A key element of a Montessori education is its emphasis on grace, courtesy and community life. Our idea of “community service” starts at home, is integrated into our classroom experiences in developmentally appropriate ways, and expands with the child’s maturity and understanding of the world.
From the beginning, children learn to take responsibility for their physical classroom environment; they also learn to take responsibility for taking care of each other. In our mixed-age classrooms, older children are expected to be mindful of the needs of others and to help younger children with all aspects of classroom life, whether it be fastening a zipper or nursing a hurt. As children move through the school, their growing sense of empathy and responsibility to others is encouraged through ongoing service activities in the school.
In the Lower and Upper School Elementary years, the idea of community service expands beyond the school to support organizations in the neighborhood and beyond. The school conducts food and clothing drives for the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and helps with improvement projects in Riverside Park and Black Rock Forest. The Parents Association collects gently-used books for Project Cicero. For more than a decade, the school has raised money to provide warm clothing for Tibetan refugee children who live in remote areas of northwest India and attend the Central School for Tibetans in Chauntra.
Importantly, community service often arises out of the desire of children and families to make a difference. Children have led efforts to raise money for an elephant orphanage in Africa and to collect books for homeless shelters serving children and parents have rallied support for victims of Hurricane Sandy and the tsunami in Japan.