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Q. How can I fit place-based education into my class’s schedule? I have to do so much to prepare my students for the standardized tests.
A. Place-based education will not be successful if it is an “add-on” to an already full schedule. Rather, it works best when it is recognized as a more effective strategy for accomplishing existing educational objectives. By looking at each of your educational objectives through the lens of place-based learning, you will find multiple local project opportunities that are highly motivational for your students.
Q. How is place-based education different from environmental education and service learning?
A. Place-based education has its roots in environmental education and, similar to the best of environmental education, it uses the full range of local environments--natural, economic, social, political and cultural--as the foundation for learning. PBE also includes service learning as one of its key strategies.
Q. How much does place-based education cost and where do I get the money?
A. Place-based learning does not need to cost more than traditional learning. Administrators have reported that the cost of copies and transporting students can be made up through lower textbook purchases. The additional adults required for field studies can be found through mutually-beneficial community partnerships. Funds for special supplies or travel can often be obtained through grants from private foundations or agencies, or donations from local businesses. Funders are often attracted to the range of goals addressed by PBE, from building skills for democratic society to conserving publicly accessible open space.
Q. How can I convince my principal and the parents that place-based education is worth trying?
A. Show them the evaluation results documented in “Why PBE Matters”[LINK]. Across the country, unbiased evaluators are confirming that PBE programs produce: higher student engagement, higher teacher retention, strong academic achievement especially in the area of writing, and strong community support for education. Dig in deeper with skeptics to answer some of their specific questions and concerns.
Q. How do I handle discipline when I take students outside the classroom?
A. Teachers who frequently use the community as a classroom have found that it works best to establish clear rules and boundaries, the same way they do in their classroom. As students grow accustomed to field studies, they understand that these experiences are an integral part of their learning rather than a break from it, and they behave accordingly.
Q. Does place-based education mean that my students will only learn about this small town? We live in a global society!
A. A child’s interest in the world naturally expands in accordance with his or her cognitive and emotional development. So should the curriculum. Kindergarten students have a natural interest in what is close at hand, 5th grade students have the ability to think at the state or bioregional level, high school students at the national and global level. At each level, though, students are grounding their study of large-scale issues in a solid and personal understanding of how things work in their own community.
Q. How should I approach community organizations to ask them to be partners?
A. We have found that the best way to start a partnership is by carefully studying your potential partners’ missions, goals and culture. This will help you to propose a project that will be as beneficial to them as it is to you. Point out the ways in which the project is in line with their organizational objectives and listen carefully to their questions and concerns. Once you have broached the idea with them, the key to success will be continual, on-going, open communication.
Q. Who else is using a place-based education approach?
A. Place-based education is being adopted by schools and learning centers across the country. In addition to the organizations that host this website, other groups have been involved with place-based education, including the Rural School and Community Trust, the Center for Ecoliteracy, the Coalition for Community Schools, and parts of the US National Park Service. In much of the world outside the US, similar work is being done under the name, “Education for Sustainable Development,” or ESD.