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Students with violins

New Switzer Mesa Campus (Under Construction)

High School: Grades 9-12 / Ages 15-18

“The need that is so keenly felt for a reform of secondary schools is not only an educational but also a human and social problem. This can be summed up in one sentence: Schools as they are today are adapted neither to the needs of adolescence nor to the time in which we live.”  Dr. Maria Montessori

“Provide an environment that matches the needs of the adolescent as he emerges into a ‘social being’.  There will be many opportunities for building community with small group work, shared decision making and problem solving, and an environment that fosters trust, group interaction and dialog.” Dr. Elizabeth Coe

In August 2013, the Montessori Charter School of Flagstaff will open the doors of the Montessori High School at Switzer Mesa. The high school and the present middle school will be located in a three story structure on the same property as the elementary school of MCSF at 850 N. Locust Street in Flagstaff.  During the 2013-2014 academic year, the high school will serve grades 9 and 10.  Grades 11 & 12 will be added the following year.

The high school will build on the pedagogical foundation of the extremely successful MCSF middle school that has been operating for over a decade.  Please refer to the middle school section for an understanding of that foundation. Naturally, the curriculum will be expanded and will include the most successful characteristics of the best Montessori high schools in America. The expanded middle school and the high school (grades 7-12), known also as the Montessori secondary school, will utilize the methodology developed by Dr. Maria Montessori and will also include a significant portion of the principles of experiential learning.

Eighth grade students enrolled at the Montessori middle school during the 2012-2013 academic year will be considered as continuing students and will have the first opportunity to enroll in the Montessori high school before we begin admitting students from a waiting list, as is the case with all other students attending the Montessori Charter School of Flagstaff.


Program Philosophy

As is the case with all levels of Montessori education, the practical hands-on approach is key to the success of the model. As in the middle school, the high school curriculum will stress an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to learning.  Other elements of the program will include the highly successful thematic method of instruction; discovery-based learning; both individual and small-group project-based education; service learning; internships; and the following additional elements:

  • The entire program is kept small to enable a personal approach to education and is defined by the developmental needs of the older adolescent.
  • Montessori secondary teachers, like their students are regarded as individuals, with different teaching styles and approaches, and are free to modify their assignments and to assess their students in a variety of ways.  The teachers serve as guides, mentors and sounding-boards as much as they serve as instructors.
  • Teachers encourage and help their students to develop patience, self-esteem, compassion, self-discipline, independence and an appreciation of the talents and foibles of their peers. In this way the teachers and students form a safe learning environment based on trust and mutual respect.
  • Because Dr. Montessori saw that most of the world’s complex problems have been and continue to be solved by small groups, the Montessori methodology encourages cooperative learning and does not emphasize academic competition among the students (at any level). This approach enables Montessori students to be assessed objectively, not on a curve, but through a variety of individual techniques including portfolios, long-term projects and self-evaluation.
  • The curriculum includes many opportunities to solve meaningful problems and develop research skills, logical reasoning, and higher order thinking rather than simply the ability to memorize information presented in lectures and textbooks and to then regurgitate that information, an approach so common in most high schools, even those based on so-called new and challenging models.
  • The curriculum will present a broad view of the shrinking world, emphasizing interdependencies, interconnectedness and multicultural richness.
  • Student-led activities, particularly at the high school level, enhance the development of initiative, self-advocacy, individuality, and personal awareness. Students are encouraged to participate in the planning and operation of the school and its community.
  • Students are expected to consider the social issues of the community in which they live, to volunteer where possible, and create internship experiences that not only foster the development of personal ethical mores, but also promote the entrepreneurial spirit and community-minded nature of the school.

Basic Building and Program Structure

The Montessori secondary school (grades 7-12) will be divided into three “houses” each with two “communities”.  The building itself will be constructed of three stories with grades 7 & 8 in the lower house, grades 9 & 10 in the middle house and grades 11 & 12 in the upper house.  Each house will serve a maximum of 36 students per community and be guided by 4 core teachers and a variety of specialists.  Each house will be structurally composed of a large community room (with kitchen) serving as library, lunchroom, and presentation room; four main classrooms; art room; and two smaller breakout classrooms/sunrooms. A separate music room will serve the entire school. The gymnasium will be added during phase II of construction.

The basic operation of the middle school program (lower house, grades 7 & 8) will remain unchanged, although certain elements of the program will be enhanced and an outdoor gardening element will be added.

The high school academic program (grades 9-12) will be composed of four quarters each academic year.  At the end of the first and third quarters each year, the students will participate in a 1-2 week intensive “intersession” (a total of 8 during the 4 year program).  These intersessions will enable the students to enroll in a variety of electives not normally available to high school students.  Examples of these electives might be: Sustainable Living, Ecology and Cultures of the Southwest, Martial Arts for Fitness and Health, Entrepreneurial Studies, Basic Personal Finance, Geology of the Southwest, National Treasures of Washington, D.C., Film Study, The College Experience, and so on. During these intersessions opportunities for national and international travel will gradually be added.

Another experience of the middle and high school programs will be entitled “Working the Land” and will be dedicated to establishing and maintaining organic gardens both on the campus and elsewhere in Flagstaff and Camp Verde.  Food raised in the campus gardens will play a role in the entrepreneurial studies module and the school’s student run salad bar business.  The object of this element will be to help students recognize the need for practical harmony in the management of the earth’s resources.

Other elements of the Montessori secondary school programs will be announced as the date for opening the new school draws nearer.

Dr. Maria MontessoriAnd so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange . . . a special environment made for the child.
—Dr. Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

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