Educational environments prepared for adolescents by Montessori educators are designed to build an adolescent community in which young people gain social experience that prepares them for adulthood. The right environment for adolescents, according to Dr Montessori is one in which they can have ‘effective, practical experience of every aspect of social life’. One of the central roles of the Montessori environment prepared for adolescents is to initiate these young people into the world of adult work. The environment prepared for a Montessori adolescent community incorporates two types of working environments, the natural environment and the wider society.
The work undertaken with the community are called occupations. Occupations in the adolescent community have the following characteristics:
- The work is meaningful to the students.
- The work is both physically and intellectually challenging.
- The work is valued in the wider community, society and culture.
- The work has economic validity.
Occupations with these characteristics inspire students to engage in the work with integrity and passion, to develop their own interests and expertise, to gain recognition for their contribution and to experience a sense of ownership and accomplishment. In this way, through the occupations, adolescents have the opportunity to take on more mature roles within the community. These roles might include being the beekeeper, the bookkeeper or the photographer. The opportunity to take on different occupations and roles leads the adolescent towards maturity and a sense of their own value and usefulness. When the adolescent assumes a role in the community, the occupation has demonstrably engaged and transformed the student, provided the student with goals and validation, and adds impetus to the student’s learning.