Our island community offers so many rich opportunities for the children to learn outside of the confines of the classroom. Going out and exploring the world that exists beyond school walls is an important component of Montessori Lower Elementary learning: doing so offers a vibrant way for the children to apply and synthesize their knowledge and skills, and real-life, public settings in which to practise grace and courtesy.
Throughout the month of November, the children in the Lower Elementary Downstairs (LED) class have had many dynamic, enriching experiences that have expanded their learning beyond classroom walls. These experiences are more than just “supplementary” in terms of their educational value – they are integral to the comprehensive whole that is the Montessori learning environment.
Early in the month, students in Grades Two and Three joined the Grade Four and Five Upper Elementary students as well as many other students from other schools at the “Shark Talk” hosted by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. This informative sojourn to Camana Bay piqued the interest of many of the students, and ignited many questions about sharks in the classroom.
Even little visits, such as the ones that the Lower Elementary third-year students make to the Public Library in George Town, are chock-full of ways for the children to learn and grow. The simple act of going to a place dedicated to the love of reading has automatically and easily gotten the children excited to read: they peruse the aisles of books with excitement, looking for a book to read for the sheer enjoyment of it. They gain experience in managing themselves in social and public settings, wherein grace and courtesy are expected as they speak to library staff and check out books, and develop their sense of responsibility as they remember due dates and care for shared property.
Bringing special guests from the community, while not technically “going out,” is a way to bring a little bit of the world into the classroom. LED was fortunate to have Upper Elementary teacher and proud South African Mr. André come into the class to share some wonderful, first-hand accounts of his life in Africa. He regaled the children with some amazing, true tales of lions, elephants and other animals, and effortlessly brought our class continent study of Africa to life.
The unexpected gift of a tank full of tadpoles (Thanks again, Ms. Terri!) also organically yielded different learning opportunities this month, some of them adventurously taking some children into the “wild.” Some of the first-year students were thrilled to explore the “untamed wilderness” of the swampy area surrounding MBTS, accompanying the teacher to release the rapidly-growing tadpoles before they became froglets. Observing the tadpoles in class also led some children to record observations in their Science journals, while others created vibrant posters and crafts illustrating the life cycle of a frog.
Our studies in Culture and Art truly came to life with a recent visit to the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, where all of the children gained a deeper appreciation for the rich heritage of traditional craft work in Cayman, and the wonderful artistry that could be wrought out of the island’s natural materials. They were enthralled by wonderful creations made out of silver thatch palm, caymanite, plantain “trash” and wood, and excitedly created their own version of a ceramic hanging pot in the gallery art studio.
These “going-out” experiences are a powerful component of Montessori Lower Elementary education. By exploring the world beyond the classroom, we are able to actively ignite and inspire the learning that goes on within it.