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Principles of Place-based Education

Introducing place-based education in schools and communities works best when you give its roots a chance to grow deep and strong before expecting too many flowers. We’ve found the following principles to be key to PBE programs These principles are helpful starting points, but can also be overwhelming. Remember that PBE is an ongoing process that can be refined along the way. New and seasoned practitioners will most definitely run into challenges — and come up with creative and practical solutions — as they design place-based education initatives. You may also find our planning tools helpful for getting started.

Principles of Successful Place-Based Education

  • Learning takes place on-site in the school yard, and in the local community and environment.
  • Learning focuses on local themes, systems, and content.
  • Learning is personally relevant to the learner.
  • Learning experiences contribute to the community’s vitality and environmental quality and support the community’s role in fostering global environmental quality.
  • Learning is supported by strong and varied partnerships with local organizations, agencies, businesses, and government.
  • Learning is interdisciplinary.
  • Learning experiences are tailored to the local audience.
  • Learning is grounded in and supports the development of a love for one’s place.
  • Local learning serves as the foundation for understanding and participating appropriately in regional and global issues.
  • Place-based education programs are integral to achieving other institutional goals.

Vignette

Dane County Cultural Tour 2002

Fourth and fifth grade students spent a year studying the cultural history of Dane County, Wisconsin. The student-driven project culminated in a four day, 370 mile road trip of the county. They visited a cheese factory, a Cambodian Buddhist temple, three farms, and a fiddle maker. They also interviewed folk artists, musicians, and community historians. An impressive collection of projects like this, including student work and curricula, can be found at the Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture website.

Randall Elementary School
Madison, Wisconsin


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