The Importance of “Going Out”

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

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Visiting the Tidepools at Carpinteria State Beach

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of “Going Out.” Going Out can be an excursion to the school’s garden for the two year-olds or a camping trip for Middle Schoolers. It is, simply, the act of bringing learning outside the classroom. It’s an exploration of the world and all the amazing things it has to offer. It’s getting to know the world outside us. It’s a learning adventure.

A field trip is the most commonly known example of Going Out, but cars, parent drivers and permission slips aren’t always necessary. Especially on MSO’s large, beautiful campus! Taking a walk around the property to get to know the school’s magnificent oak trees is Going Out. Visiting another classroom to listen to fellow students read, cloud watching as a prelude to a writing exercise, and cooking in the school’s kitchen are all ways of Going Out while staying on-campus.

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Exploring the MSO campus with our pygmy goats, Frankie and Billie.

But why is Going Out so important? Last week, the Middle School and Room 8 had a wonderful opportunity to attend a concert by the Ojai Youth Symphony. It was amazing, not just because the music was delightful, but because it gave the students a chance to see musicians their own age (they ranged from elementary to high school). They heard and saw music being performed by real people (sometimes kids!)—a very different experience from hearing it through the speakers of a car or a pair of headphones. Finally, there’s the collaborative effort of the members of the orchestra working together. It’s amazing to see how many people and instruments it takes to create one piece of music, especially a familiar one.

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Birdwatching at the Ventura Water Treatment Wildlife Ponds

If it helps, think about the child’s work in the school garden. These days, most people purchase their food at the grocery store. Even if you shop at the Farmer’s Market, that’s still removed from the original source of the food. Do you think it’s important for children to see where their food really comes from? To see how integrally it is tied to the earth and the farmer who grew it? From their experiences working in the garden, children see with their own eyes that carrots don’t come from the store. They come from the ground where a person prepared the soil, planted the seeds and cared for them until they were ready to be harvested and eaten. In the same way, the Ojai Youth Symphony concert allowed our students to see where music comes from.

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A Middle School class at the United Nations building in NYC

There are also a myriad of other important benefits to Going Out, but I thought I might mention the behavioral one. Since Montessori teachers aim to educate the whole child, we welcome opportunities to practice Grace and Courtesy. Our Social Thinking classes have helped us with the idea that different situations call for different behaviors. A field trip to a library will require whisper voices and walking. However, during our trip to the Ojai Meadows Preserve, we were outside and loud voices and running were okay as long as the students stayed within sight of an adult. The Middle School is preparing for their trip to the Montessori Model United Nations. A great deal of preparation involves learning when and how it is appropriate to speak and how to address fellow members of the assembly.

All of these points may feel obvious to us adults, but children are continually learning about the world. (Actually, my experience is that adults are, too.) Lessons learned while “Going Out” are often the ones that stick with students the longest. Think back to field trips that you took in grade school. I’m willing to bet that each one of you has at least one vivid memory that you still carry, whether good or bad.

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