Most students go on field trips. Some go on one or two trips each year, and others, like many Montessori school students, go on many. “Going out” is an important aspect of the Montessori curriculum. As adults – teachers and parents alike – we often enjoy these trips soaking in the sights, information and wonder of what each experience has to offer. Do children feel the same way? What is the reason for field trips? Many educators wonder about this very question. Some state that field trips are simply a change of scenery, offering no “real” learning. Others feel they are a distraction, and still others contend they open the eyes and ears of their students. What makes the difference?
In order to fully consider this question, one must return to the question of the purpose of education. Is the goal to convey the same designated body of knowledge to all students or to expose students to ideas, opening doors and provoking a sense of wonder? Field trips are no different. When children visit the fire department or the orchard, the goal is to show them a little slice of life, to help them understand the world beyond their school, home or neighborhood. They are learning about others, the work they do and the place that hold in their lives. Visiting a museum or attending a play allows them to experience culture in various formats and to look beyond their everyday world. The field trips they have today are the building blocks for future experiences throughout their lives.
Education, in the classroom or in the form of a field trip, has the higher purpose of showing the world to students. Each time they visit a new place or learn more about the world, they are building their understanding of their place in the world. They explore ways to contribute to the world and ask questions about it. Our goal is not to simply have students memorize a body of facts or to recall where the pumpkins are planted or the names of the paintings viewed. It is instead to help them see the world today, tomorrow, and many different days and times throughout their years in school and beyond.