The place-based approach connects students with the communities where they live. Curriculum is viewed through the lens of the local environment, both natural and social. Place-based projects incorporate educational goals with community needs as identified partners (government agencies, non-profits, businesses, etc.), creating rich integrated and experiential learning opportunities. Through the practice of service-learning, students develop skills in a real-world context while acting as civically-engaged members of their community. As they become experts on local issues, students are empowered and encouraged to be involved stewards of their neighborhoods, towns and cities– now and into the future.
From the “big picture” perspective, the place-based approach is important because it counters both social fragmentation and disconnection from nature. In a democracy, it is vital for our young people to have hands-on experience with civic engagement while acting as agents of change. In order for future generations to care for our neighborhoods, cities and lands, we need to give them opportunities to know and love the places where they live.
From the perspective of the teacher and school, the place-based approach makes sense. Authentic, experiential learning leads to heightened student engagement. When student engagement goes up, so does achievement. The dynamic nature of place-based education has the power to reinvigorate teachers while also incorporating many best practices.
Schools build stronger connections with their supporting communities and are increasingly seen as a resource by partnering agencies, businesses and constituents.
From the perspective of the student, place-based education can make school relevant. It empowers students to be problem-solvers and gives them a voice in decision making. Compared with traditional forms of learning, place-based education more closely mirrors real life and prepares students for advance learning and careers. It builds compassion and interest in the world around them. Maybe more than anything, students enjoy learning this way because it is both fun and exciting for young people to get out of the classroom, interact with the community and do real work.
- What makes this place special/unique? What are the big issues facing this place right now? What historical events/forces shaped this place?
- Why is it important to you? Why is it important to your community? Why will it be important for your students?
- Where will be the connection site(s) for students? Where in our community is a good example site or reference point?
- Who else is a stakeholder? Who make sense as a partner?
- How do I connect students to this place? How do I help them understand this place? How can we get involved and take action?