The field trip — a museum tour, a historical site, perhaps a live show at a theater — is a quintessential part of the school experience. Not only are school outings culturally enriching and often reinforce material learned in class, they are also memorable because they are outside of the routine and offer opportunities to bond with friends in a novel setting. Many of us likely have fond memories of field trips from years ago, while other details of our elementary education may be a bit hazier!
In a Montessori elementary classroom, children occasionally go on traditional field trips that a teacher plans and chaperones. These kind of field trips are opportunities to practice and observe what skills might be needed to arrange what is called a “Going Out,” an excursion that operates differently than a field trip. For one, a Going Out is student-initiated and organized. Rather than involving the whole class, children venture out of the classroom in small groups to fulfill a specific, personally meaningful mission.
Moral and Intellectual Independence
One of the major milestones of the child by age 6 that is well supported by a Montessori Children’s House program is physical independence. The child learns to dress himself, feed himself, practice hygiene, and use the toilet. For the elementary-aged child, the next frontier is intellectual and moral independence.
The elementary child in a Montessori environment has even more freedom of areas in which to work. They are not limited to the set of classic Montessori materials. Many of the history and biology materials are jumping off points for research. The pursuit of interests through books is available to the Montessori elementary child, but so is the outside environment.
Examples of Goings Out
Perhaps there are not enough books in the classroom with information about an area that a group of children is researching. For example, perhaps a child or group of collaborators are investigating how the brain works. The classroom intentionally contains a limited number of resources. To gather enough material, the children can organize a Going Out to the library!
Interviewing an expert can be an empowering Going Out experience. There are many important steps for a child to consider in planning to consult an expert. For a neuroscience topic, as in the example, science museums, hospitals, and universities can be excellent sources of experts.
Preparation and Responsibility
To prepare, the children will need to devise a list of questions they want answered. They will have to contact the person they want to interview and find a mutually agreeable time. They would then reach out to a driver (not the teacher or their own parents) and arrange for transportation or explore public transportation options. They may need to look up directions if someone else will be driving. If the school is in an urban setting, the expert may even be within walking distance. The children will have to plan ahead to find out if they will need money for parking or admission. Afterward, they would follow up with a thank you note!
The work that takes place in the classroom is ultimately preparation for leaving the classroom. Activity lacks meaning without experience. Exploring the world outside the classroom is essential for linking concepts learned there through “real” experiences. This exposure is even more impactful if not a school-sponsored trip with the teacher at the lead.
Montessori spoke of field trips being valuable, yet passive, experiences that “would cause no elevation of dignity in the child for it keeps him still within the same narrow circle of the class with its commander.” The exciting, child-driven possibilities of Going Out simply cannot compare!