by Mary Buckelew
“It’s not easy but everybody should be doing it.”
Demarest, A. (2016)
Open the classroom door . . .
I’ve been exploring place-based education for 35 years. Whether taking my high school students in New Mexico on field trips to White Sands National Monument to examine flora and fauna, to write about our observations, and to have fun – Or Fast forward to West Chester University campus where my freshman students and I explore campus through the lens of sustainability, I’ve been fortunate to learn from my students as we explore places and their complexities. A seemingly simple scavenger hunt on campus, reveals the kinds of health services available or not available to university students, a poem about the sighting of a hawk at the Gordon Natural Area (GNA) on campus inspired deep learning, engaged, and empowered beyond any packet, worksheet, or video.
However, reality means we cannot always open and walk out of the classroom or building, but we can investigate our building, the people, services, and environment in its immediate vicinity. We can invite the surrounding community into the classroom and if we are connected to the internet, we can research our communities and the world and engage and empower students with place-based learning.