When children have mastered the ability to function within our classroom, they will be ready to begin exploring the world beyond our school. In Montessori schools, these explorations take the form of both field trips and “going out.”
The Elementary program typically has several field trips throughout the school year, times when the entire class takes a school bus to see a particular exhibit or program. Though we don’t usually schedule a field trip quite so soon in the school year, the total solar eclipse-viewing event was an example of this type of activity.
This year the students are participating in more “going out” events, where small groups attend programs or activities that are directly tied to what they are studying. Several students began the year learning about fish for our classroom aquarium. After they had learned quite a bit, the group walked over to the pet store on Kingston Pike and noted prices for different equipment and learned about which fish would do well in a classroom tank. (“No, I don’t think one labeled ‘aggressive’ would be good, unless we only have one fish!) We are still in the process of getting the tank set up. Once it is ready, the study group will venture out to select our fish and introduce them to the aquarium.
Another research group has been focused on learning about wolves. After completing quite a bit of research, the topic of red wolves came up in discussion. Through our Zoomobile contact, Louise, we were able to schedule a meeting with the zookeeper in charge of the red wolf exhibit at Zoo Knoxville. She shared most everything she knows about red wolves and answered the students’ questions. The keeper also arranged to have a feeding time while we were there. Viewing the red wolves and watching them eat was a great way to bring their research to life.
As these opportunities present themselves, we will take advantage of them to broaden the children’s experiences and connect their studies with the larger community beyond the school.
We will also have special programs within our classroom, such as a visit by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra quartet later in the Fall, as well as the Zoomobile in late January. All of these types of experiences enrich the classroom lessons, as well as prepare the children for their next stage of development, adolescence, where they begin to explore and participate in their local and regional communities.