Our class has been on many field trips recently. These opportunities to go out and learn are wonderful and engaging. More importantly for me, as the guide, is that every opportunity to go out gives me to observe the students in a different environment. We get to observe the students following directions given by others, interacting with adults who have just met them, and respecting a new environment. Of course all guides want their students to learn when they go out of the classroom, but as a Montessori teacher I am more concerned that the social skills we work on consistently when we are in class are shown outside the school as well.
Each time we have gone out over the past few weeks our students have listened to the museum guides, asked thoughtful questions, and given thoughtful answers. It has been great to hear them make connections between what we have done in class and what they are seeing and hearing on trips. On our last group of trips we heard students comment on the type of paint used, notice the word Paleozoic, link fundamental needs of humans to what they were hearing, remember when we had talked about the birth of stars or how different oxygen levels affected plant and animal growth in different eras, and ask questions based on their own experience on the stage. It is always terrific to know that the information they have worked with has become a part of them, something they can access without the expected material.
More importantly, we saw them share, take turns, listen, work out problems, and treat each environment with respect, and interact with all the other people they encountered respectfully and considerately. They do not always manage to walk in a single file line, but they actively engaged with the environments they were in, asking questions and pointing out interesting sights and objects to others. They may have all wanted to be next to an object or a person that was speaking, but they were able to figure out ways to make sure everyone could touch what could be touched or hear what was being said. One student even shared his ?secret? for being able to see or touch something in a crowd, get down lower than the rest of the group.
After, and sometimes during, each trip an associate with the establishment would share their appreciation of our students with us. Some shared how much they appreciated that our parent chaperones and teachers were involved with the students, assisting the museum guides as much as we could. Most shared how much they enjoyed interacting with our group. After our tour with him, Dr. Matthew McLendon of the Ringling Museum posted, ?...they were the best group, of any age, I have ever given a tour to. They had the best questions, comments, and insights. It was a truly perfect experience for me. Maybe there is hope for the world! Also, I was really impressed with their "museum hands." Now, if I can just get the adults to do that...? As we were leaving, our guide at the South Florida Museum told us, ?I really, truly enjoyed your group. I wish more groups were like this.?
Many of our museum guides were impressed with our parent interaction. We have an expectation (that we share with the parents) that any parent joining us on a field trip participate in the activities of the trip. This doesn't just mean eating lunch with the group, but also listening to the museum guides and supporting them as needed. Sometimes support looks like providing a student's name when the guide is trying to respond to a raised hand, sometimes it looks like reminding a student to walk indoors. On one trip supporting the guide meant actually guiding part of our group on an archeological dig. We reminded the students of directions, helped them find necessary materials, but did not get to do the work. Usually being such a part of the trip means spending time with the students, exploring someplace new, and getting to share joy.
When we evaluate and reflect on a time that we have gone out, we are always happy that the students enjoyed it, but we really want to see them put the skills learned and practiced in class to use outside of class. We can observe the interactions, but having different people make the same comments to us really helps us know where are class is and makes going out such a learning opportunity for all of us. Additionally it is a wonderful time for parents to join us and get to see their child's friends, their actions in a school setting, and get to know other parents and teachers.