Have you ever wondered what “Going Out” means in the Montessori Elementary environment? Many people believe that this term is synonymous with field trips. Let’s start by defining both in Montessori terms.
A field trip is an outing taken with the entire class. It is usually to an exhibit, show, or special event.
Going Out is an outing with a small group of children to further study a topic of interest. This trip is scheduled and prepared by the children and is related to a lesson in class.
Going Out trips are important for many reasons. First, consideration is given to the psychological characteristic of the elementary child to find one’s place in society. The freedom to explore society helps the child to better identify and understand individualism in context of the society. Going Out also helps the child develop independence, responsibility, organization, research skills, manners, and cooperation. Going Out is essential in preparation for the third plane of development: adolescence. Ultimately, these experiences help children gain respect for all types of jobs and learn the value of hard work.
Going Out is best explained in a classroom setting. Each guide develops a well-organized system for their environment.
- Setting expectations for the classroom.
Before the children can even consider “going out,” the guide observes freedoms exercised properly in the classroom. Freedoms of responsibility, independence, choice of work, care for the environment, and productive work are imperative. The guide provides an abundance of lessons on being kind, considerate, respectful, and courteous towards others. The classroom is a safe environment for self-exploration, cooperation, and consideration of others. The children learn responsible behavior in the classroom before they venture out into society.
- Introducing the concept of Going Out to the children.
During the first few weeks of school, the guide introduces the lesson on Going Out as an extension to any lesson in class, as this may be a new concept for the children moving up from Children’s House. The lesson is presented, the children delve into the materials offered in the classroom, and when they have completed some initial research, it’s time to go out.
- Training your parent chaperones.
Identify potential parent chaperones early in the school year and explain the Montessori philosophy and expectations for Going Out, especially the idea that the job of a parent chaperone is to provide transportation and to ensure the children’s safety only. A conversation often reveals which parent chaperones will honor expectations. Parents should be willing to allow the children to make decisions, discuss solutions to problems they encounter, identify alternatives, and make adjustments as needed. Have a list of parent chaperones, with contact information, available to the children when they are planning a Going Out.
- Scheduling a date.
When the children are ready to plan their Going Out, they schedule a meeting with the guide, determine a date, and add it to the class calendar. Then, the children fill out the “Going Out Form.” The form has name, date, where they are going, how much it will cost, which children are going, appropriate dress for the trip, and who is taking them. The children keep the form in the class Going Out folder until the day of their trip.
- Setting expectations prior and day of the Going Out.
The children assemble a pocket folder with the Going Out Form, money, and blue emergency cards for all the children that are attending the trip. The children present the folder and sit down with the guide to review the trip. It takes just a few minutes to gently remind the children of behavior expectations off campus. They are representing themselves as well as the school.
- Sharing the Going Out experience when children return.
Talk about what went well, what didn’t go so well, and any changes that could be made. The children are also given the opportunity to share lessons learned with the class.
One of my greatest joys in teaching is when the children return from a Going Out more excited than when they left. Going Out sparks “big work” in the classroom. For example, in our environment, first year students visited the municipal airport and watched planes take off and land. They returned to school and spent weeks trying to the construct the airplanes they saw on their visit. Following another Going Out, upper elementary children visited the popular chocolate factory in town and returned to school to create their new-found recipes. Other examples of going out locations are: the zoo, aquariums, museums, musicals, universities, and libraries for author signings. Going Out is just as important as the lessons given in class. It’s a way for our children to experience society, learn how it works, and appreciate the work that people do. As guides, we strive to have an active and successful Going Out program in our environments.
Suzy Rager is an Elementary Guide at Montessori Kingdom of Learning (MKL) in Peoria, Arizona. Her family owns and operates MKL and she just completed her 25th year of teaching. She has raised two Montessori boys with one transitioning to the adolescent program this year. She loves adventure trips with her husband and boys and volunteering as soccer mom.