Service learning is an integral part of holistic student education. For Montessorians, service falls within our peace curriculum, which links individual social-emotional learning to safe and inclusive classroom communities and extends to creating a sustainable and peaceful planet.
In the Montessori elementary curriculum, the Fundamental Needs of Humans lesson highlights peoples’ material and spiritual needs. This lesson opens conversations about ways people everywhere have the same basic needs, even if, for example, different cultures eat different foods to satisfy hunger. This peace curriculum lesson encourages understanding and respect for people all over the world.
Our Montessori classrooms take the service learning concept and put the child in the center, which is why we have student-initiated service projects. As with all areas of the Montessori curriculum, we know that students will be most motivated and engaged if they are following their own passions. That’s why we don’t impose service ideas on children but rather guide them towards ideas, ask who may want to join, and support them along the way to bring their ideas to fruition. Service projects teach students that they have agency in our community and the world.
Students start by identifying a problem and considering how they might change it.
Just as the works on classroom shelves move from simplest to more complex, so do the plans and efforts of our students. Planning a service project requires students to:
- Use persuasive reasoning to explain the project (who benefits and why) to their teacher and the Education Director.
- Develop presentation skills by introducing the project to peers at a Community Meeting
- Brainstorm what might lead to the greatest success, including scheduling for optimal attendance and making a plan for advertising
- Practice organization and collaboration for the event itself.
Some efforts are philanthropic: taking action to raise funds for a larger organization. Other projects involve direct acts of service. Book drives and bake sales are excellent practice opportunities for more complex projects like CKCKC (Chiaravalle Kids Conquer Kids Cancer). Each starts with a student identifying a problem and asking themself, “What can I do about this?”
- Lower Elementary students Hailey, Juniper, Jade, and Maya hosted a bake sale to combat homelessness in Evanston. With an initial goal of $100, they were thrilled to deliver $456.12 to the Executive Director of Family Promise Chicago North Shore.
- Upper Elementary student Lydia raised more than $400 in support of rebuilding Ethiopian health centers and schools for United to Rebuild Better Ethiopia.
- Upper Elementary student Jaden rallied the community to collect 632 books for Bernie’s Book Drive.