12 -15 years old (Grades 7-8)
The Junior High curriculum is interdisciplinary, experiential and student-centered.
What Do We Mean By Inter-Disciplinary?
Each day is an exploration in the arts, humanities and sciences. Science is explored in the lab, in the workshop, in small group discussion as well as outdoors.
What Do We Mean By Experiential?
We emphasize learning-by-doing. Book-learning is balanced by the work of the hands and feet. We emphasize practical work with concrete materials and manual tools.
What Do We Mean By Student-Centered?
The curriculum grants the student sufficient freedom to explore his or her own interests and curiosities. The community provides the boundaries students need along with the structured care of skilled, mentoring adults.
Our Fundamental Tenets
We hold a foundational respect for a child’s humanity and, therefore, their individuality.
In terms of both physical and intellectual movement, freedom of exploration is essential.
The curriculum balances and integrates the arts, humanities and sciences.
We emphasize practical work with concrete materials and manual tools. We learn with our head, hands and feet.
The intensity of indoors studies are tempered by outdoors study and the practice of wilderness skills. In other words, nature is also our classroom.
Learning takes place on three levels, each carrying equal importance:
- Four key ways to knowledge (Will I learn to read, write, listen and speak better?)
- Mastery of content and skills (Will I learn the facts and skills that I need to be successful at the next level?)
- Patterns of thought (Will I become a creative and critical thinker who can make connections across traditional boundaries?)
Emotional intelligence is as significant as cognitive aptitude. We learn with our head, hands, and feet as well as our heart.
The classroom is a community, an organism that is directed and cared for by both students and adults.
Characteristics and Needs of Adolescents
Our Junior High curriculum is designed to meet the unique developmental characteristics and needs of adolescents.
Junior High Classroom
Mathematics: In Junior High, we strive to serve as a transition from the Elementary Montessori mathematics curriculum to advanced secondary math classes. We use two types of texts: a traditional algebra textbook serves as a supplement to the Connected Mathematics curriculum, a language-based, reform curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation which promotes abstract thinking,deep understanding of concepts, and new ways of thinking and reasoning about numbers, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
In addition to text-based learning, students participate in hands-on mathematics projects throughout the year. These projects focus on learning to see math as something more robust than nightly homework from a text and generally include a design component as well as a hands-on construction project. Examples of projects include designing quilts, model bridges and houses,and Rube Goldberg machines.
Language Arts: Continue growth in writing, reading, listening and speaking--the life-long skills that we rely on to communicate with others. At times, junior high students work on grammar, mechanics, spelling or vocabulary. At other times, they will practice careful, insightful reading. In addition, they discuss literature, probe the multi-layered process of creative writing, or practice our speaking skills through dramatic monologs or speeches.
Science: Early on students begin to think like scientists - questioning, testing, and revisiting their hypotheses. In Junior High, science is tied inextricably to our social world through our interdisciplinary seminars. We talk about morality in science, how politics and war affect and are affected by science, and how science plays a role in our justice system. At the same time, students are given real experiences with scientific data collection, observation, and writing in the Earth, Life, and Physical sciences.
Humanities: Humanities allow us to explore the fascinating human story, from the earliest humans through 20th century American history. We attempt to place individual human stories within the larger context of world history and current events, delving into discussions about morality and ethics. In keeping with adolescents’ needs, we ask the big questions: “Who am I?,” "Where do I fit in?,” “What does it mean to be human?” In all ways, we work to tie history, civics, languages, literature, the arts, and the sciences together in our interdisciplinary units. At Oak Hill Montessori, we recognize that an important area of study is the place we live in. But, as adolescents begin the journey to understand their larger place in the world, we also actively reach out to the larger community as a means for students to become active, engaged citizens.
Leadership: In Leadership, seventh and eighth years are usually divided. The seventh-grade year is spent focusing on value-formation and the ways in which those values affect interpersonal relationships (as well as the intrapersonal relationship, that dialog with the self). We also focus on community service; how do my values influence how I will choose to help the community? The eighth-grade year is spent working on Capstone Projects. This eighth-grade-only project runs through the entire school year. Students begin choosing research question (or series of questions on a theme) in September and continue to work on the project throughout the entire year. Projects must include research, a project, and a community service component. In the Spring, students are required to showcase their efforts with a semi-public presentation.
Outings: Field trips are an integral part of the Montessori Junior High experience. These events are essential for the development of the Junior High community. There are several day trips throughout the school year along with overnight trips described below.
Our Fall Trek is a journey of study, exploration and community building. Whether to Lake Superior or South Dakota all Junior High students begin the school year with a 8-day trip: touring and studying by day, camping by night. The first two days of school are spent preparing for the journey, practicing camping skills and discussing teamwork tactics.
Seventh graders attend a one-night Leadership Retreat in May. This retreat focuses on teamwork and community through physical and mental challenges and provides students an opportunity to explicitly focus on becoming strong, positive role models in the Oak Hill Montessori community in the following year.
Eighth graders travel to Washington DC on a week-long Leadership Tour in May. Students begin studying and preparing for the trip in the fall of 8th grade discussing citizenship and an individual's role in their communities. This study allows adolescents an opportunity to consider their role in a larger community than their family, school, and town - to begin to see themselves as citizens of the larger world. What does it mean to participate in a democratic republic? What kinds of leadership roles can ordinary citizens take on? How do we honor those who have served their communities before us? These questions and more are explored throughout our week in Washington D.C. Unlike the other trips that the Junior High takes, students must raise their own funds for this trip. We consistently find that students who work to raise the money for this trip themselves are much more engaged in, find more enjoyment in, and learn more than students who do not have this additional experience of responsibility and independence.
Spanish: The goal is for the ear to get used to the "sound" of Spanish. The children are training their ears to the Spanish language, especially in the younger classrooms. By the time the children reach Junior High, their brains are ready to acquire the language in a more formal study.
It is not expected that all children will become bilingual, or even fluent speakers. Rather, early exposure to another language creates a facility for understanding and speaking it, as well as greater ease in later study. It also creates an early consciousness of culture.
Visual Arts: Junior High Art is the culmination of the skill base from the elementary years. Bringing together knowledge of art elements and principles into their art. Junior High art curriculum is on a 2-year rotation. One year they experience a residency in 2D drawing and painting, and the next year 3D art, sculpture. These residencies are designed to dovetail with the Junior High units being taught at the same time. All Junior High students have access to the art room resources for follow up work on any of their class projects.
Music: The Junior High program is designed to act as a bridge between the elementary and high school music programs by shifting our focus to ensemble type rehearsals. Vocal and instrumental pieces are adjusted appropriately to accommodate the changing voice and instrumental skill sets of the particular class (i.e. if a student has studied an instrument outside of school, we will attempt to incorporate that skill into the classroom rehearsals). Through these developmentally appropriate experiences, students continue to build necessary skills for success in future music settings as well as other facets of life.
Learning Specialist: At times children may require additional support outside of the regular classroom environment. This support may be needed in areas such as reading, math, attentional difficulties, developmental delays or other specific learning challenges.