Adolescent Community (12 - 15 years)

Austin Montessori School’s Center for Work and Study at Gaines Creek

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  • A unique educational environment for young adolescents following Dr. Maria Montessori's vision.

    The program provides a broad range of experiences to meet a young person's needs for intellectual stimulation, creative expression, independence, responsibility, social development, preparation for adult life, and personal growth. As a place-based learning environment, Gaines Creek focuses on human interdependency with the natural world as well as on the experience of social organization and personal contribution to one's community, both of which are highlights of adolescent development. In cooperation with the land and its related activities, and through participation in the life and commerce of the local community, young adolescents experience firsthand the practical integration of knowledge and community contribution, building a greater connection to society and the world.

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Tour the Gaines Creek Adolescent Campus

Dr. Maria Montessori

Here is an essential principle of education: to teach details is to bring confusion; to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.

Hear from our Adolescent Community students

Learning Through Social Organization

Gaines Creek offers a rich and challenging hands-on educational experience to its students. Our curriculum matches and exceeds the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for middle grades and early secondary levels and builds on the Montessori elementary curriculum to provide a course of study that offers exceptional depth and opportunities for personal engagement.

The three-year program includes integrated science, interdisciplinary humanities, mathematics from pre-algebra through geometry, Spanish, literature and language arts studies, health and human development, a wide range of arts offerings, and an equal diversity of physical education experiences.

Core Areas of Study

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  • Occupations

    An Occupation is a unit of study with a limited and concrete scope that meets an immediate and engaging need in the community that also reflects universal scientific and humanistic themes. Occupations are designed to give students the necessary knowledge and skills to address and solve real problems in the community. Working side by side with peers, specialists, and guides supports the development of every student to become experts in their own right. Students choose from a range of farm and community projects which will include acquiring and caring for farm animals, organic gardening, campus improvement and landscaping, water quality management, sustainable living, small business ventures, construction, and many more that arise from need or interest. Each occupation group takes on the practical work in their area while studying the science relevant to their project. Over the course of a student's enrollment, chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, earth science, and other areas are covered. The projects incorporate lectures, readings, discussions, experiments, historical studies, literary connections, applied mathematics, independent projects, and contributions to the community. Older students often take on additional management responsibilities for an area of the environment they have studied in an occupation.
  • Humanities

    The Humanities program provides the opportunity for young adolescents to orient themselves to their place in humanity and provides them the opportunity to connect with and participate in its ongoing progress. The curriculum revolves around thematic questions that invite exploration and research into the idea of what it means to be a part of humanity. Students work in project-oriented classes which include some lectures, primary and secondary source readings, note-taking, seminar discussions, research and formal writing, independent projects, off-site visits, guest speakers, dramatic and artistic expression, and presentations to the community.
  • Language Arts

    We see language as serving many roles in the lives of adolescents: a means of self-expression and communication, as well as a tool for the development of social relationships and the transmission of cultural knowledge. Due to these crucial formative roles, the use and practice of the language arts are found in all aspects of the adolescents’ work. 
    The formal study of Language Arts, as a class, includes two major aspects. One is a series of lessons and experiences designed to develop the student’s knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and presentation. Lessons are presented in the context of seminars discussing short stories, creative writing workshops, and analysis of novels, poems, and plays. These lessons are intended to both enhance skills in comprehension and interpretation of written language, and to develop skills in argumentative, narrative, and informational writing. The other aspect is the practical application of these skills in all areas of the broader curriculum such as humanities, occupations, and history. 
  • Mathematics

    Students study mathematics in small groups using manipulative materials, calculators, computers, and pencil and paper. They receive lessons and work independently through a series of problem sets keyed to the common core curriculum and Texas Essential Knowledge and skills for pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Geometry. In addition, each student will complete one applied project each quarter, based on personal interest and/or farm-based need. Special workshops in basic and advanced mathematics are also offered, and applied mathematics problems arise frequently in the context of work on the land and for our weekly math seminars. Most adolescents will receive high school credit in either Algebra I or both Algebra I and Geometry after their third year.
  • Spanish

    All students study Spanish through the Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) technique. This method uses age and developmentally appropriate activities to help novice learners understand short utterances and respond orally, creatively producing words, phrases, and sentences. Students learn to detect the main ideas and discriminate between major and minor details while listening and reading. Students are expected to be active listeners and to express themselves orally and in writing. Accuracy of expression is developed by experience and based on students’ intrinsic desire to be understood and communicate. Grammar is taught as students' understanding of the complexity of language develops, and while the concepts are those common to any novice level class, the sequence of grammar is determined by the student’s interest. With the exception of grammar, all vocabulary lessons are taught in Spanish.

Additional Studies

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  • Field Experiences

    The state of Texas provides an expansive place in which to experience our interconnectedness. Over the course of three years, we take a number of trips within the state to examine more closely the geology, geography, ecology, history, and culture of the many different regions in Texas. Each fall, we take one of three trips. We visit the southwestern part of the state at Seminole Canyon, on the Rio Grande border, to study Paleo-Indian rock art and astronomy. Our investigation of local geology takes us to Inks Lake, in central Texas, the site of an ancient continental collision and subsequent uplift event. As part of an exploration into art and culture, we travel to Houston to visit a number of art museums including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the multiple installations in the Menil Collection, as well as folk-art sites.
    On alternating years, in the spring, we travel to The Big Thicket in East Texas to study biodiversity in a unique intersection of communities or we travel to the gulf coast in our study of the barrier islands and the bay ecosystem. Along with a rich opportunity for study, these trips also offer the opportunity for communal living and leadership.
    At the beginning of each year, the Gaines Creek students and staff travel to a nearby camp setting to engage in team-building and individual confidence-building activities. These “ropes course” experiences help reestablish the community.
    In addition, as a culmination of their time at Austin Montessori, and in conjunction with their study of World Geography, full-cycle (3rd year) students journey to Rome and Naples for a 14-day capstone trip.
  • Physical Expression (P.E.)

    Physical expression is equally important to young adolescents, providing a focus for their physical energy, exposure to a range of activities, and an opportunity to challenge themselves. P.E. units offer varied experiences which may include: soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, swimming, ice skating, various forms of dance, yoga, or tennis. Choices are based on student interest and the resources available.
  • Self Expression

    Self-expression is essential to adolescent development, as young people explore and experiment with their emerging identities. Gaines Creek offers a series of workshops so students can experience diverse modes of expression. Classes will include such things as photography, cooking, drawing, guitar, piano, vocal performance, painting, and many others. Students will present performances every year, which may include: a play at our annual “Theater Night”, open mic performances, and/or art exhibits.
  • Workshops

    Rotating workshops are offered according to student needs and interests. Some students are directed to particular classes because of a particular academic need. "Directed" workshops may include sentence, paragraph, and essay writing, pre-algebra and algebra assistance, speech and language assistance, work management assistance, and others as the need arises. "Elective" workshops may include current events, debate, creative writing, recreational mathematics and science, typing, computer programming, outdoor work, and others, as student interest and staff availability suggest.
    • Watercolor painting of Austin Montessori School's Gaines Creek Campus by local artist Anneke Swanson.
Austin Montessori School is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex or gender, disability, or age in providing educational services, activities, and programs. Austin Montessori School complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), as amended, which incorporates and expands upon the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended; and any other legally-protected classification or status protected by applicable law.