Place-Based Learning: Connecting Kids to Their Community


>>Michael: Is there more than one
way to figure out how big an acre is?>>Students: Yes.>>Michael: Could it be two feet wide?>>Student: Uh-huh.>>Michael: Right, it’s going
to be really long, right.>>Brent: What works for student learning
is engaging kids with their environment. It could be about the local culture. It could be about the local history. It could be so many different things. But finding that inspiration
in your community is key. When kids are engaged with
a curriculum, they learn it.>>Michael: Any questions?>>Students: No.>>Michael: All right,
make it so, do it up.>>Brent: What place based education
does is connecting learning to your own environment. Your own environment can
look many different ways. It can be an urban environment. It could be suburban, it could be rural.>>Laura: It can be the
buildings of the place. It can be the landscape of this place. It can be the stories of the place.>>Sarah: This year is Hood River
County school district’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. And we decided that since our building
is one of the most historic buildings in the district, and we have some space, we decided to take the old ticket
office and turn it into a museum.>>Emma: It is really cool to
learn about Hood River and Oregon. We started by making a
timeline and it’s going to wrap around the perimeter of the museum. And then there’s also going to be some
major events that happen in the world.>>Sarah: We’re going to have a
lot of World War Two things here.>>I’m going to say somewhere
in that corner over there.>>Emma: We took a field trip. We walked downtown and Miss Segal gave
us pieces of paper that had pictures on them of what the downtown
looked like back then. And we had to find where the locations
were and then look at how it looked now. It was a lot more interesting to learn
about and you really want to know, because you can relate to it.>>Sarah: What do I hope
the kids get out of it? That they get to better
know their community, and they have a pride in their space.>>Laura: Here in Hood River, we
live in this very unique landscape. The Columbia River Gorge. So that was a really obvious place to
start when we’re talking about geology.>>Student: How many layers are there?>>Student: Three.>>Laura: There’s been seven catastrophic
events that have created this landscape. And so you can talk about volcanoes,
you can talk about lava flows. You can talk about earthquakes. You can see the different layers of
rocks and the geologic history of time.>>Lauren: When we’re
done with this model, it will display what
the gorge looks like and how landslides have
been carving the gorge. So the first layer, which is the
clay, is the Ohanapecosh layer. The second layer is the Eagle Creek
formation, which is mainly soil. And the third layer, a salt
layer, is made up of larger rocks. If you walk on some of the trails,
like Wahclella Falls, which we visited, you can actually see where
the landslides could occur. When landslides happen, it’s
because of water weathering down. Those three layers get really
moist and eventually erode. So now we’ll model an example
of a landslide when it rains. As you can see, the soil gets brought
down and sometimes the small rocks do as well, which leaves
the Ohanapecosh bare.>>Student: Okay.>>Lauren: Sweet, it worked.>>Laura: My hope for my students
when they leave my class is that they can be stewards of
the world that they live in. Place based education is
also skills that you can use to understand the community
that you’re living in.>>Michael: Being able to
understand how you fit into a system is a really important part
of middle school and we try really hard to be able to get kids to
understand, what’s their role and what’s going on around them.>>Michael: Into that area,
because that’s what one acre is.>>Student: Okay, that makes sense.>>Michael: We are in the
process of studying fire ecology. There’s a lot of fires
that happen in our area, and we know that the reporting unit that they give us how big a
fire is, is often in acres. We’ve also been studying algebra and
so we’re using a one step equation here to be able to physically pace it
out and put it onto the ground, so they can start having a gut
understanding of what an acre really is.>>Okay, so get your calculators
out, figure out your pace.>>Student: Okay, do a hundred
divided by forty-five paces.>>Michael: The whole idea was, let’s
do things that put math in context and let’s create problems
that the kids want to solve and then give them the tools
math wise to be able to do that.>>Student: And then walk
that way two hundred steps.>>Student: How many steps?>>Student: Two hundred, because
we did four hundred feet.>>Student: One, two…>>Brent: I think what works for
student learning is engaging kids with their environment and how you
define that environment is really up to the kids, the community
and the teacher. All of us need to feel like
we’re connected to something. Place based learning provides
kids with that home base, and now they can start exploring.>>Student: Thirty, thirty-one,
thirty-two…

3 Replies to “Place-Based Learning: Connecting Kids to Their Community”

  1. Great story of authentic learning in place-based context. Love the creation of a MUSEUM and VIDEO that will tell others the story of this spectacular place. Lovely!

  2. Yes! Thank you Edutopia. I would so appreciate the opportunity to work for administrators who really understand your message here.

  3. I am a primary school teacher.I loved the concept of place based learning would love to take my kids to a local botanical garden nearby to teach them about plants. I'm sure the kids would be very excited to explore and learn for themselves.

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