Wheaton Montessori News
Mrs. Mayhugh recently hosted a CommuniTEA, a monthly event in which teachers and staff present a topic for discussion with parents. For this meeting, Suzanna Mayhugh addressed your “Frequently Asked Questions,” or “FAQs.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing Suzanna’s notes from the CommuniTEA. Previously, we’ve shared her notes on daily logistics and school celebrations. This week’s portion covers your questions about school trips taken during Elementary and Adolescent Community years.
I meant to tell parents during the CommuniTEA that being a chaperone on the camping trips and later “The Big Trips” is one of the best experiences of my life. It also solidified my confidence in the Elementary’s academic program. It solidified my belief that the Elementary teachers are who I want to have helping my children learn manners, social decorum, and how to navigate life outside of the classroom. Every day on the trip I experienced multiple moments of pride while observing the students interact with their field guides, rangers, flight attendants, bus drivers, and fellow travelers. Without fail, I would be stopped in the airport by someone expressing (usually with shock) how amazed they are by how our students carry themselves, how polite they are, and how pleasant they were during the flight.
Months of work, both social and academic, go into preparing for these trips. During both of the Big Trips that I’ve been on with Elementary, field guides and rangers have pulled me aside to tell me that they’re stunned by the amount of information our students have when they arrive and how fun it is to have a dialogue about their material, rather than just lecture. Our students are confident to raise their hands, ask follow-up questions, and explore the information and the terrain. When the students arrive on site, they are READY. If you haven’t read the blog post, “Why Do We Travel?” yet, you should.
“Does everyone have to go?” Yes. Beginning in second grade, your student is expected to attend the 2-night camping trip. Beginning in fourth grade, your student is expected to be a part of “The Big Trip.” These trips are a large part of the work done in the classroom.
“Where do they go?”
Elementary camping trips have cycle through a three-year rotation traveling to: Mammoth Cave National Park, Baraboo, Wisconsin and the International Crane Foundation, and Springfield, Illinois and Cahokia Mounds. This year, we’re investigating the option of traveling to the Indiana Dunes, now that it is a National Park.
The Big Trip is also on a three-year rotation. We travel to NatureBridge at Olympic National Park, Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming, and MarineLab in the Florida Keys.
“How long are they gone?”
The camping trip is a 2-night trip. The Big Trip is typically 5 nights.
“How do I get to chaperone the trip with the snorkeling?”
Much of the work of this age group is in building independence, confidence, social skills, and to start developing an appreciation for the world around us – especially our roles in it. All the research and the writing that goes on before and to some degree the presentations: it’s an important, but secondary, benefit of traveling as an adolescent. Primarily, these trips for this age group offer unparalleled opportunities for identity development, understanding roles within our small community, and imagining themselves in the global community. Traveling broadens who these adolescents are; it forces them to try new things with people with whom they might not normally affiliate. When taken out of their comfort zone, they find out how they cope with stress, with new experiences, with being outside of their routine. They are acquiring skills that will serve through for their adult lives – socially and practically.
Dr. Bilezikian says this looks a lot like: “I am someone that slept out in a thunderstorm…. I am resilient.” “I am someone that traveled the NYC subway system, I am adventurous.” “I’m someone that liked the 5-mile hike in the forest. I’m an outdoorsy-person.” There is a window of opportunity in adolescence for identity formation, which cannot be formed in isolation or through classroom academics alone.
“Where do they go?”
The Adolescent Community also goes on a short camping trip each year; They’ve visited Hannibal, Missouri after reading “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, explored the area surrounding Springfield, Illinois, and hiked all around Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin.
The Adolescent Community also has a three-year rotation with their larger trip. The trip destination is also tied to the year’s curriculum, like in Elementary. In recent years, the students have attended the Montessori United Nations in New York City (culminating with one of our students giving a speech in the U.N,’s General Assembly room!). They have also traveled to Washington, D.C. during a year focusing on U.S. History and Civics. This year the students will travel to the American Southwest to explore the desert biome, indigenous cultures native to the area, and visit three national parks: Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Bryce National Park.
“Can I chaperone on the Adolescent Community Trips?”
The chaperones for the Adolescent Community Trips are limited to the teachers and staff of the the Adolescent Program.
Again, if you haven’t read the blog post, “Why Do We Travel?” yet, you should. Much of it pulls from Ms. Searcy’s and Mrs. Fortun’s end-of-year reports, which detail lessons given throughout the year pertaining and supporting the trips.