations of humans to the environment. They explore the relationship between humans and the natural world and the responsibility for sustaining the health of the planet.

Across the curriculum, work that meets the adolescent need for social interaction is coupled with activities that foster independence. Some of these elemental studies include a micro-economy (running a business to participate in the adult economy), responsibility for the built and natural environments, expanded definition of physical education to include health, outdoor experiences, participation in sports, learning based in the care and respect of one’s self, and activities of practical life. Science and math are the foundation for discovery and invention, so competence and conceptual understanding of these subjects is necessary to express one’s self in society and adult work.

The adolescent course of study is based in the classic liberal arts. State standards and district expectations are included in the interdisciplinary themes, study skills and strategies, personal learning plans, mastery, coaching and exploratory activities, individual, small-group, and whole-group learning experiences.

The Montessori adolescent program is designed to be a real life experience of building community. Activities in academics and in the classroom environment call upon the adolescent’s need to see academics have a purpose. They work toward, and actively participate in group endeavors that benefit both the whole school community and the people in it (elementary and primary, adults and neighbors). The end result is that the adolescents become deeply invested in what they do; whether it is academic projects, day to day tasks and events in their school community, or the opportunities for outreach that take them from the classroom. Through these avenues, they learn to direct their developing skills toward a wider society where they feel they are valued and can make a worthwhile contribution. These experiences foster care for themselves as people, care for others, and care for the environment.

Core Experiences

There are certain key experiences, which are fundamental to the Montessori Adolescent Corps program. These experiences include:

  • Rigorous and well-supported academic course work that is interdisciplinary in nature and with a variety of formats such as group projects, lectures, seminars, and individual study to encourage the adolescent learner to take greater responsibility for their own learning.
  • Regular connection to the outdoor landscape through academic and community activities so that students are made aware of the relationship they have with the natural environment through their actions and thoughts. The continuous relationship that adolescent life has with the natural world serves as a point of departure for students’ actions and a measuring stick by which they can gauge change during the school year.
  • Instructors as mentors who teach a variety of subjects and work with adolescents in a variety of roles and learning formats and share close advising and tutoring relationships with adolescents throughout the school day and school sponsored activities. Small group work where the student to instructor ratio is kept as small as possible at most times to encourage mutual respect and the mentoring relationship between adults and students.
  • The adolescent community works in a limited communal space (but adequate physical space to meet their growing size needs) and spends a great deal of time and energy in fostering a community spirit within the confines of the group.
  • Community responsibilities and real life work opportunities such as: contributing to communal meals, maintaining and cleaning the learning environment, design and operation of a small business; call for the adolescent to use skills and knowledge learned in academic areas in real life situations.
  • (A minimum of) Two Annual Week-long Expeditions that call upon adolescents to be away from the comforts of home and to live and work communally with their peers and mentors in a variety of learning environments.
  • Regular guided group forums for discussion and sharing of ideas to enable students to have a voice on how to solve problems and appreciate the subtleties and challenges of learning and working as individuals in a group.Emphasis on self-expressions skills and culture in music, art, writing, and drama to encourage students to find a variety of creative avenues to think creatively and express themselves and their ideas to others and to themselves.

Field Studies

In addition to the classroom environment, MAC students at the Lewis and Clark Montessori Charter School benefit from a variety of community-based experiential learning opportunities.

These activities prepare students for the rigor of adulthood, teach empathy, and provide meaningful services to our broader community.

The Farm at Lewis and Clark Montessori Charter School is much more than working the soil and growing produce. It is a world of discovery. It is an opportunity to learn life skills and have a safe place to discover not only the world but our place in it.

The lessons learned are not always at the farm. Some lessons learned are in class discussions about current events or a guest speaker who talks about our political system or the plight of refugees in our local area.

Other lessons revolve around community service and involvement in something bigger than ourselves.

Our work in the community includes such endeavors as providing produce for seniors, volunteering at the farm in the summer or interacting with the community at the farmers market.

All these talks and opportunities to engage with groups outside of our school encourage us to be the change we want to see in the world.
Sure, the farm is a place to grow vegetables, but it is an even better place to grow engaged citizens.

In Food Services, MAC students run three different community programs, all with the goal of helping to create a food system in the Damascus area that works for everyone. These programs benefit community members by focusing on sustainable, healthy, largely local food that serves different people in different ways. The students themselves are served by gaining the myriad strengths and tools that come with knowledge of the larger world and how it feels to take care of and learn from others. The individual programs that they are responsible for are Senior Luncheon, Free Food Market, and the Food Pantry.

Senior Luncheon: Twice each month, students invite local seniors to come and enjoy lunch with them. The LCMCS  kitchen staff cooks while students host by setting up, providing entertainment, sitting with their guests, and cleaning up afterward. This provides an opportunity for kids to learn hospitality, and it’s a lovely event to watch unfold. The adolescents and seniors always end up visiting with grace and humor, and the event promotes amazing intergenerational relationships and understanding. It is fun for everyone.

Free Food Market: Once each month our partner organization Oregon Food Bank drops off pallets of food for us to distribute. Students receive customers and help them shop through the boxes and pick out any food that might be useful. This event strengthens our community, provides free food to anyone, with no questions asked, and helps students learn how to interact with the wider population. Plus they get to be outside for multiple hours, so it’s always a fun time!

Food Pantry: What was once a delivery program that saw a combination of our farm-grown produce, local surplus produce, and Oregon Food Bank donations delivered by the students to local community members in need has now been slowly shifting to becoming a stationary physical pantry that people can come and shop at. With our school’s new location will come the space to make this happen. As this program continues to morph into something that can best serve Damascus, students will continue to focus on skills like inventory, advertising, and all the things that come with operating an enterprise. In all of its forms, this pantry allows students the opportunity to learn about food security locally and globally, and to serve community members in ways that promote a complex understanding of health, food, and the world. It’s primary purpose is to be of service to the community; the learning that comes is secondary. It’s amazing!

The Schoolhouse Bread Company is a student-centered bread company that teaches MAC students the valuable skills of running a small business: Organization, division of labor, teamwork, meeting deadlines, and economic independence.

The program is aligned with the developmental needs of our adolescent students and provides a safe and productive space to practice being adults, take on bigger responsibilities, and contribute to our amazing community in a positive way.