The first year of our adolescent farm school program in Merchantville has been very rewarding and productive. A great framework has been established for the adolescents. Dr. Maria Montessori's Plan of Study and Work provided a great foundation, and the adolescents contributed greatly to the success of the program through their participation and hard work. Each individual student was able to express his/herself through their own innate talents, abilities and interests. The freedom that is provided through the Montessori curriculum allows adolescents to truly develop their self-identity within the context of social organization. We look forward to seeing our community grow as we transition to Moorestown.

This year, there were various trips to the farm as well as other experiences that expanded the borders of the classroom. It was so valuable to have the various experts contribute to learning, such as parents and community members who shared about their careers and perspectives with the students. The beauty of a child centered philosophy is that it ebbs and flows with the changing dynamic of the group, so every year is different based on the participants. Each year is rich in relevant content that resonates at the heart level and is practical in application within the context of a changing society. At the same time, the same values of grace and courtesy, conflict resolution and effective communication are constantly practiced. Executive function skills are modeled by the adults in the environment, who are the true material in an adolescent program.

Academic advancement is a natural byproduct of such a pedagogy. The absence of homework, grades, tests and textbooks facilitates an intrinsic motivation for learning that does not diminish, but rather increases with time. The interactions between the adolescents and the younger children have made a positive impact on the whole student body. The adolescents in this program have truly gained a valuable experience this year, which will continue to be built upon, regardless of their future direction. We are excited for the continuation of the program and its evolution as we settle into a more permanent space. Here's to the future of MSOE.