“We work consciously with adolescents. We put great energy into helping them to find their way in the world.”
The next fundamental development in the young person’s life occurs between the ages of twelve and fifteen. This is of course a stage we know of as adolescence or puberty. Once again the physical changes that take place (rapid growth, hormonal change and sexual maturity) are reflected by other changes in the young person’s intellectual, emotional and spiritual life. The young person’s thinking changes in adolescence. They develop from thinking in concrete terms to independently forming their own questions about the world. The world becomes more confusing and confronting at this age! The adolescent begins to ask questions and to seek answers in an abstract way. “What is freedom?” “What is the right way to live?” They become aware of the many contradictions of the adult world. They begin to feel passionately about issues that may not directly affect them. Their social sense of justice emerges.
This is the young person our middle school curriculum meets and consciously works with. It is a young person who can easily feel the urge to rebel against school, work and authority. At Sophia Mundi the adolescent’s unfolding freedom of thinking, feeling and willing is directed creatively in the many different aspects of Steiner education. We work with consciously with adolescents. We put great energy into helping them to find their way in the world. We often customise our syllabus to meet the adolescent student’s needs. As the students begin to think like adults, we challenge them to assume a degree of adult responsibility for their ideas and actions.
In many important respects the middle school is structured in a similar way to a mainstream middle school. The core subjects of Mathematics, English and Foreign Language form the spine of the students’ studies. Additional subjects like IT, Drama, Art, Music, Woodwork and Biology are introduced as independent subjects from class 8. Students begin to move from classroom to classroom for different lessons with specialist teachers. They become more responsible for understanding and organising their timetable. The daily Main Lessons (in English, Mathematics, History, Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Drama) remain as fundamental experiences in their learning, and likewise the principles of Steiner education remain core to the teachers’ approaches to lessons. But whereas the difference between a Steiner primary classroom and a mainstream classroom may be conspicuous, by middle school the differences are less obvious. This is the ideal: that by the completion of school the Steiner student has an education that makes them ready to meet the so-called mainstream world with intellectual, emotional and moral purpose.
Beyond their core subjects adolescents are challenged to take responsibility for their independence. In class 8 they are entrusted with organising, documenting and completing their own year-long creative project, resulting in a presentation to the whole school community. They also learn and perform a complete Shakespearean play in the original language. In class 9 they undertake seven very different and challenging outdoor explorations that require their initiative, cooperation and perseverance. The adolescent energy that becomes easily frustrated in the conventional classroom is stimulated in this way. In class 10 the students move out of adolescence in the most powerful of ways, experiencing their own independence in the world on a term long international exchange. Consistently, we find that when students return from their exchange they have discovered inner strengths of resolve and purpose to succeed in the challenges that follow.