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Place-based education, sometimes called pedagogy of place, place-based learning, experiential education, community-based education, education for sustainability, environmental education or more rarely, service learning, is an educational philosophy. The term was coined in the early 1990s by Laurie Lane-Zucker of The Orion Society and Dr. John Elder of Middlebury College. Orion's early work in the area of place-based education was funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Although educators have used its principles for some time, the approach was developed initially by The Orion Society, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization, as well as Professor David Sobel, Project Director at Antioch University New England.
Place-based education seeks to help communities through employing students and school staff in solving community problems. Place-based education differs from conventional text and classroom-based education in that it understands students' local community as one of the primary resources for learning. Thus, place-based education promotes learning that is rooted in what is local—the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place—that is, in students’ own “place” or immediate schoolyard, neighborhood, town or community. According to this pedagogy, grade school students often lose what place-based educators call their “sense of place” through focusing too quickly or exclusively on national or global issues. This is not to say that international and domestic issues are peripheral to place-based education, but that students should first have a grounding in the history, culture and ecology of their surrounding environment before moving on to broader subjects.
Place-based education often involves hands-on learning, project-based learning, and is always related to something in the real world. Thus students embarking upon a unit about the Vietnam War might interview veterans of that war, collecting their stories for a radio-spot, newspaper article or educational brochure. In this case, the use of local people to support students’ learning would not only lead to greater comprehension of the Vietnam War, but also to understanding more about the history of their community and the people in it.
Byron Fellowship is a place-based learning experience built around sustainable community development.
Wintergreen Studios is a year-round wilderness education and retreat centre in Southeastern Ontario offering workshops and meeting facilities. Wintergreen's environment and architecture have been designed to enable people to engage in mindful living and return to their homes and workplaces inspired and refreshed.
Place-based education in schools
- Teton Science Schools is a Wyoming-based non-profit organization inspiring curiosity, engagement, and leadership through transformative place-based education. Through two schools (Teton Valley Community School and Journeys School), a graduate program, teacher professional development, eco-tourism, and science education, Teton Science Schools works with students of all ages to use place as a context for learning. Teton Science Schools engages students in place through inquiry and community-centered design.
- Think Global School is an IB traveling high school that holds classes in three different countries each year. Students engage in place-based learning through activities such as workshops, cultural exchanges, museum tours, and nature expeditions.
- Christchurch School in Virginia, the Hill School in Middleburg, VA, and Northwest Community College in Terrace, British Columbia are examples of schools that incorporate place-based curriculum.
- Wogaman 5-8 School in Dayton, Ohio is a place-based curriculum school where students explore issues within their community and present solutions based on their research and hands on work. Teachers develop inquiry based lessons around Common Core standards so that students not only meet the standards, but also grow as contributing members of a sustainable community.
- Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education in Alna, Maine uses place-based education to connect children to themselves, to each other, and to their communities through studying both natural and human environments. All activities Juniper Hill's students engage in at the school are integrated into the local landscape and community.
- Byron Fellowship Educational Foundation
- Promise of Place website and resource base
- TEDx Talk: Supporting Education Through Community Engagement
- Hilltown Families: Community-Based Education Network
- Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities by David Sobel, Orion Society, 2004, ISBN 978-0913098547