Live a Life of Purpose: Community Service at MIC
“It is not just the practical life in a house, cleaning rooms, watering plants, etc., that is important, but the fact that everyone in the world must move with a purpose and must work, not only for himself but also for others.” – Dr Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures
More than 70 years ago, Dr Montessori spoke of the importance of being of service to others. We all get much satisfaction from serving our communities and contributing to the groups we are a part of and this concept is introduced to children early at Montessori International College.
Three-year age groupings allow children not only to develop at their own pace, but also encourages them to learn from one another. They ask questions, work together and collaborate on projects with the older children in each cycle mentoring and teaching the younger children.
Everyone contributes in the classroom, from planning projects and Going Outs, to caring for class pets and plants, setting the tables at lunchtime and participating in community clean up at the end of each day.
Early Years and Primary
Students learn how to build relationships, collaborate and think of others and as they move along the learning continuum at MIC, they move from a focus of taking care of self (known as Practical Life in the Early Years), to taking care of others (initially in their immediate environment, such as family and fellow students, in the Primary College) and eventually to taking care of community.
This extension into the wider community can start as young as Junior Primary, where students often – on their own initiative – elect to support a cause or charity. This year a group of Year 6 students have elected to make treats and toys for the animals at SCAR (Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge) where they visit once a week as volunteers to help out.
Once students progress to our Adolescent Community, meaningful work and real-life problem solving enables them to discover new capacities as they are driven by a desire to be of service to others. At MIC, our Adolescent students get involved in community projects around our campus and our 22 hectare land lab, which is made up of bushland, rainforest and waterways.
This year, Community Projects for our Adolescent Community (Year 7-9) include:
- The Dam – developing an ecological approach to improving and maintaining the habitat of our dam
- The Bathrooms – refurbishing both the male and female bathrooms in our Secondary College
- Handball Court – students are creating a 5m x 5m handball court, including concreting
- Outdoor Fitness – students are developing bike jumps and a fitness circuit in the rainforest clearings
- Billy-can Art Project – a group of 5-6 students are working with our Artist-in-Residence, Nicole, to support this project
- Year 10 Community Project mentors – Year 10 students in our Senior Phase have the opportunity to act as mentors within the community projects.
By the time our students are in Year 10 at MIC, they have had extensive experience in being of service to others. So much so that not only is it a formal part of our curriculum, it is also an established part of our culture and mindset so that expanding this service to those outside of our school community, and even overseas, is a natural extension of the work students have already been undertaking.
Our Senior Phase program encourages purposeful work and life experience. Students are not only responsible for maintaining their environment – washing dishes, sweeping floors, watering plants and tidying in preparation for the next day’s classes – they also undertake work in the broader community.
In Year 10, the preparation year for the International Baccalaureate (IB) which is studied in Years 11 and 12, students undertake Community Service as part of the curriculum. They spend one morning a week in a range of community service activities where students gain the benefit of building connections to the broader community, as well as exposure to the idea of Service Learning, a core component of the IB program.
This year, our Year 10 students are participating in Community Service by:
- developing a Montessori International College Amnesty Network, following a visit from local Amnesty International representative, Nina Ashfield-Crook
- organising a team to participate in Relay for Life, a event that raises funds for cancer research
- weekly visits to The Shack, a homeless outreach centre, to assist with food preparation and other activities for those less fortunate
- reading with our Junior Primary students to assist with their reading and literacy.
Our Senior students also engaged in an overseas Community Service initiative over the recent Christmas break, visiting a primary school in Cambodia where they built 10 wooden tables by hand and set up a farm so the children could grow their own produce. Later this year our Senior students will visit China.
All of our Year 11 IB students this year will undertake Service Learning as part of their two-year IB program. Service Learning is the practical application of knowledge and skills towards meeting an identified and authentic community meet that is related to their career pathway.
Through service, students develop and apply personal and social skills in real-life situations involving decision-making, problem-solving, initiative, responsibility and accountability for their actions.