Why use place-based education in your school? Four answers that emerge from the findings of PEEC, the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative.
Duffin, M., & PEER Associates (2006).
PEER has concisely summarized several years of evaluation findings. The examples given are representative of the systematic analysis underlying the more comprehensive reports. For the complete picture, visit www.PEECworks.org.
- 4 years of individual and cross-program evaluations of 6 place-based education programs representing more than 75 schools (rural, suburban, and urban) in 5 states
- Interviews, conversations or focus groups with over 700 adults and 200 students
- Surveys of nearly 900 educators and 1,500 students
- Extensive document review and on-site observations
Summary of Findings
Place-based education can help educators become more excited and collaborative in their professional practice, and more likely to use local resources for teaching and learning
EXAMPLE: A second-grade teacher from the Ray School in Hanover, NH attended a summer workshop of Forest For Every Classroom (FFEC), a professional development program designed to provide the tools, confidence and leadership skills to integrate the local forest into traditional content areas. The next year, that teacher arranged for FFEC to provide a summer workshop to her fellow teachers. One result is that the second grade curriculum is redesigned around using the local forest. One teacher commented, “Using the outdoors as a teaching and learning resource was previously only done by teacher choice. Now it is a school plan.”
Place-based education can actively shape and become embedded in a school’s culture and identity
Analysis of data across PEEC programs reveals a “Tipping Point” pattern of culture change. For example, after two or more years of the Sustainable Schools Project and Project CO-SEED, which work intentionally with a whole school (not just with individual teachers), surveys show positive, statistically significant data strongly suggesting meeting intended program outcomes. Educators who are newer to a school and/or who have had less exposure to the place-based education program tend to report high outcomes similar to veterans of the school or program. This suggests that the intended outcomes are being transmitted through the norms and culture of the school, not simply through direct exposure to the program. Follow up qualitative data has reinforced this interpretation, with educators claiming: “Now it’s just part of the culture of the school,” or “Collaboration is now kind of a built in thing.” “[Veteran teachers] sweep these new people up and into the theme, the culture of the school. The new person seems to be able to go with it because of the comfort level.” For complete details, see http://www.peecworks.org/PEEC/PEEC_Reports/S0019440A)
Place-based education can help boost student academic achievement
Co-SEED worked with first graders on community-based units at the Young Achievers School in Boston. An evaluation compared first graders with one year of exposure to strong place-based teachers to those with two years of exposure. First graders with more in-depth place-based education outperformed peers on all measures. The principal of Young Achievers School in Boston said “One thing we know is that kids’ writing is much more interesting, complex, and detailed if they’ve had rich experience…The current first grade has about a third of the kids who didn’t have Kindergarten here and in general it is breathtaking the difference in the academic achievement. Our Kindergarten has the strongest place-based education in the school, especially with language development.” (For more details, see http://www.PEECworks.org/PEEC/PEEC_Reports)
Place-based education can help engage students in their community and connect communities to their schools
As part of the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids element of the Sustainable Schools Project, fourth and fifth graders in Burlington, Vermont helped revitalize a neighborhood street. Students at Lawrence Barnes Elementary observed and documented features of their community with a “neighborhood report card,” and noted a lack of safety signs alerting people to a school zone along their school’s area of the urban core. Students went to the director of public works for help, but were put off by claims of a lengthy action process. Students persisted, and the director changed course and expedited sign installation. One teacher commented, “[Our students] are very comfortable now with business owners, extremely comfortable with the Mayor, with the City Council, and with the Neighborhood Planning Committee because they’ve spoken there. And when they go to speak, people listen.” An SSP staff member echoed, “All of the city groups and officials had nothing but good to say about the students …and referred to [them] as the future city government.” A parent, “Sustainability involves strengthening the relationships between a community and a project, such that eventually the project naturally happens on its own because the entire community is so invested in its success.”