During the age of 12-18 years, the child is an adolescent. During this period, we witness the creation of the adult of the species, with the power to procreate and give rise to the new generations that permit the continuation of human group. This is the time when a social man is created but has not yet reached full development. This is the sensitive period when he should develop the noblest characteristics that would prepare a man to be social, that is to say, a sense of justice and personal dignity. For the growth and development of the adolescent, Dr. Maria Montessori proposed the Erdkinder (“The Land Children” or “Children of the Soil”) for the period of secondary education. This proposal includes various experiences of productive work which contribute to strengthen the adolescent’s self-confidence and faith in himself.
Dr. Maria Montessori specifies certain establishments or work environments to be a part of the Erdkinder. They are the farm, the guesthouse and the store or shop for the sale of fresh produce and craftwork. The adolescents have a strong desire to work. They are entering adulthood and they require adult like work which adds value to the society. The farm provides them with ample opportunities for purposeful work. Occupations on the farm not only satisfy the adolescent’s need for work but also have an academic aspect attached to it. Work on the farm requires careful scientific planning which imbibes in the young adult a desire to study the academic aspects of the occupation and succeed in providing purposeful work.
Doing purposeful work, the adolescent attains independence and a boost in self-confidence. They desire to be valued and by contributing to the society, they feel valued. Building genuine community is what adolescents are focused intensely on – to belong, to be genuinely accepted, to be recognized, appreciated and valued. They wish to achieve that through genuine contributions to the society.
The shop serves as a marketplace for exchange of goods. The children sell their produce and buy material required for their needs. This avenue opens up to an academic study of economy and commerce. They understand the value of currency as a tool aiding in the exchange of products. This activity puts the child on a road to economic independence. The adolescent does not necessarily aim for personal economic independence but rather for the group as a whole
Study and academic expertise take on new meaning in the Erdkinder setting. Students research and study to become aware and active citizens and fully informed problem-solvers for their community. They work to acquire expertise in science, technology and communication. They strive to understand our time in history and to move the story of human beings toward a new and promising chapter. They learn about other cultures to expand their world perspective, explore different ways of thinking and to tackle relevant issues. They are students of their time and place in history so they can understand the planet we all live on and the people who are our global family.
A presentation on the Erdkinder program at Pragnya Montessori
Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core.