Academy Of Thought And Industry
To deepen the analogy with Montessori school, ATI:
1. Is based on a framework of autonomy with accountability: Students develop individual goals based on their life and post-high school goals. They have the freedom to define their program based on a personalized program that may include academic, entrepreneurial, or creative work. That work may take place in or out of the classroom, in conjunction with ATI or outside mentors, in formal classes, in internships, or in the pursuit of student generated initiatives. At the same time, students and parents receive feedback on progress towards those goals typically on a weekly and quarterly basis.
2. Is based on a mixed age classroom: ATI does not focus on grade levels nor ages. Our “high school” programs allow suitably mature teens of any age. Students take courses that are appropriate for their goals and skill levels regardless of age or grade level. The entire community, which may include students from age 12 through 19, often engages in activities together.
3. Is based on developmentally appropriate learning: Teens are at a stage of life in which moral reflection, social engagement, and meaningful work have become significant for them. Our teens spend many hours in moral reflection. They think deeply about our social, cultural, and political institutions. Our teens are involved with adult mentors engaged both in practical business activities as well as projects intended to improve the human condition.
4. Is based on the principal of “follow the child.” Guides respect and support the learning needs of the students and the learning and personal growth goals of the students. We put the teen’s own development first and the curriculum is a means to that end, not a goal in itself. When a particular curricular goal is inconsistent with the best interests of the child, we are willing to change or drop that particular curricular goal.
5. Is based on a commitment to cultivating deep focus. One of our goals is to support students to engage in a serious goal-driven project beyond the curriculum. It may be a film, a software product, a novel, a business, etc. But the goal is for them to develop and execute a long-term serious project in which they are engaged in deep, focused work for a period of a year or longer. The project should be such that students work on it during the school year, summers, and sometimes holidays because this is who they are and what they have chosen to do. They feel real ownership in the project and do not need to be goaded to spend focused time doing it.
6. Is committed to practical life activities. ATI students are taught practical life skills such as to be responsible for cleaning the building at the end of the day, time management, and how to start a business. Even more importantly, they are expected to engage in projects that as entrepreneurs connect them to real business customers, as writers connect them to real adult public audiences, as social entrepreneurs with real people in need, and so forth. That is, “projects” at ATI are not limited to teacher-driven classroom activities. Instead, ATI students are contributing members of the adult world while still in their teens. This both encourages them to become more mature and gives them a deep sense of meaning and purpose through participation in and contribution to adult society. The notion that teens have a development need to participate in and contribute to adult society is a core principal of Montessori’s thought.
Together these elements empower teens to flourish socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually.