Middle School (Grades 7 & 8)

The foundation of the Ratner Montessori Middle School program is built upon the understanding of the physical and psychological developmental needs of the adolescent. The environment, pedagogy, and practices are all prepared to meet these needs. Students have four different learning spaces within our school building that they can independently walk to including an upstairs combined classroom with a language and math space, a community room, a science lab, and a commercial kitchen. Students are given opportunities for movement, to use works that allow the connection of the hand and mind, to have authentic experiences in their learning, to contribute to the community, and to gain independence through their academic, social, and practical life experiences. 

Students learn through group activities that contribute to their own self-construction. Through their interdisciplinary studies, students gain an understanding and practice in the human need for reciprocity while working with others. Through their work, they learn responsibility and gain independence. They find ways to make their own contributions to the community and gain valorization and self-confidence. This work includes:

  • Caring for the land with gardens/bioshelter/hoophouse
  • Planning class trips together to meet everyone’s needs
  • Learning about the value of production and exchange in human society through experiences with a small business (microeconomy)
  • Applying skills learned in academics to hands-on projects for the community and/or environment
  • Learning leadership skills through managerial positions and opportunities to voice ideas


Example: Students in Food Preservation used their expertise to propose a new product for the microeconomy small business, raspberry jam. The manager of production wrote an email to parents asking for donations towards this project. One student researched different plants that could provide a barrier to the windy conditions of the environment. Students planted raspberry bushes as a wind barrier to the hoop house that will provide raspberries for the new product for years to come.  

In the “Educational Syllabus,” Dr. Maria Montessori wrote about the adolescent’s need for self-expression, psychic development, and preparation for adult life. Self-Expression is an important part of the adolescent experience because it meets the needs of the self-conscious, growing student. It provides an avenue to reflect and contribute a piece of themselves in their work, as well as develop self-awareness and voice to express how they think, feel, and understand. Psychic development in the adolescent involves math, language and moral development. These three areas are integral to human interdependency and are required for social interaction. Middle school students at Ratner build skills in critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, and adaptation in an ever-growing technological, global community preparing them for their role in adult society. 

  • Math
    • Integrated skill practice
    • Math seminar
    • Integrated and community-based projects
  • Reading
    • Literature Circles with Socratic seminar discussions building analytical skills
    • Workshops that foster literacy and reading skills
  • Writing
    • Embedded into all academic disciplines
    • Workshops that teach for understanding in grammar, syntax, and genres of writing
    • Strong research writing skills built into humanities and occupations projects
  • Humanities
    • Projects that examine scientific discoveries and geological explorations to understand what human social life was like before and after; to understand how humans have progressed through time
    • Key lessons examining history through an equitable lens with deep dive opportunities for students
    • Connection to community through local experts and resources
    • Projects foster skills in research, public speaking, critical thinking, and self-expression 
  • Occupations
    • Projects that study the earth and living things, as well as how humans have impacted the earth through science and technology
    • Students learn scientific principles and processes related to work being done in the community
    • Real work that needs to be done, real occupations, and the science skills needed to accomplish them
    • Applying skills and knowledge to tasks in the community
    • Connection to community through local experts and resources
    • Projects foster skills in research, scientific processes and experiments, public speaking and communication, critical thinking, and self-expression
  • Co-Curriculars
    • Spanish 
    • Art
    • Music and Band
    • PE

Practical life opportunities connect students to the concept that the work of the hand can sustain everyday life and contribute to the community. Students also work together every Friday afternoon in Community Work to complete tasks necessary to keep the community projects and small business running smoothly.

  • Two students help prepare snack for the community every day learning skills in time management, sanitation, knife safety and handling, and culinary cooking
  • Students learn the management of a commercial kitchen
  • Students facilitate morning meetings and a weekly community meeting where they can reflect on their week and express issues they would like to resolve
  • Students work together with their advisors at the end of the day to clean and care for the middle school spaces and environment
  • Student Managers:
    • Kitchen managers create weekly menus, rotations of students on snack prep, and table managers for lunch clean-up
    • Film/Video manager and apprentices work with alumni parent and local expert Stephen Greenberg to create marketing videos and collect footage of the community
    • Production manager makes sure the microeconomy business is running smoothly, communicates to adults in the community, and plans for upcoming events

Microeconomy is where students learn the aspects of economics by participating in production and exchange of products and services. They learn how to run a small business including budgeting, product planning, business proposal writing, professional communication, profit and loss, marketing, and connecting to the outside community. Students gain an understanding of social organization through working together to contribute to the business and community. Manager positions allow students an opportunity to lead other students in specific microeconomy areas. Students write a resumé and interview for the manager positions.

Students have an advisor who helps guide goal setting, executive functioning skills, reflection, community building, and communication about difficult or challenging moments in their day. Students write in journals, prepare their portfolio with chosen works for student-led conferences, reflect on their goals, and think about ways to help manage any school stress.


Peace Education is integrated into all aspects of the program and includes:

  • The approach of how we speak to and with each other 
  • Discussing and learning about Human Reciprocity in production and exchange (microeconomy)
  • Finding methods that work for the individual to take breaks and "reset" (for example, a lap around the hallway, getting some water, moving to another space)
  • Socratic Seminar in curricular areas including conversations about history, science, math, literature, and peace and justice
  • Socratic Language - asking questions rather than assuming
  • Before lunch, a student rings the chime and shares a blessing or gratitude
  • Once a week students have Peace Studies where they learn about culture, religion, community norms, social justice, conflict and resolution, and laws about peace
  • Class trips based around nature and human impact on the environment every two years