When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them in cupboards. - Maria Montessori
Last week, students in three Primary classrooms - Rooms 15, 17 and 20 - became paleontologists for the morning when they visited the Delaware Museum of Natural History for a program about dinosaurs. Children used a rope to learn about the size of dinosaurs, held and examined fossils, and learned what tools they would need to take to a dig site.
Starting at the Primary level, WMS students enjoy many opportunities to get out and explore the world outside the WMS campus. Field trips - or "going out," as Maria Montessori explained - are about more than visiting a museum or seeing a play simply for the fun of it. Field trips take learning outside the classroom and allow children to explore the world by seeing it firsthand.
"Field trips give the children a hands-on, real-life view of the topics that we study in class," said Primary lead teacher Marilyn Faralli (Room 20), whose students have been studying dinosaurs this month. "These trips become extensions of the classroom."
When Primary students read a classic story in the classroom, they might attend an Arden Theatre production in Philadelphia (as some classrooms did in the fall after reading "Charlotte's Web") to a see how the story translates onto the stage. Or when they study amphibians, for example, they might explore the marshes of Tyler Arboretum to observe frogs in all stages of their life cycles - as eggs, tadpoles and adults.
Field trips mark an important milestone for 3-year-olds, who are first-timers for this type of experiential learning. More confident and independent than they were as toddlers, they can better self-regulate and concentrate.
"They're learning to be a part of a group and a member of their classroom," said Primary lead teacher Erin Winner (Room 17). "They are so excited about venturing out into the world with their peers, teachers and chaperones."
Additionally, field trips offer Primary students opportunities to learn more about how to conduct themselves in new places.
"Field trips enhance the Primary experience by encouraging imagination, discovery and exploration," said Primary lead teacher My Dang (Room 15). "Grace and courtesy lessons are also practiced as children learn how to have self control in public places."
Whether they're exploring Linvilla Orchards to see where some of our food comes from and how it gets harvested, visiting Ashland Nature Center for a nature walk or to learn how maple syrup is made, or attending a theater production of a story they've studied in class, Primary students "going out" fosters independence and provides important real-life experiences. An added bonus: children and teachers alike never seem to tire of exploring the world beyond the classroom.
"We love seeing the children's faces - especially when they see the big yellow school bus," Marilyn said. "It never gets old for them."