Maybe you’ve seen the glow of the greenhouse in the morning, maybe you’ve seen students running around with lettuce at carline, or maybe you are already a valued TCH Organics customer- at any rate, you may wonder, what is all this lettuce growing about? Is it botany? Soil science? Carbon footprint analysis? Business education? Yes! And so much more!
In From Childhood to Adolescence, Dr. Montessori stated, “The essential reform is this: to put the adolescent on the road to achieving economic independence. We might call it a ‘school of experience in the elements of social life.” She found that the real work of the adolescent is to achieve social and economic independence through refining their personality and identifying their role in the future of humanity. To support this process, Montessori put forth what she called the “Plan of Study and Work,” which is intended to be a guide to designing a “prepared environment” best suited to support the adolescent’s self-construction in their current time and place. The “Plan of Study and Work” consists of practical structures of the environment that provide opportunities for this work as well as connections to the academic curriculum. In the case of lettuce, two of these structures are at work; the “farm” and the “store.”
The role of the farm in the prepared environment is to provide real work that connects the head and hand, and integrates the personality. This “work in a social context” is referred to as “occupation.” Social work means work in a society, in this case a mini society; it is not to be confused with the work of catching up on the latest events, trending fashion, or TicToks, although that does seem to happen simultaneously. The role of the store is to demonstrate in real time and experience that all of humanity is dependent on each other to produce and exchange goods and services necessary for survival (a concept introduced in elementary). In the prepared environment, this societal work is scaled to a level appropriate for the adolescent, with scaffolding for success and friendliness with failure. It provides real life experience with resource management, understanding interdependency, division of labor, and moral decision making regarding resource use.
In short, through growing and selling lettuce, students are provided with a wide range of opportunities to share their own interests and skills. Art, music, science, organization, communication, writing, research, mathematics, public relations, and problem solving are just a few of the talents or specializations required to successfully grow and sell lettuce. Not everyone can or wants to play the same role in this microeconomy. Each person gets a chance to realize their own special role as a contributor, a necessary part of the whole. Through working together on real work, adolescents develop a true sense of community, social organization, and their own value as a part of it. And, as a bi-product, we get to enjoy fresh, green, organic lettuce in February!