Core Program Components
“Only practical work and experience lead the young to maturity.” –Maria Montessori
The Heroic Journey
Village Gate Middle School students will embark on a Heroic Journey to self-discovery, involving a celebratory rite of passage that includes their peers, families, and adult mentors. Applying Joseph Campbell’s pattern of the hero’s journey to their own lives, students will recognize calls and challenges, overcome fears, learn to distinguish allies from ogres, and discover the courage they need to enter confidently into the adult world. While mindful of their own journeys, students explore literary, historical and contemporary heroes and their journeys. They identify with these heroes, both fictional and real, and study the challenges, risks, loss and sacrifice encountered on the path toward the development of a unique identity and place in society.
Just as the younger student requires practical life work to develop the skills necessary for daily life and membership in society, the adolescent must engage in authentic work to develop occupational skills and an understanding of the economic world that they will ultimately join, and, it is our hope, lead. By creating and running a business independently, students learn how to plan, organize and collaborate effectively with support and lessons from teachers on topics ranging from marketing and accounting to passion, purpose, leadership and creativity. At every step students are guided to reflect on their enterprise, how they measure its success, and how it contributes to the community.
The Individual Endeavor is an opportunity for students to pursue their passions and take charge of their own learning. Building from the passion projects pursued in the elementary program, middle school students choose a topic of interest to study in depth. They conduct research, but go beyond the typical research report to create inventive projects, organize field trips, master new skills, or participate in internships. A primary requirement of the endeavor is contacting an expert in the students’ field of interest. This contact provides a wealth of practical life experience—formal letter writing, phone etiquette, interviewing and networking skills, as well as persistence and patience. The culmination of the Individual Endeavor is unique to each student and includes the sharing of the student’s new expertise with the entire school community.
Community and Self Care
Village Gate Middle School devotes special attention to the social and emotional well-being of its adolescents. The communication skills established in Newer and Upper Elementary Peace Tables form the foundation for deeper relationships and a supportive environment in which difficult topics like puberty, gender, peer and family relations, drugs and alcohol, sex education, nutrition, social media and self-image can be openly discussed. Students study the function of the brain and its development and learn how to recognize its role in their often-volatile emotional states. They develop a practice of mindfulness in order to reduce daily stress and nurture a sense of awareness and compassion for both the self and others. (For more on mindfulness click here.) In connection with their study of citizenship in history class, students reflect on what it means to be an “upstander” whose choices and actions at school and in the local community have a significant ripple effect on the world. Students have opportunities to contribute to the Village Gate community through interaction with the elementary students, and to the Encinitas community through local service projects.