John Dewey (1902), widely known as the father of progressive education, argues that many times in education, “facts are torn away from their original place in experience and rearranged with reference to some general principle.” This is the accepted form of schooling currently, as seen in new Common Core curriculums and standardized tests. This standardization of education has led to a somewhat homogenized curriculum across very diverse environments throughout the country.
Place-Based Education is a community-based form of learning that utilizes many aspects of a student’s surroundings including the biota, historical uses, geological features, and knowledge pool of the surrounding community. Place-based projects are extremely interdisciplinary, many focusing on themes such as environmental studies, ecological studies, biodiversity, community education, school-community relations, local history, and sustainable development (Penetito 2009). With a more rooted sense of place, perhaps the curriculum will become more relevant to the student’s lives and give students a greater sense of agency.
New Zealand has a growing body of research related to place-based education, EOTC (Education Outside the Classroom), and treaty education. According to Mike Brown (2012) who has done a lot of research on outdoor and place-based education, “Outdoor education has a long history in schooling in Aotearoa/New Zealand and it is generally believed that it can contribute to students’ personal and social development.” This points to the possibility that place-based education might be a smooth transition or addition to the existing outdoor education.
Many of the scholars doing research on place-based education have been inspired by an ever growing awareness of the indigenous Maori population whose history has been largely disregarded in the past. An important facet of place-based education is the growing research in treaty education, or resurfacing “lost” history and significance of indigenous populations. Maori tradition encourages questions such as “Who am I”?, “Where am I”, “What is this place about?”, “Whose place is it?”, “How do we fit into it?”, and “What are we doing here?” (Penetito 2009), similar to the questions place-based education asks students to consider. However, there is currently a disconnect between what teachers know about their local community and the actual history of that area. For example, in a study done between Maori people and local teachers, the teachers had little knowledge about the tribes in their area, which was reflected in their curriculum. They did, however, express interest in a place-based relationship with the local Maori tribe (Manning 2008). I plan to study how the questions used by Maori communities could transfer over to local schools, and if a more rooted sense of place could affect students’ learning.
Place-based education encompasses many of the themes presented by the idea of situated research. It strives to bring together nature and culture, local and global. By studying this approach, I think I will get an even better idea of what it means to be situated, and to what extent these dyads already exist. I strive to learn where on the spectrum of local/global and nature/culture the optimal learning occurs, and if this changes in different environments.
This project continues the hour-glass approach that I began last semester in ENVS 220. My concentration in place-based education formed the top of the hour glass, and my proposed research in New Zealand will constitute the middle of the hourglass, or the situated context. To complete the hourglass, I plan to write a thesis on place-based education in late-industrialized countries.
Brown, Mike. 2012. “Developing a Place-Based Approach to Outdoor Education in Aotearoa New Zealand.” http://18.104.22.168/sites/default/files/projects/9286_summaryreport_0.pdf.
Dewey, John. 1923. The Child and the Curriculum. University of Chicago Press Chicago. http://www.munseys.com/diskeight/chid.pdf
Manning, R.F. 2008. Place, power & pedagogy: A critical analysis of the status of Te Atiawa histories of place in Port Nicholson Block secondary schools and the possible application of place-based education models. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
Penetito, W. 2009. Place-Based Education: Catering for Curriculum, Culture, and Community. New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 18:5-29.