Those of us who are engaged in environmental and sustainability literacy talk a lot about developing a “sense of place,” or a better understanding and appreciation for our immediate environment. This is not an easy task within the confines of a classroom environment. There is only so much you can convey about “sense of place” using textbooks, videos, and worksheets. To really know and love a place requires getting out and interacting with the plants, animals, and people that are closest to us. When we connect and care about these places, that is our communities, we are more invested in their health and sustainability. This is the essence of place-based education.
Place-based education takes the proverbial textbook and tosses it out the window. It invites educators to go into their communities and use the resources at hand to support the study of core subjects while immersing their students in the cultures, history, places, people, and experiences that shape where they live. Learning happens in the classroom and out in the community, aided by partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and government agencies. Curriculum is brought to life through service-learning projects, which not only makes learning deeply personal for students but inspires confidence and motivates them to keep learning. Most importantly, place-based education instills in students a strong “sense of place” and a desire to care for and lift up their communities.
Shifting to a place-based education mindset does not happen overnight. For those new to the concept, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are many resources out there and a great place to start is with these Principles of Place Based Education. For readers of GreenNotes, this issue will introduce you to some of the schools, districts, and people that have embraced place-based education and are eager to share their successes and lessons learned with others. From Washington DC and Gainesville, Florida to California and Washington state, educators are using their schoolyards and local communities as “textbooks” to deepen classroom learning, spark curiosity, and encourage strong civic mindsets.
Looking to further your practice in place-based education? Attend this month’s Green Schools Conference and Expo in Atlanta to connect with like-minded educators and leaders who are engaging in place-based education. It is not too late to register! We have an exciting line-up of speakers and sessions, not to mention some really great pre-conference activities. Check out the conference website. For those of you planning to attend, I look forward to catching up with you!