“A basic tenet of Quakerism is that truth is continuously revealed and is accessible within a community of seekers. At Friends schools, this belief is reflected in an open-minded approach to curriculum and teaching and a developmental approach to children and learning. Students learn to practice truth-seeking and know the various ways this can be accomplished – through inquiry, scientific investigation, reflection, critical thinking, dialogue, worship, and service.” – Friends Council on Education
Monteverde was founded as a Quaker community in 1951. The founding families intended Monteverde to be a community that seeks the good in everyone and where people can live in such a way that might naturally lead to a more peaceful world. Central to that vision was creating a school to serve the local community, incorporating several unique characteristics:
(1) Meeting for Worship
The center of the Friends’ community was, and still is, an un-programmed Friends Meeting for Worship. Meeting for Worship is conducted on the principle of silent, personal communion with God or the Divine Spirit, without a minister, where each person may, when moved to do so, stand and share his or her message with the group. All students and staff at the school attend the Wednesday Meeting for Worship, along with community members, as part of their school day.
Monteverde Friends School operates on the principle that spiritual development is as important as physical and intellectual development.
The mid-week Meeting for Worship is a central part of the education offered by MFS. Each week, students and teachers spend time preparing for Meeting for Worship through lessons and activities. This hour is called Pre-Meeting, and it plays an important role in community-building and in the spiritual development of MFS students.
At MFS, students and teachers participate in the creation of our community, listening to our inner voices, and supporting each other in reaching our full personal, academic, and spiritual potential. All students and faculty gather every morning for Assembly, which includes activites such as theater presentations, singing, sharing student work, story telling, and focused discussions on educational topics. Students are taught from an early age how to use peaceful methods of conflict resolution. Each month the Primary school (1st-6th grades) and the Colegio (7th-12th grades) hold separate Town Meetings. These meetings are planned and facilitated by students, and the issues to resolve are brought up by the students and staff. Here, they have an opportunity throughout the years to learn how to identify concerns and make decisions using the Quaker model of consensus.
The Quaker Life Committee, made up of 5th – 12th grade students, teachers and administrators, meets regularly to talk about ways to support Quakerism at MFS. They discuss and work on issues such as making Meeting for Worship accessible to all ages, having older students model for younger ones, supporting respectful behavior at recess, and cross-class community activities.
There is also a Standards Committee which convenes when a student breaks a major school rule. The Standards Committee is composed of two faculty members who are nominated by the faculty and approved by students, two Colegio students who are nominated by Colegio students and approved by the faculty, and the director. The Standards Committee works creatively with the student to find constructive solutions and appropriate consequences in response to the specific situation.
Students, families, and staff engage in community service in a variety of ways because Friends believe that faith requires action in the world. All students perform service to the school by cleaning at the end of each school day, younger students being supervised by older students. Families participate in cleaning days at the beginning of the school year, and students and staff lead the end-of-the-year clean-up. Families also volunteer to support cleaning and maintenance projects for one month each year. In addition, all students participate in Service Days to the community, helping with trash pick-up, supporting needy and elderly members of our community, maintaining public trails, and planting native plants around the community.
(5) We are drawn together by a common commitment to cherished Quaker values:
- Love and respect: Listening deeply to the Divine Spirit in ourselves and others has great power to transform lives. In our quest to contribute to a more just, peace-filled, and hopeful world, we begin close to home, by trying to love our neighbors and ourselves.
- Simplicity: We seek to focus our lives on that which sustains us, both physically and spiritually, avoiding excesses that may strain our balance.
- Peace: Building alternatives to violence and war is a long held Quaker testimony. The founders of the Monteverde Quaker community, in their search for a non-militaristic society in which to make a new life, chose Costa Rica for the importance it placed on peace. They valued being part of a culture whose economic development was not dependent on waging or preparing for war. Within the school, we too seek to live in ways that eliminate the causes of war, injustice, and violence.
- Community: We collectively aspire to build community with those around us wherever we may live, creating an environment where people of different ages and cultures unite together in worship, work, and play. Enabling our students to communicate effectively in both Spanish and English and to function respectfully in two cultures is one manifestation of this commitment. We encourage and facilitate useful service, in the greater Monteverde community as well as in our school environment. Students participate in bi-weekly Town Meetings, in which they address, as a group, issues that affect the school.
- Equality: We wish to honor and respect that of God in everyone, striving against prejudice. Each child, woman, and man has the right to be heard, and we teach mutual appreciation and respect for all ages. As a consequence, students serve as full members of both the School Committee and a discipline committee.
- Consensus: We believe that when we combine deep listening with spiritual guidance, we are better able to discern our right path. We aim to seek unity in our group decision-making at school, at meeting, and in the community at large. Insight and wisdom may come from persons of any age. Using a consensus approach to decision making builds our capacity to listen, to be flexible and creative in our thinking, and to support decisions once they are made.
- Stewardship: The school promotes an appreciation of and connection to the natural world. By increasing our awareness of our interdependence with all life on earth, we strive to use water, land, and other resources mindfully and wisely. Our resolve is enhanced by the natural beauty and biodiversity that surrounds us. Classroom walks through the woods, gardening, recycling, and daily clean up chores are a few of the ways we instill stewardship.
- Integrity: We believe in speaking truthfully, keeping our word, and striving to be a living testimony to the values we teach our students. We try to inspire individual responsibility by working to let our lives speak more than our words. Living our values asks of us the courage to meet challenges with discernment and love.
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