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Creating Community in the Upper Elementary

10/18/2013
One of the remarkable aspects of the Montessori Upper Elementary community is that the students see it as their community.  They participate actively in maintaining the routines and rituals of the classroom, and while the teachers often assume leadership roles or support the students with getting things started, much of the work and responsibility for success falls to the students themselves. This democratic approach allows children to feel ownership and pride for their classroom and experience directly the joy and satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
 
Since returning from Becket, the UE students have started work on a number of long-term community projects for which they are collectively responsible.  These include our annual Pancake Breakfast fundraiser, our first Pizza Wednesday, and preparing for our upcoming Harvest Fest. The beauty of these activities is the way in which everyone assumes different roles to make them happen. It also requires a tremendous amount of patience, persistence, and grit to see these projects through to completion. For example, this week alone the students:
 
  • Signed up for “shifts” to work the Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, Oct. 27, indicating their preference for taking orders, serving, or clearing tables/syrup patrol
  • Some volunteered to serve on a marketing committee, creating posters and flyers and speaking about the Pancake Breakfast at our recent elementary/middle school assembly
  • Our Pizza Managers finished entering pizza orders into an Excel spreadsheet, placed an order to Pizza Days via phone, and collected a check from the business office. After receiving the order the next day, the Pizza Deliverers loaded the pizza and juice onto carts to take to the middle school and lower elementary classrooms. Dumpster Duty people then took the empty boxes to the trash. J
  • During lunch on Friday, a group of students came together as the Harvest Fest Committee to brainstorm group song possibilities and discuss the logistics of the performance. Auditions will happen over the next two weeks and we will begin rehearsals in Nov.
 
These practical life experiences are, of course, happening alongside all of the students’ other academic lessons and follow up work. But through their ongoing participation in these community projects, the students are learning valuable life lessons related to leadership, cooperation, self-regulation, and determination. These are important skills not only for a successful school career, but for a meaningful life. Our UE students are in the process of discovering their own authenticity as contributing members of a working community. It is a true joy to watch this process unfold everyday in our classroom, and the students can be very proud of the real work they are doing, each and every day.

Seth (on behalf of the UE Team)