What does it mean to be a place-based educator?

Within formal systems of schooling, place-based education can mean different things to different educators. Place-based practices are difficult to replicate because they are specific to the relationships, environments and contexts in which they are enacted. However, in all iterations, pedagogies of place involve holding space for direct observation, hands on investigations, and meaningful experimentations of acquired knowledge in the outdoors (Orr, 2013). This often means being open to “teachable moments” that emerge while learning with, from, and on the land.

These teachable moments are often referred to as the emergent curriculum, which is widely understood to be responsive to children’s interests (Nxumalo, Vintimilla & Nelson, 2018) and a process whereby knowledge emerges as we participate in our world (Osberg & Biesta, 2008). The emergent curriculum is both predictable (for example, seasonal change) and unpredictable (for example, unexpected weather events). As such, an emergent curriculum is “child originated and teacher framed” (Kashin, 2014) because teachers hold space for teachable moments and wonders that capture the interest of children, while weaving curricular content into the learning that emerges through place. When planning for place-based outdoor learning, teachers are challenged to focus on the possible emergent learning opportunities that may arise, rather than prepare for a singular generic activity. 


With thanks to Megan Zeni, content author.


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