Place-Based Learning in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

In January of 2016, Teton Science Schools will again send a team to the Land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan, to lead a series of workshops on place-based education. Nate McClennen, Vice President of Education and Innovation, and I will represent Teton Science Schools and lead these workshops on place-based education. In addition, Graduate Program alum and current University of Wyoming graduate student Nick Koinis will travel with us to evaluate the programs for his Plan B Master’s research and to support the workshops. Our first workshop will be in Punakha, located in central Bhutan, for teachers from across the country. The teacher participants will have each attended a previous workshop place-based education in either 2014 or 2015 with Teton Science Schools. This year, the teacher participants will return as representatives of their Dzongkhags, or home districts, for additional training in place-based education. Each teacher will then become the focal person for their Dzongkhag in place-based education.

The second workshop will be in southwestern Bhutan in Samtse with lecturers from the Samtse College of Education. The lecturers in Samtse will begin offering a Master’s in Education degree in the next year, and the training in place-based learning will prepare the lecturers to offer the Master’s level courses. Both programs will leverage Teton Science Schools’ framework to integrate our philosophy of teaching students to understand local communities through the scientific lenses of inquiry and design.

Teton Science Schools has worked with teachers and lecturers from Bhutan since 2008 when we began bringing educators to Jackson, WY to learn more about place-based education. The opportunity to work together on place-based learning is rich because of Bhutan’s practice of educating for Gross National Happiness relies on tenants that overlap strongly with place-based education. Currently our partnership with Bhutan strives to integrate place-based learning across subjects in the Bhutanese curriculum and to support the launch of the Master’s of Education program. Since 2008 here has been some of our impact in Bhutan:

  • 119 teachers attended workshops (ranging from 3 to 10 days) in Bhutan taught by Teton Science Schools in January 2013, 2014, and 2015.
  • 29 teachers, school leaders, Ministry of Education staff, and Royal University of Bhutan lecturers have attended 2-week programs at Teton Science Schools in 5 delegations.
  • 6 graduate students have completed the 1-year-long Graduate Program at Teton Science Schools. Of these, 3 have gone on to the University of Wyoming to complete Master’s degrees.
  • These teachers teach in over 50 different schools, and the lecturers teach at Bhutan’s 2 Teacher’s Colleges.
  • 6 visits by representatives from Teton Science Schools have been made to Bhutan to advance the work for the partnership and conduct place-based education programs.

Finally, we are in Bhutan from January 9 – 25, 2016. We plan to write a few blog posts about our trips and experiences, pending regular access to internet. Those posts will be focused on the competencies of the TSS framework—instructional excellence, intentional culture, and community leadership.

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