Compass Montessori is a public charter school located in Jefferson County, Colorado. It is comprised of two campuses, a Pre K-6 school in Wheat Ridge with approximately 250 students and the Golden campus, with 400 students PreK-12. Compass Montessori School is located at the base of North Table Mountain in unincorporated Golden and draws its students from across Jefferson County via a lottery system. Students’ socioeconomic and racial diversity reflects that of the greater Denver metropolitan area. Approximately twenty percent of our high school students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The high school serves 100 students, and the Farm School 150 students, many of whom have been in the program since they were three years old. Compass Montessori High School graduated its first class in 2005. In the last five years, 80% of our graduates have matriculated to higher education and CTE certificate programs. This compares to the district average of 64%.
There are two classroom buildings on site that house the Children’s House and Erdkinder students in one and the Upper Adolescents and elementary in the other. Dirt trails for hiking, running, and mountain biking snake away from campus as a part of the Open Space trail system. Another paved bike path leads from near campus into the town of Golden, approximately 3 miles away. Adjacent to the campus is Tony Grampsas Gym and park where the Compass community can use the gym, playing fields and bike park. In addition, the Colorado Railroad Museum sits to the south of the campus, while light industrial and office facilities can be found to the east, with a small amount of residential housing to the west. The town of Golden offers many other resources for the Compass adolescent community for work, study, service opportunities, and leisure.
Community Support Partners and Resources
Tony Grampsas Park and Gym
City of Golden Bike Park
Horse Protection League
Golden Public Library
Golden History Museum
CSM Geology Museum
Golden Community Center
12th st Historic District
Clear Creek Whitewater Park
Golden Farmers Market
Golden Bike Shop
Golden Counseling Center
Arvada Food Bank
Morrison Natural History Museum
Buffalo Bill’s Grave
Lookout Mtn. Nature Center
Mother Cabrini Shrine
Red Rocks Community College
Warren Technical School
At Compass Montessori there are carefully prepared environments for children in the first, second and third planes. Each of the planes, which is often split into sub-planes or three year age groups, have their own prepared environment, based specifically on developmental needs, that allows for freedom of movement and choice. Moreover, there are scientifically created materials that correspond to the child's specific needs. As described, “The conditions of freedom can be summarized as follows: to furnish the conditions most favorable to physical development, to provide an environment which will allow the child to express spontaneously, to free the child from the teacher, and to give such material as it is necessary and sufficient for autocorrection” (Montessori, The 1913 Rome Lectures 78). Compass strives to meet the needs of each unique child at their unique developmental level through this careful preparation.
Secondary Education: The High School
The prepared physical environment of the high school building consists of an auditorium, science lab, Makerspace, math environment, art roo, and humanities environment. There is also a commons space with a small kitchen. One of the most important parts of the prepared environment at Compass is our schedule. Doctor Montessori asks that rather than have a traditional bell schedule, as it does not lead to sustained concentration, that “If we are to arrive at any knowledge, the child, the youth alone can reveal it to us. We must give him the conditions in which it will be possible for him to reveal it to us” (Montessori, “Third Lecture” 256). At Compass the students are responsible for planning their own schedule during the morning work cycle. This self-scheduling supports independence and executive function development. Because the adolescent has a greater sense of order, setting one's schedule is appropriate and supports Montessori Pedagogy of freedom and responsibility (Booth, “The Characteristics of the older Adolescent” Lecture).
Time management is a “soft skill” that is imperative for success in university studies. High School students are responsible for making sure they plan their schedule to attend all of their required lessons each week. This includes content-area lessons, seminars, smaller group lessons, side by side work such as readouts, writers workshop, and the like. The students have options for times and days for most of the lessons, thus they are able to have freedom of choice in their time management. In addition, a student may attend a lesson more than once if they so choose supporting repetition. The schedule is a prepared environment as it supports independence, freedom of choice and knowledge of self.
The 15-18 environment is a fully accredited program with practitioners that meet the criteria for highly qualified in each content area as well as Montessori training or familiarity. Compass Montessori High School. meets the needs of the older adolescent through a variety of activities and experiences. Compass meets or exceeds Jefferson County graduation requirements as the school conforms to the Higher Education Admittance Requirements or H.E.A.R. In addition, this year Compass will have students demonstrate math and English competencies, as necessitated by Jefferson County Public Schools as part of its requirements. These competencies will be assessed through standardized test scores, the SAT and ASVAB, as well as student portfolios. The high school meets the educational syllabus designed by Doctor Montessori of self-expression (music, art, language) psychic development, (mathematics, language and moral education) and preparation for adult life (the study of earth and living things, the building up of civilization, history of humanity).
