“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller
Place is at the forefront of everything we do at Teton Science Schools— it’s our classroom, it’s our teacher, it’s the context for which we frame the big issues occurring on community, regional and even global scales. And ultimately, it’s our home.
In our classrooms, we aim to cultivate an understanding of place by encouraging learners of all ages to reflect on and better understand themselves and their role in their community. We take students into local, wild places, invite members of the community into our classrooms, and provide ample opportunity for unstructured play or exploration. What happens outside the classroom, when our students and participants are at home, perhaps living, studying and working in another city, and moving through the routines of day-to-day living, can look a bit differently, especially if their attachment to place isn’t so strong. What do we mean by attachment to place? Let’s explore.
The Science of Loving Your Place
Humans are instinctively driven to form connections with places. From a basic survival standpoint, our places provide us the very essence of what we need—food, shelter, water and space. Beyond that, our places are where we create the memories that, all together, make up the precious unpublished maps of our everyday private lives; this is where I first learned to ski, here is where I was happy, in that place I discovered my passion. When we attach to our place, we cultivate an affection, a love, that feels almost equivalent to being in a personal relationship. Perhaps you’ve even heard people say they’re in a “love affair with their city.”
In her book, This is Where You Belong, Melody Warnick writes, “You mostly know it when you when you feel it, which you probably have. When you roll into your town and say, ‘It’s good to be home,’ that’s a product of place attachment. So is feeling drawn as if by magic to a particular city, or never wanting to leave the place where you grew up, or never wanting to leave the place you live right now…like happiness, place attachment exists partly as emotion and partly as a pattern of thought.”
In the sphere of place-based education, we often talk about the benefits of connecting learners to their communities in that it boosts academic outcomes, increases student and teacher engagement, impacts communities, and promotes a better understanding of the world around us. The same holds true outside of the classroom. When we’re connected, or attached, to our place, we’re happier, more loyal to and engaged in our community, and ultimately more prosperous economically.
The Art of Loving the Place you live
So how do we cultivate an initial attachment to place and ultimately learn to love where we live? The short answer—we choose to. The long answer—by doing small things consistently that over time manifest a feeling of belonging. Need some ideas? We’ve put together a list of 6 ways you can start rooting into place and learn to love where you live.
Take a walk
When you take a walk, you not only transport yourself through place, but experience it through all of your senses. You say “good morning” to the neighbor walking their dog. You notice the progress made on the new building being constructed in town. You might even hear the chirps of a familiar songbird or the wind blowing on a particularly gusty day. On foot, moving slow, you’re able to see all of the details.
Love your place exercise: Draw a map of part of your town. How many details can you fill in? Houses? Trees? Schools? Businesses? Parks? Gardens? If your map isn’t very detailed, take a nice, slow walk around that part of your town, then try again.
It’s never been easier, or more convenient, to buy stuff. We can scroll through Instagram or pull up an app on our phones and with the push of button, buy something, and have it delivered to our doorsteps, sometimes within a few hours. When we do so, we do it at the expense of our place and our connection to it. When we buy local, we support local community members, we pour money into our local economy, we create jobs, and ultimately improve our own quality of life.
Love your place exercise: Find one item you can commit to buying from a locally owned business and stick with it.
Say hi to your neighbors
It’s not an uncommon trend these days to feel more comfort conversing and engaging with people online than the very people that live next door to us. In fact, the act of being neighborly today denotes almost the very opposite of what it did half a century ago: to leave those around you in peace (source). But, the importance of forming relationships with our neighbors hasn’t disappeared. When we do so, we’re able to nurture values like trust, reliability, gratitude, service, and respect, and create a cohesiveness that supports not just our own wellbeing, but the entire neighborhood’s.
Love your place exercise: Simple. Say “Hi” to your neighbors and, perhaps, even get to know their names.
It’s been proven. We, as human beings, are happier and healthier when we spend more time in green spaces. Spending time in nature also builds social cohesion. When we recreate in our community’s green spaces, we see our neighbors, we play with each other’s dogs, and we’re often more inclined to work together to keep them clean and protected.
Love your place exercise: Find ways to do the outdoorsy things you love where you live. Maybe it’s a walk through the city park, biking to work or school, or even slipping your shoes off and dipping your toes in the local creek.
Helping out in your place is a win-win experience: it makes you feel better and simultaneously makes your town or city a better place to live. When we pick up litter, we make our place more aesthetically pleasing. When we donate food and goods to the local food bank and charity shop, we improve access to basic essentials for all kinds of people.
Love your place exercise: Find a place to volunteer, perform random acts of kindness, or donate to a local organization.
Eat Local Food
Our sense of taste can be one of the strongest forces of memory making, especially when pinned to a specific time and place. For many of us, we can conjure place entirely from the meals we remember eating there and often it’s the thing we miss most when we’re not there. So why not cultivate the same experience from the food we eat at home?
Love your place exercise: Find a local restaurant in your neighborhood to become a “regular,” shop your local farmer’s market if available, or grow your own food.