The Montessori Experience of “Going Out” – A Parent’s Perspective
In Montessori classrooms, students are empowered to find the answers to their own questions with the materials and resources provided in a prepared environment. But what happens when students exhaust the resources of the classroom and still want to learn more? This is a golden opportunity to deepen their study in the form of a “Going Out” trip.
For example, a small group of students may have been studying sharks. After using materials in the classroom and books from the library for several weeks, they may choose to visit a nearby aquarium. The students are responsible for planning and arranging every aspect of the outing – from finding out the location, hours, and cost of the visit to arranging for their own transportation and supervision by staff or parent volunteers. This work requires students practice the skills necessary to plan and carry out projects: delegation and division of labor, sharing resources, making group decisions, taking responsibility for actions, and celebrating the success of peers. Students have the opportunity to learn skills such as how to schedule an appointment over the phone, the acceptable protocol and attire for visiting legislators in the State House, the etiquette for conducting an interview, or proper behavior when dining at a fancy restaurant. This is what Practical Life looks like at the Elementary level!
Adult chaperones are trained to allow the students to take the lead. Amy Scott shared that one of her favorite experiences as a Greenspring Montessori parent was taking Lower Elementary students on “Going Out” trips.
Amy described the challenges of accompanying a group: “Keep quiet. No problem, I thought. I’ve got this. It proved way more challenging than I had anticipated. We went to Pet Smart and wandered. They needed to buy crickets. They looked for 30 minutes before one of the kids thought to ask a staff member for help. They almost bought the wrong number of crickets. Certainly, I could correct that mistake? It would save time. Wait, I’m not here to save time! I had to remind myself of that repeatedly. As a busy mom, I am hard wired to save time. I had to stop myself from stepping in SO many times. Was this a lesson for them or for me??”
Amy also told us of a challenging trip to the grocery store: “The students needed ten items. Who knew there were so many kinds of tomato sauce products?!?! The right one was just in front of them! No, not that kind. No, not that size! Oh boy, I was getting triggered. I took a deep breath and turned back to the students. They were focused. They had learned that I wasn’t going to step in so they weren’t even asking. They were figuring it out. And so what if they bought the wrong kind of tomato sauce or ground beef?! Would we as parents rather have a perfectly cooked lasagna or kids who have learned to navigate an enormous grocery store by themselves? Kids that feel a crazy awesome sense of empowerment for picking out the ingredients and paying for them on their own?”
Amy told us one last story: “I took two students to the SPCA to drop off donations. They were giddy with excitement and would not even let me help to carry the items inside. Only problem: the SPCA was closed. They were shocked. It was a weekday morning. They hadn’t called to check or looked online to check the hours. How’s that for a life lesson they will never forget? Luckily, a staff member was just arriving as the students grappled in the parking lot with this dilemma. She gracefully allowed us inside and the donations were delivered. What a learning experience!”
When students return from these trips, they share their experiences with the rest of the class. The culture of the classroom is now changed. New experiences breath fresh life into the group and inspire others; new levels of independence have arisen; and new appreciation for the larger world has been brought to the group. Clearly, “Going Out” is not just an extended walk or a field trip. “Going Out” is a process of fanning the spark of imagination, allowing students to develop leadership skills and make meaningful contributions to the community.
Would you like to serve our students as a chaperone for Going Out trips?
Please join us on Wednesday, October 24th from 8:45am-10:00am. RSVP here!
In the video below, Anne-Marie Robinson-Siemen, a Greenspring Lower Elementary Assistant, describes her experience of “Going Out.”
Margaret Jarrell has a long history with Greenspring Montessori School and she currently provides Administrative Support. Margaret taught for more than a decade, most recently for five years in our own Lower Elementary Program, prior to taking on the role of Director of Admissions. In 2015, she, her husband, and her newborn daughter moved to Florida after her husband received a wonderful employment opportunity. We were so sad to see her go, so eventually, we worked out a way for Margaret to work part-time remotely. She now turns her considerable expertise to support administrative staff, guides, parents, and prospective families. Learn more about Margaret.