Dr. Montessori found the child entering the elementary program to be awakening to the wider world. She felt it imperative to allow the child to experience the world by immersion. To this end, she encouraged “going out”. “Going out” is not just an extended walk or a field trip. “Going out” is a process of fanning the spark of imagination in the child, allowing the child to fixate on a thought, discuss the possibilities, gather resources, refine a plan, execute the field trip, and discuss the event upon completion.
The child entering the elementary room has changed. She is loosing teeth, growing strong limbs, and beginning to ask inferential questions. These changes tell us that just having a field trip will no longer be adequate. That just the use of the feet, eyes and hands is no longer adequate for the understanding of why, how, and when. The child must be a part of the process of discovery outside the classroom. The children’s interests will be an active part of the process. Therefore observing what topics are being batted about in the classroom is imperative. Observing, listening, feeding tidbits into the pot until the suggestion that perhaps we could look at this up close is mentioned.
Our goal as Montessorians is to provide the children with the tools to master the world around them. We must give the children the opportunity to actually try it out. We must discuss: how are we getting there; what are we going to see; is there a cost; how long will it take; will we need food and water; what should we wear; what questions might we ask; etc. The experience of planning the event must be shared with the children. To provide the experience without providing the framework does not lead to independence but, in this age, a sense of entitlement.
The discussions in the classroom have continued to be the unveiling of nomenclature related to the upcoming “going out”. This allows the children to absorb the sensorial experience more fully. When the actual event occurs, it follows the pattern that the child has internally learned: the group can do more than the individual. The children are provided with each other to encourage, laugh with, self-correct, and just exist together. This collective observation is more than the sum of its parts.
Upon returning, the culture of the classroom is changed. New collective experiences meld into the collective consciousness; new levels of independence have arisen; and new appreciation for the larger world has been brought into the child. We have increased the dignity of the child by providing him with an outlet for his mental potential. The foot in this case teaches the child.
An excellent example of an ErdKinder Going Out can be found over at Montessori Muddle