Putting Place at the Center

Place-Based Education (PBE) is at the core of Teton Science Schools’ programs and defines our approach to achieving our mission. TSS lies at the intersection of classroom education, field education, and educator development. All of our programs integrate learning with place to increase engagement, learning outcomes, and community involvement. In a world that has increasingly complex challenges, disengaged students, and individuals disconnected from both natural and human communities, TSS’ almost 50 years have demonstrated that PBE can address these challenges head-on.

To increase the visibility of the promise of PBE, TSS has partnered with Getting Smart to lead a national thought leadership campaign to gather stories, evidence, history, and working models of PBE around the country and world. We believe that PBE offers a new entry point to high-impact, personalized learning in a way that the broad education field does not. We hope to change that by elevating diverse voices from the PBE field. The campaign relies heavily on a “guest blogs as qualitative research” model, in which we cast a wide net and invite practitioners in the field to highlight their PBE work. Through blog posts, podcasts, infographics, and other social media efforts, the goal is to build awareness of PBE within the context of the global conversation about next generation, personalized learning. Through the campaign, we will highlight the links between place-based learning and other tools such as project-based learning, experiential learning, deeper learning, environment as an integrating context, and social-emotional learning, thus furthering the conversation on how students can have authentic learning experiences that truly impact local, regional, and global communities.

This effort coincides with an internal TSS initiative to create a clear and cohesive framework that defines our approach to education. After almost 12 months of conversations and deliberations, we have settled on a model that works for all program areas. This week we led the first internal educator development program using the framework for Teton Valley Community School and Journeys School faculty. The overwhelming feedback was an interest in more examples and more professional development, along with a great excitement about engaging students in PBE in the upcoming school year.The program is part of a larger roll-out aimed to add consistency across our programs as we define our strategic vision over the next six months.

Early indicators in the campaign, evidenced through our first blog posts, show that there is a large community of diverse educators who believe in the power of PBE. We believe that by defining place through ecological, social, and economic lenses, students develop an interconnected view of the world and can move through the inquiry process of observing and understanding, to the design process – actually creating changes based on their inquiries.

How can you join our efforts?

  • Tag posts that show students connecting to place with #placebaseded on all of your social media accounts. Add @tetonscience if the experiences are connected to TSS.
  • Follow the blog series at @GettingSmart.
  • Vote to support our panel at SXSWEdu conference (by September 2).
  • Dive deeper into your own PBE work by responding to one of the guest blog prompts on the campaign page for a possible feature on Huffington Post, Education Week, Getting Smart, Medium, and other platforms.
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