by Cheryl Allen

Field Trips are an important part of the Montessori elementary and secondary experience.

We often call is “going out” which, appropriately, seems more a part of the regular curriculum rather than the day off that field trip can mean to some people.

These last couple of weeks have been full of opportunities for us to go out and learn. We have been to an art museum, a science museum, a live theater performance, and an outdoor historical site. All were wonderful and so full of great experiences!We went to Historic Spanish Point the week before last.

While there we learned about very early settlers to our area that appear to not have a written language. Everything that has been learned about them has been discovered from skeletons found in a burial mound and the midden?an ancient dump! We got to do our own archeological dig, actually walk into the midden and see what they are still slowly exploring, and think a lot about what future generations will think about us from our trash.

Our students left feeling that they could discover if this group had a written language and could come back as they got older to study the midden.The following week we went to the Ringling Museum and explored an exhibit there called Re:Purposed.

It showcases art work created from discarded items, some found in our area. It had everything from a hut made of items found in Sarasota, sound suits that make noise when you wear them, a piece that we could interact with and change through our movements, and statues to recognize those who would otherwise be forgotten.

While the curator was talking about the work, we got to hear it explained very well by one of the students. She answered the question, ‘Is that piece art’ by explaining, ‘At NewGate School, I learned that everything is art, so that is art, I am art, and even you are art.’

We followed that tour with a walk across the grounds, lunch, some playground time, and an exploration of the circus museum where Mr. Stanley shared some of his insider’s stories.

This week we went to the South Florida Museum where we noticed the plants and animals were displayed by the same eras we see on the Timeline of Life. We could see fossils of the plants and animals we had only seen in drawings and discovered that most of us are not much taller than a mastadon’s tibia (shin bone). We also had the chance to learn about Snooty, their 66 year old manatee. We ate lunch while we watched Snooty swim, then took a walk on the Riverwalk and found a playground.

On Tuesday we finished up our work with the Write-A-Play program at Florida Studio Theater. The plays, written by students kindergarten through sixth grade, were entertaining and fun. We had submitted plays, but none of ours were shown on stage. We did get ideas about our storytelling that will help when we write more plays next year. We enjoyed some really great plays, many with wonderful life lessons.

Every time we go out we not only learn more about science, history, art, or playwriting, we also practice our respect for environments outside of our classroom, practice listening to new voices , respectfully asking questions and interacting with adults that are not with us nearly every week day, and develop our ability to be flexible as a group. Getting to go out and explore our area can feel a bit like a vacation day, often with very little writing, but one that is full of learning and opportunities to develop our brains.