High School: Self Expressions
Self-expressions are offered in the form of electives, within academic disciplines, as a choice of follow-up work, and as extracurriculars. For graduation, a student is required to complete ½ credit in fine arts and ½ credit of physical education. On-campus, students may take ceramics, culinary arts, woodworking, theater, film studies, or design their own semester of art study. In addition, students may take a creative writing elective offered each spring. For the physical component of self-expression, Compass offers Ultimate Frisbee and Yoga as credit-bearing classes. A student may also write a proposal in order to earn credit through independent physical education. Any proposal must be agreed upon by the students academic advisor and a content sponsor. In addition, we have a club sport of Ultimate Frisbee. There are also competitive teams for debate, mountain biking, and cross country. In addition, a student may play any sport that they wish with their home high school. Compass students have played football, baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, as well as participated in swimming, golf, and cheer. A student must maintain the eligibility requirements of the host school.
High School: Psychic Development
As for foreign language acquisition, Compass Montessori High School offers Spanish I and II as elective choices. If a student would prefer to take a different foreign language such as Latin, German, French, and so on, the language may be taken through BYU free of charge. No foreign language credits are required for graduation by Jefferson County Public School District, but the internal expectation is that students complete a minimum of two full years, and depending on the competitiveness of the colleges' students are interested in, three.
Mathematics for the second sub-plane adolescent has offerings of pre-Algebra through Calculus. The course of study often is pre-Algebra during or before 9th grade and then the sequence of course codes is Integrated Math I, II, III and perhaps Calculus. Students may also take a number of math classes at Red Rocks Community College or the Colorado School of Mines through concurrent enrollment, where college credit may be simultaneously earned while completing requirements towards graduation requirements. In addition, students have access to math workshops that are accessible regardless of ability. These workshops can provide a spark of interest and/or an understanding of applied mathematics. Students need four credits or eight semesters in total of mathematics education for graduation.
Language and literature are a strong curricular focus of the high school environment as excellent communication is needed for success in university studies and in the workplace. English lessons are given 9th-12th grade that teaches formal and informal writing and different components of language arts. The language curriculum has an abundance of choices for students to propose and implement their own follow-up work during the second period. These follow-up works may include essay writing, poetry, visual arts, and a myriad of self-expressions. Weekly opportunities of side by side work are offered through a writers workshop where students have an opportunity at editing and revision of work. There are also weekly literature groups that are related to the humanities curriculum. Students have the choice, albeit limited, of novels from a specific genre or time period. This weekly literature group includes seminars and culminates quarterly in the third period with literary analysis. Advanced placement literature is also an offering. A total of eight semesters of English are required for graduation.
High School: Preparation for Adult Life
Preparation for adult life includes the study of earth and living things, human progress, and history. All students are required to complete biology in their 10th-grade year as it is a foundation for other topics and a requirement for graduation. Students in 11th and 12th grade may choose between anatomy and physiology or environmental science (Advanced Placement environmental science is also available). Once every three years a science topics science trip to Costa Rica is also offered. If a student is interested in pursuing the sciences after high school we strongly recommend a science class with a lab component such as Chemistry 101. A total of three science credits is required for graduation.
In addition to the above course of study, science classes are offered that study and analyze human progress and the building up of civilization. The goal of these particular courses is to understand nature as the environment that is created and unaltered by humanity and the relationship to the supernatural. Supranature is the modification that humanity has invented and utilizes in order to make our lives more productive and efficient. There is a staffed Makerspace where students may take STEM. This course allows us to create and design items that use technology and innovation to fill a need or solve a problem. Moreover, some items that are produced are sold in the micro-economy of the store. Physics is also offered at the high school level and has a strong hands-on component combined with mathematics. “The inert child who never worked with his hands, who never had the feeling of being useful and capable of effort, who never found by experience that to live means living socially, and that to think and create means to make use of harmony of souls; this type of child will become a selfish youth, he will be pessimistic and melancholy and will seek on the surface of vanity the compensation for a lost paradise.” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, 84) STEM is considered an elective credit while physics codes as science.
History of humanity is also taught in the older adolescent environment as a companion to the English curriculum. The humanities curriculum at Compass Montessori High School is interdisciplinary and combines history, English, and literature so that students have a context of the thematic influences and interplay between history, arts, and literature. For graduation, a student must earn three and a half credits of social sciences. In the Farm School program, a student will earn their geography and civics credits. In High School, students must take one credit of U.S. History, one credit of World History, and ½ credit Economics. Honors history and honors economics are also offered. Other social science classes may also be taken for elective credit including philosophy, sociology, and psychology.
High School: Practical Considerations
One of the most important goals at Compass Montessori is to give adolescents an opportunity to authentically engage in a community that is designed for their specific developmental needs while connecting them to the greater world. The goal of the adolescent is to, “Help me be myself in society”. The adolescent needs to take on adult-like roles as, “...the adolescent is never to be treated as a child for that stage of life he has surpassed” ( Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, 69). The 15-18-year-old student may take on “managerial roles” in the schools' maintenance of technology, facilities repair, and science equipment. In addition, students can take on leadership through committee work: hospitality, charity ball, graduation, and the like. This school year we will start a coffee shop for the micro-economy in the high school. This will help students have marketplace experience with making and selling coffee for their peers. They will be responsible for maintaining equipment, keeping records, understanding and formulating profit margin, and making a darn good cup of coffee!!!!
