Montessori philosophy emphasizes the idea that physical work and a connection to nature help adolescents discover their strengths and capabilities. This tenant—paired with our belief that a sense of belonging is essential for an individual’s optimal achievement and our desire to foster personal growth and self-understanding in our students —is the catalyst for our annual Middle School Outdoor Education trip. The experience gives Middle School students the opportunity to establish a strong sense of community, to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors together and to push themselves outside of their comfort zones as individuals and as a group.
One of the highlights of the 8th grade year at WMS is the Expert Project, a long-term research project that demands dedication, organization, patience and hard work. The Expert Project is an opportunity for students to pull all of their academic skills together in one final research paper and presentation on a topic that is important to them.
WMS students are required to complete one-week internships in the fall of their 8th grade year so that they may begin to pursue real-life work that is meaningful to them. The program allows our students to apply what they’ve learned about themselves—individually and as members of a community—to the world around them, in a very tangible way.
The Hero’s Journey is a rite of passage for our 7th-graders, based on “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” a seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. A well-known quote from the book’s introduction summarizes the universal journey of heroes. “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” The symbolism of the Hero’s Journey, the public presentation of the initiate, and the achievement of a challenging personal goal all serve to give the adolescent a sense of the significance and nobility of his or her own personal journey.
It is important for students to understand that they have the power to positively impact the lives of others. Community Service is woven into the MS curriculum from daily jobs within the classrooms to larger off-campus projects. Students develop empathy, humility and leadership skills during their time spent serving others.
Within the larger Middle School community are 5 Advisor Groups led by one Head Teacher (Advisor) and made up of students from 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Students get individual help with academic organization from their Advisors who focus on the personal growth and development of each student. Advisor Groups meet once a day and also gather together for lunch. There is time set aside for community meeting, with a focus on group problem solving and personal reflection.