The "Why" Behind the Student Businesses
The focus on building social and economic independence is a unique feature of a Montessori adolescent program. At this age (12-18 years old) children reach what Dr. Montessori called the third plane development. During this stage of development, children want help contributing to society. Montessori’s original vision for adolescents as explained in her essays on “Erdkinder,” (which means “children of the earth”), was that children would leave their homes, and live and work on a farm. They would be able to manage all aspects of a farm, from labor to economics. This would give children real work opportunities that will prepare them to be contributing members of society.
Parkside, like many city-based Montessori schools, adapted Montessori’s vision to support the adolescent’s journey toward adulthood by ensuring students:
Do real work that authentically connects to an economic vision
Self-govern using a consensus method
Experience consequences of decisions -celebrating the process not the outcome
In addition, adolescents participate in economic endeavors that require production and exchange to introduce them to the role of money and economics. They benefit most from experiences that will impact them personally.
Starting in the fall, Parkside adolescents spend time at a retreat getting to know their classmates as well as brainstorm ideas and wishes for the upcoming school year. Adult guides don’t lead these discussions but rather support adolescents in asking questions and researching ideas. Adolescents begin proposals for business ventures and share visions for how to spend their earnings. Usually, this will be a plan for an overnight trip but could also be something else unique that students choose.
Research and prep on potential business ventures continues in the classroom. Then adolescents launch business plans which could stem from small or large groups of students in the classroom. These business plans will change from year to year depending upon student interests. Adolescents may decide to change plans, add new business ventures, and/or develop a longer-term vision. Adults in the classroom will support the students through research, data collection, and re-visiting of goals. Community members such as parents are asked to respect the process and allow students to go on the figurative and literal journey with their classmates. As hard as it is not to suggest what to do, adults in the adolescent classroom request that community members wait to be asked and then support what the students need.
Ultimately, they will experience the joy and satisfaction of an event, trip, or experience they chose, funded, and planned. They will also have grown in their economic independence and their understanding of budgeting will go along with them to high school and beyond.