First of all I must clarify the term “Field Trip”. When I use this title, I am referring to…
“A going out with the intent of exploration and discovery for the purpose of learning.”
I am not referring to a personal hiatus from blogging, which readers may or may not have noticed. Indeed, my absence has been nothing of a “field trip” in the sense that a field trip is usually an exciting, much anticipated, and diverting break from the normal routine. A break from the routine it has been, though my absence from the blogosphere has lacked that special combined element of excitement and fun. Suffice to say that we ride the steep inclines and plummeting drops of toddler-hood with a few sharp curves of life events not unlike most, if not all, home school families. However,we grip the lap bar with a sense of determined commitment and ride it out.
Our theme for November was Trees: Leaves and acorns. We began by reading a book called The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward. It talks about the trunk, bark, branches, leaves, acorns and the animals that live in or benefit from the tree. Next, we grabbed a couple of bags and went exploring through the trails of a local park.
Even Haleigh, who is 1 1/2, reveled in plucking acorns and crispy leaves from the path to put in her little bag.
We took a smaller path to the left which led us to a raised boardwalk with a wrought iron fence encircling a 100 year old Live Oak dripping with Spanish Moss. It is the Piece de Resistance of trees!
Once home, we emptied our bags of treasures into a large tub. We rifled through the crunchy leaves, different types of seeds, long pine needles, and discovered a couple of stow-away spiders, which were immediately evicted. We talked about what we found and what grand part they play in the life of the tree. We kept the tub available for them to engage in sensory play.
It was a classic Impressionistic Lesson: A lesson crafted for sensorial and experiential impact, one that will make a deep impression and inspire the imagination of a child. Maria Montessori advocated that a child’s first introduction to a concept be impressionistic, inspire the imagination, satisfy hands-on exploration, and use real objects and specimens as much as possible. Deep and lasting learning occurs in The Doing; manipulating objects, feeling textures, smelling scents. There is a profound connection between seeing and hearing information, and kinesthetic movement. The physical manipulation and exploration of specimens and objects causes deep learning. Children become fascinated, then engaged, repeating activities, experiments, and exploration until they internalize concepts rather than memorize information.
It all begins with capturing the imagination, inspiring through impression.This of course cannot be done with every lesson, but rather introductory lessons, or as Montessori calls them Key Lessons or Grand Lessons developed specifically for that initial impression. These lessons often lead, as it did for us, to what Montessori called “Grand Conversations”. Simply put, a Grand Conversation is a discussion of observations, interesting facts, and curiosities that often leads to deeper areas of interest resulting in further research, projects, and extension lessons and work. Children naturally become absorbed by little details. Impressionistic lessons and Grand Conversations allow them to pursue those details “down the rabbit hole” where real and lasting learning takes place because it is meaningful to them. Teachers and parents (myself included) often fear the learning “rabbit hole”.
- What if we get lost down there?
- What if we don’t come back?
- What if we never get to the “important” learning?
There are things we must teach, basics that can’t be neglected. We can’t ignore training the hand to form letters, rote memorization of math facts, but we can balance them with the pursuit of what makes us curious,what fascinates us, with experience that leaves a lasting impression.
Whether you go out on field trips, or bring specimens and manipulative materials into the classroom, the experience and subsequent conversations and exploration will result in meaningful learning that will stay with our children forever and be fuel for the fire of their desire to learn.