Inquiry Approach: Three period lesson


The International Montessori Adolescent Summit is organized using the inquiry approach via the “three period lesson” advocated by the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies. The three period lesson is the model Montessorians use to present a concept, allow for exploration and research, and provide an opportunity for the students to synthesize their understanding of the information and their research.


The three period lesson begins by presenting students with key content, information, and vocabulary to prepare them for independent exploration. It is helpful for the first period to include an emotional hook which connects the students to the content. Within the context of the Summit, the emotional hook is the pre-summit research grounded in their local community experience, connected to global realities. Each year the students focus on one global crisis which has both local and global ramifications, allowing the students to find relevance and meaning by building relationships at home and seeing their position within the global system.


The summit opens with an orienting keynote lecture, offering a complex overview of the designated global crisis. Along with painting the landscape with a broad brush, this orientation should emphasize the positive and constructive movements working for change and the important role youth play in creating and sustaining the solutions.


The second phase, exploration, is grounded in asking Montessori adolescents a relevant and pressing question, such as “How do we create a just and sustainable food system?,” and bringing them face to face with experts working on the ground, who will listen and respond to their findings.


During this second period, students share their pre-summit research in small groups or to the group as a whole, depending on the number of participants. This is a vital step in achieving social cohesion and valorization. “Society does not depend entirely on organization, but also on cohesion, and of these two the second is basic and serves as foundation for the first. Good laws and a good government cannot hold the mass of men together and make them act in harmony, unless the individuals themselves are orientated toward something that gives them solidarity and makes them into a group.” (Montessori, Absorbent Mind, 216).


Valorization occurs when the adolescent is allowed to have effective, positive, educational experiences in every aspect of social life, executed through work, and extended to working toward achieving independence based on their own initiative. Within this valorization, students become aware of their personal capabilities, their strengths, and areas of improvement. “But independence is not the only basis for valorization of the personality. Personality can only be developed through social relationships and experiences, and it is therefore only in the community that the child’s potentialities can be realized. This is true for small as well as older children.” (Montessori)


Thus, it is the responsibility of the summit organizers to create an enriched environment where students can share what they know and be affirmed by their peers. What expands this experience to an even greater level of profundity is the corroboration and feedback from external experts working in a variety of sectors/organizations tackling the targeted global crisis.


Following the expert interviews, Carrie Blackburn, Just Food Development and Membership Associate, remarked “They had really good specific interesting questions about areas that even I hadn’t thought much about.” This was possible due to the specific knowledge developed during their pre summit preparation.


By exposing students to a variety of experts working across sectors of civil society, we are contextualizing the designated global crisis and optimizing on the enriched environment of New York City. What I observed with the first Adolescent Summit is the mutual uplifting when adult experts and adolescents work side by side. Performing interviews with experts encourages adolescents to function at their maximum level of maturity and professionalism, while the experts are in turn inspired in their own work and focus on the positive movements for change in the local/global system.


After the expert interviews, Anthony Fassio, chair of Slow Food NYC said, “I feel so energized to take on the world!” It was the depth of questions and high level of student engagement that confirmed expert participation for future years.


The final stage of the inquiry approach is synthesis. Within the context of the Summit, the students consolidate their collective knowledge in a list of universal recommendations in accessible language to ameliorate the designated global crisis and an action plan for moving forward in their local communities. This list of recommendations has real implication, in that, the students use it to kick off their local action plan implementation and distribute it to all participating organizations and the United Nations Secretary General. They create a document of universal relevance, which much like U.N. documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Earth Charter, provides an ideal model where individuals should aim and a framework within which to execute their action plans.


“They had very good questions and their recommendations were met with admiration in my office. You can count on me for future conferences.” -Maty Ndiaye, Outreach and Public Information Officer, United Nations Development Program


Course Integration of the Summit

“The child must be furnished at all times with the means necessary for him to act and gain experience.” Education and Peace, 56


“The education for this new world must aim, first of all, at bringing help to the consciousness of humanity so that it might adapt itself to the present conditions which have been created through the progress of civilisation…education must also lead to a unification and correlation of all the subjects which are studied to-day as separate items.” -Montessori, Education for a New World


The Adolescent Summit requires extensive preparation for participation and extensive follow-up work. The mission is not to be an isolated experience, but an enriched environment which extends the great work already being performed in the classroom.


The Adolescent Summit is an opportunity for valorization. In order to prepare the environment for valorization to occur, the Summit must be integrated into the course plan of each participating school. Summit themes, based on current global crises, put students in direct contact with society and provide an authentic connection with the global issue, as found through their local context. When the Summit topic is studied as a point of interdisciplinary convergence, based in “pedagogy of place” students participate as representatives of their community, ready to perform real work for the improvement of the local environment in concert with the global movement of adolescents, collectively shaping the entire system. This integrated approach provides both the scaffolding necessary to ensure adequate academic preparation and gives the necessary context ensuring a deep relevant experience.


“If young people at a certain point are called upon to take an active part in the life of humanity, they must first feel that they have a great mission to accomplish and prepare themselves for it.” Education and Peace, 70.


“To determine the conditions for establishing peace in the world, indirect and complex factors must be studied and organized into a structured science. The most important of these factors is the human one. Peace is essentially a human problem.” -Montessori, Peace Through Education