In the MCH Middle School, students take responsibility for their own learning. Every day they make decisions, set priorities and practice time management skills – along with developing a strong sense of community and world awareness. The learning is hands-on and investigative. They are encouraged to do their own research, analyze what they have found and form their own conclusions. Emotional intelligence is solidified and students gain organizational skills for life.
Self-Identity and Community
Self-identity and community are the heart of MCH’s middle school program.
Each day starts with “Community Meeting” time, an organized, student-run meeting in which students exercise practical rules and the challenges of effective dialogue and cooperation within an agreed upon time frame. Each meeting, a “facilitator” will conduct the meetings that involve sections of physical exercise, mental challenges, music listening and study, as well as sections where students work together to establish community rules and boundaries that are agreed upon for their validity. This is also a time where students have the chance to share things about themselves that they might otherwise choose to share during valuable work time.
With a focus on self-reflection as well as relationship building, Personal World gives students a chance to decompress each day for 20 minutes. During this time, called Personal Reflection, students respond to prompts based on their readings. Year A uses the texts Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens and The Habits of Mind, while Year B is based on The Heroic Journey program. In addition to responding to prompts, students also have a free day each week, where they can choose from a variety of activities including: reading, quietly resting, personal writing, or anything else that involves introspection. While at first it may be unusual, students quickly learn to prize having this peaceful and quiet time to themselves.
Nestled in our spacious 5-acre campus, the Middle School classroom is situated with views of the woods, located on protected wetlands. As a King County Level 3 Green School, MCH has a green team that middle school students are welcome to participate in, often without much prompting.
In 2020, our students entered into a national environmentally focused competition called OurEcho, with one of the teams making into the top 10 finalists. This group had identified that in our wetlands, invasive English ivy had been slowly overtaking natural brush and trees, with a couple trees having been killed. They created a program for removing and treating the ivy, and presented their project in front of a national audience online. More importantly, it motivated not only the students who created the project, but also many others, to continue to monitor and treat the ivy on campus beyond the end of the contest.
The middle school program also manages and organizes MCH’s annual community giving drive, partnering with local organizations to gather and deliver food and other goods to families in need. The students are responsible for gathering dropped off food, documenting what has been collected, and leading in loading and delivering the collected goods to our partner organization.
MCH Middle School Staff
The Middle School Lead Teacher, Marc Cobb, holds his Secondary I & II Credential (AMS) through the Houston Montessori Center, as well as an M.Ed. in Montessori Integrative Learning from Endicott College. The MCH Middle School curriculum is based on the training Marc received and seeks to address the needs of the adolescent in a more natural, organic way than is found in a traditional middle school classroom. Montessori secondary education values adolescence as a wholly separate stage of development from those before or after it. Maria Montessori called this stage the Third Plane of Development and emphasized that students at this age have a very specific set of needs different from the first and second stages.
The MCH Middle School program operates within the framework established and maintained by Dr. Elisabeth Coe through the Houston Montessori Center in Houston, TX. Dr. Coe first developed the program at School of the Woods, also in Houston. That school has the honor of being the first Montessori Middle School program accredited by AMS (The American Montessori Society).
Time-Management and Organization
The MCH middle school students develop time-management and organization skills from their first moments in the middle school. Orientation lessons include learning how to create and organize files on their laptops, how to navigate our digital learning tools such as Word, Powerpoint, Teams and Zoom, and how to create a personalized planning process to use each day.
Through one on one and small group check-ins, students are guided to take what they’ve learned and present it to their peers. In this way, students are consistently learning from one another, and also learning how to work closely with one another in rotating groups throughout the year.
The MCH middle school program was created to continue supporting our vision and mission statements, ultimately leading to our Portrait of a Graduate. Our students move on to high school resilient, curious and empowered to take charge of their education and to find their place in the world as they continue their journey to adulthood.
The video below provides insight into our middle school program, where we understand how formative this age is in a student’s development, and our deep responsibility to help set them up for success for whatever comes next.
Homework is never assigned without definitive context. Given the depth of the projects taken on, as well as the learning process of time management and organization, it is likely that your student will begin to take work home more frequently than they have previously. The middle school curriculum and workload is designed so that students will often finish most or all their work during school hours. With that in mind, some periods of the curriculum schedule carry a heavier or more complex workload than others. Recognizing that adolescents naturally require time for purposes of self-construction and formation of identity outside of school work, students are encouraged to use their scheduled work time efficiently and effectively so that after school hours may be primarily dedicated to valuable extracurricular, social or family time.
Middle School uses a rating system based on “mastery levels of achievement.” Essentially, they are given a percentage of achievement, similar in appearance to traditional percentage-based grading. However, in the Montessori middle school curriculum, the numbers do not match how they are interpreted in a traditional program. The goal is for a student to achieve “Mastery” in each subject by the end of the cycle (more on that later). Each assignment completed requires a “mastery” rating to be considered “complete.” To achieve Mastery, the student needs to reach an 80% or higher on their assignments, as well as the end of cycle assessments. Though this is quite different in appearance in some ways, students will absolutely have access to a translated, traditional report for when they move on to high school. Rest assured that students will not only have the education and experience they need for moving on to high school, the incoming schools will have whatever is needed to accurately place students into their programs.
The MCH Middle School Program represents an integration of Common Core and Washington State standards and up-to-date research on the developmental needs of adolescents, the Montessori approach to education, research-based learning theory and teaching methods, and the assessment of skills needed to lead a productive life of continuous learning and cooperation. The program seeks to provide an environment and experience that encourages students to flourish academically to the point of exceeding the mentioned standards of academic achievement; however, equally as important is guiding adolescent students into becoming independent, responsible, critical, and compassionate individuals. This coincides with Maria Montessori’s vision for education as a system that allows students to physically access the world, and in turn, to develop into charitable stewards of their environments and communities.