While planning field trips for the 3-6 year-old age range can be a bit more daunting, it couldn't be more important. As Dr. Montessori has shown us, children learn by doing and exploring. The world to the primary child is very personal. Since he has very little experience, he knows his small world by the sounds he's heard, the sights he's seen, the things he's touched, smelled, and tasted. Until his senses are awakened, developed and new evidence is gained by experience, his world remains very small.
Planning and Preparation:
Montessori Preschool Education: Going Out for Ages 3 - 6 years
As with any activity with small children, it pays to plan ahead carefully. You may want to take the trip first yourself to assure safety, age appropriateness, timing, cooperation with owner or operator concerned, toileting facility access, and any fees. It's also very important to consider the length of time required for both transportation and the visit itself. Is the trip too long for the age of the children? Will they get too tired? Will it interfere with routines for eating and resting? It's also a good idea to plan trips for midweek. Mondays are difficult because there is no time for preparation and reminders to parents. Many museums and family-centered activities are also closed on Mondays. Fridays can be busy times as other schools may try to go at the end of the week. Plan your trip early in the day, if possible, when the children will be less tired. Remember…the younger the children, the shorter the trip!
It is crucial that you always get parental/guardian permission before taking a child on a trip. You can easily create your own permission slips for parents to fill out and return in advance of the trip. Try emailing copies and having the parents print, sign, and return them, but make sure you have extra printed copies just in case. The form should include a description of the trip, why it's beneficial, transportation information, time leaving, return time, what the child will need and the amount of the fee to be collected for each child. Create your form in a way that parents can simply sign the bottom half but keep the other half with all the information on it. You should also leave a space for parents to include the phone number of whom to contact in case of an emergency. (Some schools even require health insurance information). Permission slips should be sent out at least a week ahead of time.
If you are not traveling by bus, provide a space where they can sign up to drive as well as write down how many children they can take (include a reminder about how each child must be securely buckled her own car seat belt or age/weight approved booster seats and in the back seat of the vehicle). Many schools now request copies of the driver's license as well as insurance information for each driver. When assigning vehicles, assign parents their own child plus friends of the child. Children with behavior issues should be with the Montessori teacher or someone who knows how to best handle their particular situation. Always make sure that the drivers have a copy of the trip map, even if they've been there before. It's also a good idea that each driver has a copy of the permission slips and a first aid kit in case of emergencies.
Before the Trip
- Create laminated identification tags for each child. This should include the name, address, and phone number of the Montesori school. Due to privacy concern, some schools are opting out of including the child's name on the tag. These can be placed in the pocket (or shoe) of older children, or worn as a necklace.
- Discuss safety. How are you traveling? How do you cross the street? Waiting until the adult helps you out of the car. The importance of staying together. (Just be sure not to over stress these issues. Small children can easily become anxious).
- Discuss appropriate clothing. Some schools require the children to wear school t-shirts for easy identification.
- Assign each child a field trip buddy.
It's helpful to have a bag or backpack packed and kept ready. It should include:
- First Aid Kit
- Permission Slip
- Emergency phone numbers for all children
- Cell phone numbers for all drivers and chaperones
- Wet wipes or hand sanitizer
- Directions and contact information for the trip
- Several gallon-sized sealable plastic bags. (These come in handy for trash or if a child gets sick).
- Keep an active eye on your group of children. The Montessori teacher(s) will be very busy and rely on you to help.
- Count children frequently. Know where everyone in your group is at all times.
- If children need to use the bathroom, make sure that an adult accompanies those children and another adult remains outside with the others.
- Show an active interest in the trip and react appropriately to what is happening.
- Be prepared with diversions (songs or activities) when attention spans become short.
Visit these blogs for more on Going Out:
- Going Out as Part of Montessori Education - Learning Independence
- Montessori Education: The Importance of Going Out From a Child's View
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Sunday, March 30, 2008.