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Adolescents Visit the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute

Categories: Adolescent Program / Going Out / Museum Visits / Trips

oriental-institute-of-the-university-of-chicagoThis week, our Junior High students (our Adolescent Community), visited The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. The reports back from our students and Jr. High Director gave high praise of the museum and its staff.

Areas of the Globe: The Humanities Cycle in Junior High

One difference between our adolescent students and elementary-aged students is that there is, in part, an “assigned curriculum” with the adolescents. As part of their studies in Humanities, each year the students focus on a different geographical area of the world. First, they research and study the early agricultural periods associated with the area, followed by the classical or enlightenment periods. They then study periods of transition, including times of war, invasions, or revolutions. Finally, their focus turns to the modern age and current events in the region they’re studying.

An assigned curriculum? How very un-Montessori!

Not really…

The Junior High students are assigned the curriculum, but they have choice as to the AREA that they want to study in particular. Their own interest and curiosity drives their selection as to what country or geographical area they study. They determine their own track for research – What events are the most fascinating to them. What period do they find to be the most intriguing? What do they believe to be the primary issues in the geographic area now? And why is it important in their own lives?

During this portion of the Humanities cycle, we have students focusing on Egypt and the Anatolian Plain (and modern-day Turkey), and Mesopotamia. Dr. Bilezekian has noted that many of these areas have revolutions and tumultuous circumstances occuring NOW, which will create good opportunities for discussion later in the year, as students begin focusing on the modern-day countries and events. As he says, “It’s only going to get more interesting for them.”

It’s NOT a Field Trip. It’s Not a Day Off.

Students have begun researching the early agricultural societies that lived in the Middle East. This “going-out” to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute is a furtherance of the research already done by the adolescents.

Dr. Bilezekian: “It’s NOT a field trip. There is a lot of preparation that happens before we even go. Research ahead of time, discussing the area that we’re going to be.” WMS students are prepared for the excursion. It’s not a randomly-scheduled event. It’s a visit for a particular purpose and in furtherance of an area of study. In short, we can consider it studying and learning “in the field,” as in, “outside the classroom.” But as a stereotypical field trip? It’s much more than that.

“At most museums, guides are used to students sitting back, feigning interest, with the students just coasting through a “day off.” Our students are different. They were literally on the edge of their seats. They were engaged with the materials. The first hour was a seminar with replicas of archaeological objects. [The students learn how] to make observations and inferences from the objects. They also learn how to identify own cultural biases and influences on their cultural beliefs.” – Dr. Bilezekian

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After the seminar at the beginning of the museum visit, the group was given a tour of the actual objects in the exhibit, the replicas of which they had just been handling. Dr. Bilezekian remarked that the guides were very excited to have the group from Wheaton Montessori. When they were asked questions, multiple hands would be raised to answer the guide. Students asked relevant questions. They were engaged with the guides. They listened. They interacted.

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Pedagogy of Place: An Integral Part of a “Going Out” Experience

Going outs are also for students to learn more about themselves. By learning about different environments. Part of any outing, be it to the library, the pet store, a national park, or museum,  is learning more about the “pedagogy of place.” Studying how they as individuals fit into the community around them is part of the preparation. The area’s social background, economical history, cultural history – how does that lead to the area that they are visiting TODAY? In short, do the students know the background of the areas that they’re visiting How do they fit into this broad history?

Outtake: Lunch with the Jr. High Students on the U of C campus:

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