Place-based learning connects each student to place so that they can experience the community anew. Place-based learning is not exceptional; rather it is education with the familiar material of the local place. How can the interests and issues of small villages, rural towns, suburban enclaves, or urban neighborhoods be brought front and center into compelling ideas and issues that animate each student’s schooling life? Emerging from field trips to field studies, students are engaged through a place-based pedagogy into an overarching narrative of home -- in effect -- developing deep understanding and connection to one’s place.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education quoted Lewicki when it discussed the power of place-based learning in its research compilation: Living and Learning in Rural Schools and Communities
"Pedagogy of place brings school and community together on a common pathway dedicated to stewardship and life-long learning. It is teaching by using one’s landscape, family, and community surroundings as the educational foundation. Significant learning takes place outdoors and in the community. This community expands outward from local landscape and home, to regional realities, to international issues. In coming to know one’s place, one comes to know what is fundamental to all places."
The Rural School and Community Trust (www.ruraledu.org) arrived at the following points they deemed essential in place-based education.
1. The school and community actively collaborate to make the local place a good one in which to learn, work, and live.
2. Students do sustained academic work that draws upon and contributes to the place in which they live. They practice new skills and responsibilities, serving as scholars, workers, and citizens in their community.
3. Schools mirror the democratic values they seek to instill, arranging their resources so that every child is known well and every child’s participation, regardless of ability, is encouraged and valued.
4. Decision-making about the education of the community’s children is shared, informed by expertise both in and outside the school.
5. All participants, including teachers, students, and community members, expect excellent effort from each other and review their joint progress regularly and thoughtfully. Multiple measures and public input enlarge assessments of student performance.
6. The school and community support students, their teachers, and their adult mentors in these new roles.
Place-based learning is, at its core, a personal journey, and a relational journey as well. Each student redefines their relationships with the land, with the people, with the community through an increased understanding of home -- driven by purposeful learning. As noted educator, Francisco Guajardo, claimed in his work with the Llano Grande project in South Texas: "Relationships, that's where educational reform begins. Relationships: building up trust; building up commitments; giving students and teachers and community people an opportunity to believe, to create change, to try something new. All this starts with one person getting to know another person -- listening, talking, taking the time."