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Defending Place-Based Education

by Stephen Skoutajan

"Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathmatics, social studies, science, and other subjects across the curriculum. Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education increases academic achievement, helps students develop stronger ties to their communities, enhances students' appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens."- David Sobel, 2004

Excerpt: ... Many educators often ask themselves how can they explain to school administrators and the parents of their students that there is tremendous value in getting those students out of the classroom and into parks, streams, forests... where the curriculum lives. ...

Environmental education has long been thought of as yet another seperate strand to be squeezed into the overwhelming number of curriculum expectations that students and teachers must cover every year. However, through discussion and debate in school staffrooms, faculties of education and most importantly, in classrooms, environmental education is now being defined as the big umbrella that connects all subject areas within a relevant and authentic context. ...

Throughout history, when people have been given the liberty to interact and share ideas, they end up resolving the big issues of the day. The same can be said within our schools. When literacy programs are focused on teaching students to make deep and creative connections between what they read and what they experience outside the classroom, we create fertile ground for creative problem solving and innovation. ...

...Research clearly indicates that when the classroom is centered on authentic experiences within the local community, students consistently meet and surpass government mandated standards and, most importantly, lay the foundation for a future generation of engaged students ready to innovate and experiment to generate the "good ideas" and take on the unknown challenges of the future.

Excerpted with permission from Green Teacher #97, Fall 2012
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