I wanted to reach out to you and tell you about something that is happening soon, so that you have all of the details and have a chance to absorb the significance.
Our Sixth Year students are on the brink of completing their Island Projects! Island Night is going to feel like the most breath-taking free fall onto a circus-style trampoline.
This is not just another project - it is a year-long exit project that is, at its core, a a pivotal academic and personal achievement. It requires students to pull together everything they know about history, geography, language arts and earth science. It demands organization, long-term time management, focus and dedication, collaboration, communication and inspiration. The Island Project is the ultimate academic experience of personal responsibility and accountability. It is a treacherous, beautiful path that results in many triumphs and failures, Island Night is the culmination of a full year's worth of work, fortitude, imagination and integration.
Almost ten years ago when I took my Upper El training, I was introduced to the fact that Sixth Year students are masters of their domain. They are competent and confident in many different ways. They are also on the brink of adolescence and often enter that journey in a very real way during their Sixth Year. They have tremendous energy and capabilities, and starting a very serious search for their place in the world. This is the most amazing time for them to be in the Montessori Elementary classroom because it is full of potential instead of limits. They have the boundless creative energy of children and are developing the abstract thinking capacities of adolescents. This is the time to make them leaders and demand hard work!
The Island Project evolves throughout the year, and is truly interdisciplinary. At the heart of the project is an imaginary island. Children conduct research of islands around the world until they find a region that seems most exciting to them. Some children settle in the Caribbean, others in the South Pacific, others in the Arctic... it completely depends on their interest. Then they choose longitude and latitude coordinates and create an island that has never existed. However, at the beginning, and all along the way, the Island Project is rooted in reality. Everything about their island - from its geological history to its human event timeline - has to be plausible and carefully evaluated. There is a tremendous amount of freedom in the decisions children make about their islands, with the actual planet and its human history as the only constraints.
I hope that you are beginning to see that this is huge work for Sixth Year students!
It is also the most important way that we help them prepare for their upcoming transition to middle school. Throughout their Sixth Year, they face adversity, stress, success, connection, excitement. This is real-life practice. By the end of their Island Project, they have become confident in themselves; they know deeply what comes easily and what is hard. They know how to seek feedback, how to meet deadlines, how to handle high levels of responsibility, and so much more. This is a profound preparation for secondary education!
I hope you will join us at our upcoming Island Night to experience this year's projects. And, of course, I hope that we can help your child start dreaming about their own Sixth Year Island Project, too!