Announcing The Orchard Lyceum

Call for Artists

Artists wishing to apply for three-month residencies should submit an expression of interest to In exchange for mentorship, we  can offer studio use and exhibition space. Tell us what you do and how you think you can contribute to the program.

“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams, earning a secondary diploma, and proceeding on to university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher one, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.” — Maria Montessori, The Erdkinder

Ours has always been a story about following the child. This year, we have four children graduating from our Upper Elementary program. Those children began their casa experiences at three years of age with Orchard teachers nearly a decade ago and now, they are the leaders of their school community who mentor over sixty children younger than themselves. They are well prepared academically for any option offered by private, public or alternative schools. More importantly, they are inquisitive, self-guided learners who thrive in real contexts. They honestly believe they can change the world.

The pre-teen age is one of the least understood planes of child development and this is reflected in a lack of diversity in school options. In many ways, kids of this age are dismissed as children and their capabilities are often underestimated. Conversely, they are placed in settings with fixed outcomes that drive them forward into the adult world before they are really ready. Large class sizes and increasing reliance on digital systems for content delivery reinforce binary responses instead of classical critical reasoning. Students are goaded into learning using token incentives, which hollow out their enthusiasm for working just for the pure pleasure of it. They begin to sort ideas into what is on the test and what is not. From the outside, they have begun to look like adolescents but they still have one foot firmly planted in a developmental phase of childhood. A dawning awareness of justice and natural outcomes is expanding beyond their immediate horizon and they are grappling with understanding their orientation to the world outside themselves. Developmentally, this is a time of explosive growth and impressions laid at this age are as critical as those in the early childhood years. Most importantly, kids of this age are highly imaginative, tactile, experiential learners and we think that is a beautiful thing that needs a practical context to thrive in.

We began to wonder if perhaps there was a way to build an experience that continues to nurture their huge curiosity and cultivate their desire to make something real and tangible. We thought of how to situate Montessori’s ideas in the urban context of downtown Toronto that is their time and place. We thought about who their mentors would be in such a context and believe we may have come up with something interesting.

Beginning in September, 2019, Orchard will offer a lyceum program for grades 6/7/8 that draws influence from both apprenticeship/craft guilds of the distant past and traditional Montessori Erdkinders of the mid-twentieth century, re-imagined and redrawn through our own eyes. The new space, at Queen and Shaw, will co-locate these students with working artists and artisans who will act as their mentors in exchange for studio and exhibition space.

The academic program will be delivered in a seminar style over three large project blocks throughout the year. In each project, they will explore interconnections in history, geography, natural sciences, visual art and literature. We will do field study that accesses the resources and connections a city like Toronto has to offer. We will make community connections that furnish rich practical learning opportunities.

Their major assignment, however, will be to spend a year developing an idea or craft-based business called a Year Project. With guidance from mentors they will create it, promote it and make it available for public use or sale.

The maximum number of students for this program is eight. A curriculum outline follows but we recommend you come see us in person to talk about a possible fit for your family.

You might be wondering what, besides the Year Project, we cover in a week. The content will be dynamic but here are some of the foundations:

Practical Life Keeping their agendas, budgeting and balancing the class bank, meal planning and cooking their lunches in the on-site kitchen, shopping for supplies, route planning, using the TTC and doing chores to keep the school running are all part of practical life. The point of arrival and biggest expression of practical life, however, will be the Year Project itself.

Language and Literature Poetry recitations are followed by critical analysis every Monday at 9am. There will be three novel studies throughout the year. These are comprehensive examinations of a text using both critical writing and presentation of ideas in seminar discussions or by dramatic presentation. We will continue to study and apply different types of writing including journalism, proposals, essays and creative writing using real world contexts wherever possible.

Math There will be math laid into the practical life aspects of the program but the children will also continue their formal studies in math and geometry.

Visual Art The students will have an opportunity to examine different media and working methods under the guidance of our Resident Artists. We view art as a living, mutable and legitimate form of expression and it will continue to be a major emphasis in the work we do with points of intersection in many other subject areas.

Music Nick Arseneau will continue to teach the kids music on a weekly basis. They will form a chamber ensemble and focus on theory and composition. Part of their volunteer work will be to play in the community.

History and the Humanities We see the word “story” at the centre of the subject of history. We are situated in an area rich in history. Our first historical investigations will begin right where we stand, in the building we occupy and on the street that it sits on. We will look at the transformation of the area from before European settlement through industrialization. We will look at the physical geography in the ground beneath our feet. This will take us into studies of what grows here, flows, here and what we shares or have crowded out of the space we inhabit. The ultimate goal will be to compile a collective memoir of the past of the place and tie it together with stories that are unfolding right now. We will document this in various mediums, not just in words. At the end of the year, they will be part of a group show.

Natural Sciences Children will continue their studies of botany and zoology in the context of food webs and conservation. We are interested in developing community partnerships to further this study. They will also continue their studies in human anatomy drawing with Andrew. This year science fair will be an open, collaborative group project with a field study aspect to it.

The Pine Project Every Thursday, the children will be bussed with other school groups to Norval Outdoor School in Georgetown to spend the day in wild spaces with Pine.

Model UN Model United Nations in New York We will attend, along with some members of the Upper Elementary class from Orchard. Commitments for Model UN are due the first week of school.

Movement Montessori believed that every mental action was preceded by a physical movement. As such, there will be no formal athletic program. The children will use their bodies and senses, both gross and fine, as they interact with their environment in the classroom/workshop setting as well as the city at large each day. We are also conveniently located across from Trinity Bellwoods park and recreation centre and all of the opportunities that avails.

Mindfulness Each Monday, a word will go up on the chalk wall. That word will provide the basis for contemplation and exploration of a simple idea and how that connects outward. Like all things in the cosmic education, we will begin with a discussion and then, throughout the week, they will ruminate, percolate and articulate the idea to see where it takes them. Let’s say the topic this week is Rosemary. We will mind map it out, examine the sound of the word, the smell of the plant and its uses through history and folklore.

Dungeons and Dragons At the end of the day on Fridays, the children have an option to do some role playing with Dungeons and Dragons, from 3-6 pm. Students from other schools are invited to join us for this club as well. Nick Arseneau will lead them in this role-playing adventure.