Friday, May 13, 2011

Montessori Upper Elementary Practical Life: Going Out - Trip Ideas, Planning, and Overnight Excursions

NAMC montessori upper elementary practical life going out planning overnight
One of my favorite questions in my upper elementary Montessori classroom is “Miss Michelle, can we go to…?” I usually respond with “Give me a full prospectus telling me why we should go and the logistics of getting there and back”. And off they go to research and write a report.

Now, if the word “prospectus” seems a bit too esoteric, consider this: Montessori Practical Life activities are meant to teach adult life skills. What better way to develop the ability to plan a project or trip than to do it in a safe, nurturing Montessori environment?

Montessori uses“going out” trips to experience the real world, not that which is confined to the four walls of the classroom, as well as to acquire ‘culture’.

Montessori Upper Elementary Practical Life: Going Out - Trip Ideas, Planning, and Overnight Excursions

Culture in the Montessori sense refers to learning and internalizing the basic standards, expectations, rules and laws of one’s own cultures as well as that of others. Going out trips may include going to the theatre, the symphony, an art museum or a fossil hunt. Or, they may be more extensive and exotic such as overnight environmental camping trips or visiting historical or cultural sites.

NAMC montessori upper elementary practical life going out planning overnight students teacher
The overnight trip is a rite of passage for upper elementary Montessori students. Students are able to apply Practical Life skills that they've acquired through their Montessori years to a real life situation. They also have the opportunity to develop new skills and each student comes away with a new recognition and appreciation of his or her ability to make a meaningful contribution to the community. The learning environment is not just a few hours, but an extended period of time. Parent chaperones are not encouraged unless absolutely necessary in order to give students the freedom to learn and grow on their own.

An overnight going out is more than merely a campout. In true Montessori style, the students are responsible for the planning, organizing, and decision making. They select the location, which often is related to a current topic of study or student interest. There are trip logistics to be made: site location; transportation and chauffeurs; reservations; accommodations; menus; finances; packing lists; and activities. There are committees and teams to be formed. Permission must be granted both from the teachers, administration and parents. Budgets must be established and followed. Shopping lists and trips must be made. Inventories of camping gear, if necessary, must be taken. Schedules of chores must be assigned. What at first seemed a simple trip now turns into a major project.

As with all Montessori work there is an underlying purpose to these going out excursions. In a meaningful context, upper elementary students get to practice and apply all of the Practical Life skills they’ve been developing since their early years in the Montessori primary environment. With gentle, nurturing, proactive guidance from their Montessori teachers, they are able to actively pursue their own interests and find their own unique abilities within the safety of their immediate community.

Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, May 13, 2011.


  1. I couldn't agree more, it's a great answer to that question! And, when your school is on the other side of the Hudson from new york city, that prospectus is a challenging and enlightening one, filled with calculations on how to avoid rush hour subway traffic and group tour museum reservations! Very jealous of the camping out Thoth, must try it out soon!

  2. There is so much to learn beyond the four walls of the classroom. Going out trips are so enriching for students of any age.

  3. Dear Waterfront Montessori, I taught in a UE classroom in Northern New Jersey. There are some wonderful camping opportunities in the area. I'm sure your students will really enjoy it.

  4. My students don't want to go out! They say it's too much work! Help! how can I encourage without requiring?

  5. Hi Mandi,

    Learning to plan a going-out trip is a big work that needs proper modeling from you. First, you need to build enthusiasm and excitement about going out. Often, we as teacher unknowingly broadcast our feelings about going out onto our students. Secondly, plan a trip together as a class. Perhaps you are wanting to make a Thanksgiving meal to share together. Plan the menu together as a class. Spend time researching the first Thanksgiving and finding recipes. Then, bring in local grocery circulars to compare sale prices. Discuss methods of transportation for your shopping trip. Will you walk? Will parents drive? Can you take public transportation or will you need to hire a bus? Show them all the steps to arranging the trip. Call the store manager to ask permission and put the call on speaker phone so they can hear the conversation. Have them help prepare the permission slips. Divide the shoppers into teams, each with a list, a calculator (for comparing sizes and prices), and their allotted money. Assist them in writing thank you notes to the store manager and parent chaperones.
    Dr. Montessori knew that there was much more to learning than what happens within the 4 walls of the schoolroom. She knew this was big work and she knew the importance of applying information learned at school in real-world settings. It is only through application, synthesis, and creation that we truly learn.


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