“Schools as they are today are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the time in which we live.”
—Dr. Maria Montessori
Middle School Curriculum
Welcome to Hilltop Montessori Middle School and to the world of budding and flourishing adolescence. A word about adolescent development – this is a time of intense physical growth and an increased focus on socialization and self-involvement, a new plane of development from the great intellectual awakening of their upper elementary years. Juxtaposed with this self-involvement is also the quest to understand their individual place in the world while they grapple with “who likes who”, “don’t standout”, “I don’t want to be like everyone else” and “who am I?” It is said that these years are most similar to their days in the Children’s House as 3-6 year olds.
The Middle School curriculum, “What does it mean to be Human?” is a program that strives for an equal balance of socialization and academic skills; direct hands-on connections with community and the examination of expansive concepts; prepared environments and classrooms in the woods, the streets of Brattleboro, and beyond.
The Middle School program is based on strong skill building. All the curricular work connects directly to the growth of academic and social skills. The studies are integrated across discipline lines but, unlike the elementary years, the staff is far more specialized in their particular areas of interest.
Average number of students in a class: 25-30
Number of teachers: 3 full-time, 1 part-time
First graduating class: 1996
Number of graduates: 211
Work Habits & Social Development
At the middle school level students are expected to accept and maintain significantly higher degrees of responsibility for the management and organization of their personal time and materials as well as for their overall preparedness (physically and mentally) for learning. In addition, the creation and nurturing of a classroom community is vital to the success of the program. Students, therefore, must strive to possess and promote a genuine attitude of respect for one another, the staff, and the environment.
Humanities: Rights, Revolution, and Reform
The Montessori curriculum's Humanities strand responds directly to the needs, tasks, and sensitivities of the adolescent. Given the emerging interest in the workings of society, it is only proper that the adolescent be provided opportunities for learning the ways of the world: ways that give rise to establishing bridges of understanding and purpose between adolescent desires-for independence, self-expression, community, and to simply be of use-and the world about them. Such growth transpires as a result of being placed at the center of one's own learning; it is here that knowledge of one's own capacities, of one's self-worth, is forged. The adolescent's experience, therefore, must revolve around the historic and contemporary workings of society, its obligations and its structures, with a keen sense of responsibility toward a more peaceful future for all humanity.
Language Arts at HMS attends to the advanced development of a student's ability to access information, use discernment, and communicate understanding effectively, be it in oral or written form. During the two year program, students are required to demonstrate a conscious capacity to write expressively, comprehensively, and coherently in a variety of academic and creative modes; to speak publicly and present ideas and information formally in a clear, organized, and articulate manner; and, to partake in literature seminar by preparing for and engaging thoughtfully in the creation of shared meaning through dialogue. These skills are furthered through constant practice with short and extended essays, research outlines and papers, individual and collaborative project presentations, and close readings and analysis of sophisticated works of fiction. The students crown their efforts at HMS with a study of oratory that culminates in the creation and delivery of a farewell address. It is the overarching goal of the program to cultivate each student's voice so that it resonates with clarity in both the written and spoken word.
Middle school mathematics is approached as a two-year continuum, which will ultimately prepare students for high school level math. It is designed to engage the adolescent's blossoming critical reasoning skills and further their abstract thinking. It is at this point in the math sequence where numbers turn into variables, two dimensional objects take on a third dimension, and algorithms give way to complex functions. Accompanying these higher-level cognitive skills is the understanding of how to solve problems beyond routine formulae, which lays the groundwork for comparing and analyzing data, and ultimately, solving real-world problems.
The middle school science curriculum furthers the growth of the adolescent through expanding the world view. It is designed to foster a sense of stewardship - for one's own health and body, for interpersonal relationships, and for the greater community. It accomplishes this by encouraging the student to think critically, ask good questions, increase powers of awareness and observation, and recognize the symbiotic nature of humans and the earth. Ultimately, the adolescent uses science to make choices, disseminate information, and as one framework for viewing the natural world. The goal is to carry critical thinking as far as possible to enable this way of viewing and to further expand the student's natural sense of wonder.
Art in the Middle School is a search for each student's creativity, an active cultivation of visual awareness, and a call to be responsible for the process and patience that is inherent in honest expression. Students are exposed to many media in both two and three dimensions. The need for technique is honored, but is taught as this need naturally arises in their art. This allows students to work at many different levels and in many styles with a focus on growth within their own personal art making process while making sure they have the techniques required to achieve their goals. Creativity must be actively sought while at the same time students must allow themselves to be open and surprised by what they experience.
The Physical Education program at Hilltop is guided by the seven components of physical fitness: speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Within the scope of a semester all P.E. activities address one or more of these components. Careful focus on attaining competency in all areas over time will ensure that a student is successful in achieving a healthy fitness level. For as fitness improves so does the level of skill development. For the 12-15 year olds these skills include Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, individualized fitness program, volleyball, tumbling, badminton, pilo polo, dance, circus skills, lacrosse, softball and mile run training.