Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pedagogy of Place...

I have just finished up my third week of training, and there's so much work to do that I haven't had a spare moment.  It's been a bit since I last wrote, so let me recap the last week and a half.  My theme for this blog is going to be the topic of our discussions in our recent lectures: Pedagogy of Place, so I will try to tie that into all my ramblings...

When I last checked in, I was at the Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg for the week.  I loved it there.  I  can't imagine a more interesting, safe, warm and inviting environment for a young teenager.  Most of our mornings were filled with lecture, but our afternoons were always filled with a hands-on activity.  The Hershey school (the farm) has divided their week so that they have math, humanities, and occupations on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  On Wednesdays, they spend the entire day on creative expression (art, music, drama, etc) and physical expression (p.e.).  Pedagogy of Place basically means how do you use your place to help you teach.  At the farm it is easy- there are the animals, the kitchen, the garden, the maintenance of everything from which you can pull out a lesson or an area of study.  If you are on the occupation of beekeeping for the month (occupations generally run 4 to 6 weeks) then all of your science comes from that work.  Your language arts and humanities studies can also come from that work.  We basically spent the week learning about how the farm can provide all the lessons and activities for the students' studies.  It was very important for the trainers to stress to us, and then in turn, us to our own students' parents, that living on the farm is not about learning how to farm- it is about providing a multitude of opportunities for a child to become more and more independent so that they are a fully functioning, self-sufficient adult when they enter society in just a few years as a fully participating member.  I cannot leave this paragraph on the farm without mentioning that I learned how to slaughter a chicken...I did the whole progress from start to finish- talk about learning how to be independent :)

This last week we returned to Cleveland for our studies.  As Monday was the 4th of July, there was no class, but we started first thing Tuesday morning at the Montessori High School, which is in walking distance from my dorm room.  Just as the farm is in the perfect place for what it wants to do for the students, so is the high school.  Not only is it in a beautiful historic mansion that has been repurposed as a school in a row of similar houses, it is in walking distance to the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum, The Botanical Gardens, the University, and Cleveland's Little Italy, and the Cleveland Historical Society.  It is also just a two minute walk to Wade Circle, which hosts a variety of different events on the lawn all year long.  This is really where the idea of "pedagogy of place" comes in.    We spent Tuesday making mind-maps- first we chose a topic (I chose natural fibers) and then we traveled to all the various places to gather information on our topic.  My intention was to begin at the botanical gardens and then head over to the Museum of Natural History, but once I got to the botanical gardens, I never left.  (They have an amazing herb garden, complete with a whole section dedicated to plants used for dyes, and their children's garden was spectacular.)  David Kahn's point in having us do this was to show us how the high school students can get their information in an out-of-the-classroom, first-hand inquiry kind of way.  He has students who work as interns at the various places, and a group of his students even got to travel last year to Mongolia on a paleontological dig with a few scientists from the Museum of Natural History.  
On Wednesday, we headed down to Hudson, Ohio, to see an example of an urban Adolescent program. The head of the Hudson Montessori School is Pat Ludick, who has been instrumental in bring forth an adolescent Montessori program in America.  She and David Kahn were among the original small group of Montessorians who met with Renilde Montessori and Cammilo Grazzini to decide what Montessori's vision of Erdkinder really was.  What I really appreciated about Pat's school is that it reminded me so much of The World Learner School- or at least what our possible future will be, as her school has taken 50 years to get to where it is today.  Her adolescent program is small and growing.  They just purchased a small house for the Ado. program, but it is not a farm.  They do their farm work on a historic farm owned by the city, which is about a 10 minute drive from the school.  Pat wanted to show us what a "village model" of Montessori looked like, so she had us head into downtown Hudson for the day.  It reminds me so much of Chaska, with its central park and gazebo and all the historic buildings circumscribing the park.  She divided us up into groups- some of us interviewed the mayor, some of us interviewed elders, some of us talked to shop keepers, and others of us had a walking tour of Hudson.  My crew sat in the park and drew pictures of the historic architecture.  Many of us finished off the day with ice-cream at Hatti' was a lovely day.
The next two days weren't as exciting as the first two had been, but they were very informative.  We basically spent all day in lecture, talking about what our places have to offer us and what we need to make sure our places have to offer.  It has really made me think about the setting of WLS for the adolescent students (we're not to call them Middle Schoolers, David says.)  
On top of all my lectures, I still had a set of lexicon to work on and my third essay is due Monday morning- MLA format with parenthetical citation :(  As busy as we have been, our big work is just starting, which we spent some time Friday afternoon talking about.  Each of us has to prepare a prospectus of our program, complete with mission statement, vision, goals, scope and sequence, pedagogy of our place, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  We begin Monday focusing on our areas of study, so I'll be heading off to work with the Language Arts people.  I am, however, going to sit in on the other curriculum areas information as often as I can, especially Occupations/Humanities, as I have to go back and explain all this to my two co-teachers.
But, now it's Saturday and I'm off to historic Kidron to look at quilts and do some shopping with my cousins.  My mom and Melanie are here, too, for the weekend, so I don't foresee that essay on pedagogy of place happening any time will be a late night Sunday :)