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Ode to the Middle School

Last week the Middle School students headed off for their annual, early school year bonding trip in the White Mountains. The purpose of the trip is to bring the group together and establish their roles as leaders of the School. For three days the group participated in team building exercises and went on three separate hikes. A few things stood out during the course of the three days; in short the group acquitted itself well and showed the virtues of a Montessori education.

In the Montessorri philosophy, the adolescent years adhere to the concept of Valorization. Valorization is “the process of becoming a strong and worthy person.” Characteristics such as selflessness, optimism, confidence, and ability to work with others are essential to adolescent development. The middle schoolers demonstrated many of these attributes during their time together.

On the second day we headed out for a day-long hike. The day dawned with a steady windswept rain and relatively cool temperatures in the low 50s, needless to say not optimal hiking weather and a high potential for complaining. If there were grounds for some reticence this was it, but there were none. Both groups trudged out and hiked for five hours. The terrain had some intense bursts of altitude and some slippery descents. I have done many of these types of hikes with middle school aged kids, and witnessed much complaining; but not our Riverbend crew.  Most gratifying was seeing the kids support their peers who often were picking up the rear. I always heard encouragement and support from the group for each and every individual. To end the day with kids who were tired, wet, and who possessed a real sense of accomplishment was fantastic.

The last day, in the sunshine, we did a short hike up to a breathtaking vista looking west toward Mount Washington. Here again our group demonstrated their appreciation for nature by sitting atop this beautiful ledge to drink in the beauty that surrounded them.

A less obvious but equally important by-product of the trip was the culture that was established. Without fanfare, the chaperones witnessed kids supporting each other, reaching out to the new students, and selfless gestures of kindness and camaraderie. We were in close proximity for three days, took two long van rides, sleept in adjacent rooms, and ate meals together, and we continued to see flexibility, grace, and humor. Our group of young adolescents demonstrated the attributes that Maria Montessori opined over one hundred years ago — she would have been proud. I know we were.

Whitney Slade, Head of School

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