Rana Jreidini

2nd year, Art Education major

Place-based Pedagogy: Environment, Ecology and Community-based Learning 

Place-based pedagogy and learning involves developing a keen sensitivity to the possibility of expanded teaching environments. Place-base pedagogy seeks to help communities to identify and solve core problems. It is often hands-on, project-based and always related to something in the real world. If all physical localities become meaningful in and through human experience, then place-based pedagogy seeks to tap into that meaning and build on students’ known experience.  To work with place as a teacher is to work in cross-disciplinary and intercultural ways, with a growing awareness of how place may be read, understood and changed by student work. According to Michael Stone: “When people acquire a deep knowledge of a particular place, they begin to care about what happens to the landscape, creatures, and people in it” (Stone, 2009, p.13). He believes place-based education is fundamental to schooling for sustainability. “Places known deeply are deeply loved, and well-loved places have the best chance to be protected and preserved, to be cherished and cared for by future generations” (Stone, 2009, p. 13). Smith also argues that when schooling shifts into the realm of the real world, moving outside the boundaries of the customary classroom, students and educators become creators of a place-based curriculum. Smith finds, “the wall between the school and the community becomes much more permeable and is crossed with frequency [and] it serves to strengthen children’s connections to others and to the regions in which they live” (Smith, 2002, p. 593–594).

A permeable wall between the schools and the community can facilitate productive partnerships in learning and an expanded sense of understanding for children. Through place-based pedagogies, children take their curiosity and expressive powers into diverse environments where buildings, people and nature come into relation in simple and complex ways. This type of education values the community as a key resource for learning; what is local and made visible through place [culture, history, economy, arts] becomes the center of concern. This type of pedagogy promotes the importance of direct experience in different surroundings. Also, it encourages educators to open their classrooms so children can situate themselves within their communities and see themselves making a real difference in the sustainability of their communities.

In a standard classroom, one tends to find a homogeneous group, separated by age. The benefits of this kind of grouping are that individuals have the ability to quickly make friends and form strong bonds due to the nearness of their age. This proximity of age will also allow easiness and comfort in sharing opinions and experiences. However, place-based pedagogies tend to gather heterogeneous groups, gathering together individuals of different ages so a more family-like experience is felt. Elder members can help younger ones, and younger ones can help the old; the challenge is to envision activities requiring a range of difficulty and skill, allowing everyone to join in, have fun and learn new things at their pace.

“With regard to definitions of community-based art education, several concepts come to mind. One might initially envision organized community art programs to improve art skills, or alternatively, outreach programs to empower special groups of people. With more thought, we might consider programs that promote contextual learning about local art and culture.” (Kincheloe, et al., 2000; Neperud, 1995). I would say that place-based pedagogy does just that—it invites individuals to discover art in the localities that are most meaningful and comfortable for them.
Some ideas for place-based pedagogy could include:

Makerspaces constitute one site for excellent place-based pedagogy and playful discovery. Makerspaces, like classrooms and community studios, allow students to connect, share their craft, and teach one another. Many teachers are used to teaching a large group of children to work on one project at a time. However, in a makerspace environment, each student may be working with different tools and processes, which can also be done in a community space especially for older students or adults. Now creativity becomes the essential, and play takes centre-stage: elements such as spontaneity, improvisation, chance, risk and all sorts of games become ways of making art and interacting with others. The educator now functions more like a facilitator; he or she needs to be comfortable with a considerable quantity of chaos, able to switch gears quickly, and as skilled at interacting with people as with all the required tools. Play becomes art and art becomes creativity. In a makerspace, planning, forming, building, and showing are limited only by one’s imagination.

Place-based pedagogies represent a recent trend in the broad field of outdoor education as they recapture the ancient idea of living and learning in harmony with one’s surroundings and with each other. As our society is becoming progressively urbanized and technologized, educators must adopt and adapt more of the goals and practices of place-based education.

J. Ulbricht. What is Community-Based Art Education? Art Education, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Mar., 2005), pp. 6-12. National Art Education Association. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27696059
Makerspaces and Teaching Artists. Teaching Artist Journal 12(1), 6-14. Copyright, 2014. Taylor & Francis Group, LCC.
Malone, Karen. 2012. Place-based pedagogies in early childhood and primary school settings: Can they make a contribution to community sustainability? https://learning21c.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/place-based-pedagogies-in-early-childhood-and- primary-school-settings-can-they-make-a-contribution-to-community-sustainability-2/
Stone, M. (2009). Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, Centre for Ecoliteracy, Watershed Media.
Smith, G. (2002). Place-based education: Learning to be where we are. Phi Delta Kappan 83, 584–594.