Thoughts on Education: Field Trips
At this time, children have now settled into classroom routines, and OMS Montessori teachers are beginning to introduce the first ‘Going-outs’ of the school year. Montessori was a proponent of field trips for elementary-aged children, viewing these outings as necessary extensions of the classroom.
Based on her observations, children at the second plane of development (Elementary-age) begin to find the walls of the classroom too confining. They require a wider environment outside the home and classroom and wider social contacts to satisfy their educational needs. In addition to classroom materials and contacts, children at the age of six or seven begin to yearn to explore physical and social worlds of a larger scope. Outings present the world as classroom and allow children an opportunity to acclimate to their wider physical environment and culture.
The physique itself and physical strength of the children at the second plane of development suggest their readiness to explore beyond the classroom and school. Sturdier legs and increased stamina allow the child to successfully navigate a day outside the comforts of the classroom.
In Toddler and Casa classrooms, every effort has been made to materialize the concepts made available to the children. Thus, children experience activities with real objects, e.g., peeling and slicing real carrots. As children mature into the second plane of development, the need to experience real objects pushes far beyond what the classroom can offer. Outings allow contact with the real world and real objects, as opposed to the limits of pictures, books and the number of artifacts it is possible to provide within the school environment. The real world and real objects serve as a springboard from which the child can use his or her imagination to think abstractly about the entire world and how its parts are interrelated. Just as reading about Montessori education is different than observing in the classroom, reading about a limestone cave, for example, is a far different experience than actually visiting such a natural formation.
Once children have experienced this contact with reality, they are capable of thinking abstractly about the world as a whole: “The world is acquired psychologically by means of the imagination. Reality is studied in detail, then the whole is imagined” (From Childhood to Adolescence, 36).
Outings afford contact with many facets of the culture and opportunities to see how all the parts of the whole work together. In this way, children begin to understand what is available in their community and the complexities of the society in which they live. Students become aware of the businesses, churches, schools, homes, infrastructure, land and water forms, available goods and services, etc. that make up their community.
Through increased contact with the world and a larger circle of social contacts, the child begins to develop relationships within the larger community, interest in the welfare of mankind and an awareness of what his or her own contribution to society will be.
Preparations for field trips also provide many lessons in Practical Life. Older students have input in the outings chosen, are involved in scheduling, and plan itineraries and meals. In addressing field trip expenses, students learn about handling of the money involved and its value.
From the security of the Casa classroom, the child is continuously on a path of growing independence and ever-widening interaction in his community. Field Trips for our elementary students are an important part of that transition. We look forward to sharing these exciting experiences with your children.