- Adolescents - The Adolescent Experience
- Pedagogy of Place
- Adolescent - Mathematics
- Creative Expression
- Adolescent - Occupations
- Physical Expression
- The Next Step
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They might tell you they're all over the map. And that can be true - quite literally - for the students in grades 7 through 9 who make up Omni's Middle School, known as the Program for Adolescents.
Though their academic home base is Omni's 13-acre Land Lab in Waxhaw, you might find them conducting field research at a geological site, horse-back riding on a nearby farm, or lugging instruments and amplifiers into the Activity Center for a Friday-evening “Coffee House” performance. On given weekends, they sell organic produce they've grown at a nearby farmers market. And class trips take students and faculty to the mountains of North Carolina or museums in Virginia - experiences that enhance their class work in botany, physics, and much more.
Omni's Land Lab is located 20 miles south of Main Campus in Waxhaw, North Carolina. To the casual observer, it is a serene and picturesque farm with a modern main building, pond, barn, and ample wooded space. In Montessori terms, the campus is a safe and nurturing prepared environment, consistent with Maria Montessori's vision for adolescent growth. It is a place for holistic human development - classrooms for conventional learning, a natural habitat abundant in opportunities for field study, and an authentic community where teens can develop and test mature social and economic interaction.
Like all students in what Maria Montessori termed the adolescent plane of development, Omni's 12- to 15-year-olds are transitioning to the adult realm. Their bodies and minds are undergoing powerful changes - and they are beginning to sort out and tackle grown-up roles, relationships, and responsibilities. Though often unsure and untested, they are thirsty for intellectual stimulation, creative expression, independence, and internal validation.
"The Land Lab is certainly unique," says one parent. "It is an academically challenging Middle School in a Walden Pond setting. It gives the students an opportunity to evolve into unique individuals on their own terms. They get to test their adult wings in authentic ways, but with a sturdy safety net."
Middle School students receive a rigorous grounding in language, math, science, the arts and humanities, and in the completion of adult-like work known as the "occupations" curriculum. Classrooms in the main building are used for traditional study, and include an art studio, library, and science and computer labs. Classroom work is integrated with field study, "goings out," interaction with visiting experts, work and off the farm, and a range of other experiences.
The students' daily ritual is not unlike those of more traditional schools. Possessions are stowed in lockers, classes start and end at regular intervals, homework is assigned and assessed, and the comprehension of knowledge and concepts is formally tested. The approach, however, is thoroughly Montessori - where the end result lies not in a letter grade or diploma, but in the development of intellect, creativity, and independence. Teachers provide direction and guidance, but encourage students to work freely and independently. "Our goal is to produce students who can transition easily not just to high school and college," says Head of School Grae Baker, "but into a complex and constantly changing world in dire need of independent thinkers and innovative problem solvers."