Elementary students have largely mastered those functional skills from their work in Primary and instead set their focus on thinking for themselves as they more strongly assert their intellectual independence. They also begin to be aware of the social impact of their individual choices and desire participation as a citizen of their society. As their interests extend beyond the walls of the classroom, it becomes the role of the guide to teach the child how to navigate the outside world and empower them to actually get out and explore it. In Cosmic Education, Elementary children are given the “keys to the universe,” the tools that crack open the doors but don’t necessarily provide a road map for what’s beyond it. The classroom, as a result, is rich but limited for the kind of exploration the Elementary child may want to do. That’s where Going Outs come into play. These experiences are powerful tools, for, as Dr. Montessori said, “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.”
A group of Elementary students on a Going Out to the Federal Reserve.
IN THE CLASSROOM
Going Outs are an integral part of the Elementary curriculum. In fact, the child in this plane of development needs two environments: the prepared classroom and the outside world. Once a student receives a lesson, their research can lead them to an opportunity to go outside the classroom and into the local community. The guide and assistant help students by suggesting the questions that the students may need to ask or the obstacles they may encounter. A form provides the basic questions the children need to ask before they embark: Who is going? Where are they going? How will they get there? How much does it cost? When will they go? It also includes important reminders, like bringing emergency forms and writing a thank you note after the outing. Recently, a small group of students had a Going Out to the Federal Reserve after they had been researching trade and economics. This outing, scheduled by the children, provided a rich, hands-on opportunity to not only more deeply investigate the topic at hand, but also to understand the process of planning such an outing. Coordinating the details of the trip empowers the Elementary student to make the call, search the web, and ask the questions that some people may not learn to formulate until adulthood. That is to say: it’s not just what they get to see when they’re out that’s important, but the process of getting there that teaches them a great deal, as well. The child who conducts a Going Out expresses his desire for leadership, responsibility, social engagement, and, of course, independence.
As your Elementary child straddles the boundaries between home, the classroom, and society, there are several ways in which you can empower him as a growing citizen and give him responsibility. Show your child how to make a grocery list and split up responsibilities at the store. Let your child order for himself at restaurants and–yes–even figure out the tip! If he doesn’t have one already, encourage your child to get his own library card. Demonstrate how to ask the librarians for help, from finding books to conducting research. Let your child be the one to call the museum your family plans to visit in order to find out the hours or the schedule for guided tours. When they develop a grand scheme for a big (and likely impossible) excursion, don’t squelch it. Even if you can already see the potholes in the road, ask your child what he’ll need to do to make this happen. (And he may see the potholes before he gets to them.) What your child needs is the confidence to step beyond the threshold and become an active citizen in his community.
When opportunities to learn are not held within the walls of a classroom, says Dr. Montessori, “instruction becomes a living thing. Instead of being illustrated, it is brought to life. In a word, the outing is a new key for the intensification of instruction ordinarily given in the school.” Simply leaving the house (or the school) is a vast opportunity to learn about local and global citizenship, and we can support children’s independence by providing them opportunities to do it.