A Farmer’s what? And other thoughts on why LCMCS is so community-involved

With a couple weeks’ break under my belt, and now that the heat has lessened just a bit, I am back at work on numerous projects – and looking forward to school starting again soon. Working on plans for next year, it seems like just around the corner to me!

There’s much going on at LCMCS during the summer. Rick Trostel just presented a pair of beautiful trumpet and piano concerts, with thanks to LCMCS parent Allison Wilkerson for accompanying! There’s also a mariachi band in the works, which anyone can join in on, Helping Hands for the Hungry produce basket deliveries to senior citizens, lots of work to do on our farm, and then Day in Damascus comes up July 25, and of course Farmer’s Market every Thursday.

Hold the phone! you say. What do those events have to do with a SCHOOL?

Well, keep in mind that this school operates with a special set of unifying principles, which pervades everything we do – from math and reading, to trips and service projects, to community involvement. Maria Montessori had a grand vision of education being “the help we give to life, so that it may develop in the greatness of its powers”. Dr Montessori recognized that education does not start at 5 or 6 years, and end with the college graduate: she created a system of education that spans birth through early adulthood, and if she had lived longer, probably would have developed work for the golden years, too.

Montessori also recognized that learning did not start when a person enters a classroom, nor end at the exit of the school. For children attending Montessori school, the world is their classroom, either figuratively, allowing study far beyond the prescriptive curriculum, but also literally, going into the natural and cultural worlds on a regular basis.

It is a Montessori educational precept that learning is first done by observation – of a natural phenomenon, or of another person in action – and then is solidified by direct experience. As an organization, LCMCS endeavors to embody these ideas in all aspects of its work – classroom, administration, governance, and community involvement. Another great thinker and doer, Mohandas Gandhi is often quoted as saying “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Both Montessori and Gandhi were working toward a more peaceful world – by example, and by involving others in direct experience.

Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in order to preserve the integrity of her work, and to ensure the dissemination of the core ideas throughout the world. From the AMI global website, the organization’s mission is stated as: To support the natural development of the human being from birth to maturity, enabling children to become transforming elements of society leading to a harmonious and peaceful world. The vision is to clearly touch lives in more ways than just serving students in the classroom, as important as that work is. This is the larger, important vision that guides Montessori education.

Additionally, Dr Montessori’s granddaughter, Renilde Montessori, wrote in 1999:

“(Our work) must transcend the obvious (borders) to do with nations and states. The truly important ones are the psychological and spiritual frontiers – the ideological, religious, racial, social and economic, cultural and linguistic boundaries which artificially divide a humanity as yet largely unaware of its intrinsic unity and interconnectedness…

Dr Montessori’s work can be applied in a wide variety of ways that can benefit the cause of the child beyond the school and the home. Her own term for the pedagogy she created was ‘Education as an Aid to Life’, and education as an aid to life is applicable at any time, in any place, within all social strata, through public or private agencies, in settings rural, urban and remote.

When Montessori principles are applied in the wider context of society, their possibilities are vast and all-encompassing. They can be of incalculable help to parents, social workers, child-care workers, family counselors, in short, to any person involved with the developing human being.”

To be true to our values, the school’s involvement in the community is intended to provide a model and an opportunity to experience civic engagement, and to participate in solving some social problems in the community in real and meaningful ways. While it may not seem immediately obvious to all, putting LCMCS front and center in the community by managing the Farmer’s Market, when it was in danger of closing after last season, not only spotlights the school and its programs, but also provides networking and support opportunities for the community.

Our own Montessori Adolescent Corps has a booth at the market, selling their farm-grown produce. They donate their surplus each week to the Helping Hands for the Hungry program that the adolescents began in 2014. Importantly, other market vendors have also jumped onto the wagon of donating to the program, which delivers fresh vegetables and other food to senior citizens in the area who experience food scarcity issues.Lately, individual citizens have brought surplus from their own home gardens to add to the baskets. This is how the natural human impulse to help others finds a place to take root and grow. This is how the work of the young begins to transform the world, even in a small way.

The baskets are delivered by volunteers door to door, and the recipients delight in not only the fresh produce, but also the social interaction. They learn about how to use different vegetables they’d never tasted before, and share stories of their lives. In this simple way, LCMCS is supporting some very real work which makes a big difference in a small corner of the world. From these beginnings, great things may grow – it’s a way we can walk our talk outside of school walls. And a lot of good food and good times are shared along the way.