It was a cold December morning, with a high not expected to get out of the 50’s, but the Lower Elementary students were eager to dip their hands into the water with the net to see what they could scrape off the underside of the floating dock.
With nets full of life from such things as algae, sea lettuce, shrimp, barnacles and crabs, the children were excited to show the park rangers at Crooked River State Park what they had scooped up. They would rather gingerly poke through the net’s contents, wary of a crab’s pinch and other unknowns, to empty the contents into the buckets, but eager to dip their nets again into Crooked River.
The visit to the state park just across the state line in Georgia was part of Montessori Tides School’s field trip program. The Elementary classes aim to take in at least one field trip a month.
Maria Montessori said, “When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”
After the one group finished collecting material with their nets, they sat with the park ranger to take a closer look at what they found, including crabs and shrimp, before releasing everything back into the water. This part of the field trip had the students discussing such things estuaries, tidal creeks and phytoplankton. They also learned that oysters can filter two gallons of water an hour.
The group then went indoors to examine squid anatomy through observation and dissection. With a mixture of focused curiosity and uncertainty, the students listened as the ranger pointed out the squid’s features they could see on the outside, such as its arms, beak, fins, funnel and eyes.
The students then used scissors to cut open the squid so they could see the large liver, ink sac and hearts — yes, squids have three hearts. The ranger spoke about how the squid adapts to its environment using the pigments in its skin and how it’s an invertebrate.
Since the class recently had the great lesson on the Time Line of Life, the morning’s sessions built upon what they are doing in the classroom.
“The goal of each field trip is that it complements the Montessori curriculum and/or sciences we are studying within the classroom,” Ms. Nancy said. “This field trip provided many wonderful ‘hands-on’ experiences that coincide with our Time Line of Life lessons.”
After a picnic lunch in the sunshine among the long leaf pine trees, the whole group set out for the marsh along Crooked River. They looked for fiddler crabs and talked about the importance of the marsh ecosystem, which provides food for animals and shelter for animal nurseries, in addition to protecting the mainland.
To end the field trip, the group took a short hike on of the trails, seeing a gopher tortoise hole along the way. They also played a game that demonstrated how difficult migration is becoming for many animals as more open land is lost along migration routes.
One of the main themes in this segment of the field trip was the importance of conserving our natural spaces, such as Crooked River State Park, for future generations — both human and wild — to enjoy.
“There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest,” Montessori said. “Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving. The wood reveals that it is not only the trees that exist, but a whole, interrelated collection of lives. And this earth, this climate, this cosmic power are necessary for the development of all these lives.”