The older adolescent belongs to a community where they are able to participate in the potential valorization of their personality. For the adolescent, valorization is built through interactions with the environment. The student gains a feeling of self-worth and confidence through social relations and real work in the environment where their contributions to society are seen as valuable. Students may produce works of art, showcase their talents at coffee houses and participate in poetry slams. In addition, the community is in place to support the “work” of the community and includes daily chores that support the restoration of the environment, dishes and kitchen (by advisement), service of food (weekly by advisement).
All students attend a weekly community meeting where there are announcements, grievances, and celebrations. Students also participate in advisement on a weekly basis. All students are assigned an advisor that they keep for the entirety of their high school career. Each advisement meets as a group on Monday mornings. The advisor is responsible for creating a healthy and fun group dynamic, tracking the credit requirements of each individual, and maintaining communication with the student and parents about academic and social progress.
The older adolescent is orienting to the greater environment. Thus, in addition to the school community, Compass Montessori strives to connect its students to the larger society so that the young adults may practice independence and responsibility in different contextual situations. These experiential opportunities include trip taking and AWOL. Moral education takes place throughout various aspects of Compass Montessori High School. We incorporate social justice and a view of human solidarity into content-area lessons, literature studies, seminars, electives (Yoga, Environmental Science and Economics, and regular service-learning. Students have experience with individual service projects and group projects through advisement. This allows the students to move into the world in a way that focuses on equality, human solidarity, and their positive and active role in the progress of humanity. The students are also involved in social justice education through PeaceJam. These students attend then organize a social justice conference for the 9th grade-12th-grade students to attend. There are speakers, (the 2018 PeaceJam conference featured a Compass alum) and student-designed, and sometimes led, workshops focused on peace and progress and faith in humanity.
Compass Montessori offers three trips each academic year. The school year begins with the UNITE (Unicorns Never Ignore True Excellence) Trip. This is the beginning of the year trip for all 10th-12th (excluding Warren Tech and Red Rocks students) year students. UNITE focuses on community building through different challenge activities and initiates academic work of the school year. In the second semester, Re-Orientation/Test Prep Trip is a mandatory trip for all students in January. The entire high school community stays in a cabin in Estes Park YMCA, where in addition to learning and practicing strategies for standardized test-taking, the students take turns cooking for each other and participate in self-expression both creative and physical. Many of our 12th years take college classes and/or are at Warren Tech and their schedules do not allow them to take the bus with the other students. If they have parent permission the school has agreed to let them carpool up as their schedules allow. In addition to domestic trips, Compass High School offers International Studies Trips. This optional international trip is offered every two out of three years. All students may apply to go. We also have an International Studies Trip policy that asks for students to be continuously upholding norms within the school (a suspension is an automatic no to trip), passing all classes, participation in trip class, and fundraising. In addition, in order to go, a student must have the support of the adults in the community.
In addition to trips, students are connected to the larger world through A.W.O.L. High school students are required to participate every Wednesday afternoon beginning in September, and continuing for both semesters in a self-initiated experiential project, Authentic World of Learning. This is a credit-based project and is essential to the developmentally based curriculum we offer at Compass. Students may participate in service (with an existing service provider), internships, or on-the-job experience during this time. Students must complete 2.5 hours per week and a weekly reflection. Parents must sign a permission form before students begin.
Staffing and Role of the Adult for the Adolescent
Just as the environment is carefully prepared to meet the needs of the adolescents, a Montessori guide must be carefully prepared to do the work of supporting adolescent self-construction. The primary responsibility of the adults is to understand the developmental needs of adolescents and offer many and varied opportunities to engage the students in real work that will lead to the valorization of their personality in the context of the practice society created for them. It is important “to remember that there is one thing that education can take as a sure guide, and that is the personality of the children who are to be educated” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence 57). We must always look to the children to be our guides. We must do what we can do to open opportunities for self-construction and then get out of the way. We must be committed to ongoing observation and assessment so that the most appropriate next opportunities for growth and development of the individuals might be provided.
Booth, Tina. “The Characteristics of the Older Adolescent” NAMTA Adolescent Orientation.
Redlands, CA. 17 July 2018. Lecture.
Montessori, Maria. From Childhood to Adolescence: Including "Erdkinder" and the
Function of the University. Montessori-Pierson Pub. Co., 2007. Print.
---. “Third Lecture” 1936. NAMTA Orientation Reader. Redlands CA. 2018 p. 256-263. Print.