Two significant influences on the development of my character, personality, and intellect were my family and physical environment. When I was eight years old (1978), we moved from thick in the city, to eighty barren acres of prairie. It quickly became a farm brimming with every ‘pet’ animal known to childkind – cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats and barn kittens galore! Outside of the traditional education received at Clavet School, I lived a life rich in the harvests of a ‘place-based curriculum’. My community consisted of loving, supportive and moral people, companionable animals and a wide-open prairie playground.
In a conventional school setting, a place-based curriculum is a vibrant approach to education that takes students out into the communities, to learn, to do and to grow as human beings. In a rural environment, this might be an outing to a local dairy; in an urban environment, it may be a walk down to the neighborhood bakery. It can connect curriculum outcomes for many strands of social studies, science, math, health, literature and art. Its pedagogy provides students the opportunity to learn subject matter in tangible living ways, to understand the places they live in, and how to contribute to their communities.Moreover, they often begin a lifelong stewardship for the land (Sobel 2012).
This paper is a critical summary of ‘place-based curriculum’ as positioned by education writer David Sobel. David is a co-director of the Center for Place-Based Education at the Antioch New England Institute. He has published numerous books including Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators (2008), Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities (2004), and Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (1996)
One critique of traditional product curriculum has been its absence of recognizing context in the delivery of education; such as environment, demographics, socio-economic conditions, and the like. To strengthen and enhance the discussion of place-based curriculum, I will examine indigenous land-based curriculum, and “Reality Pedagogy” by Dr. Christopher Emdin, as these broaden the definition of “place-based curriculum.”
I will flesh out the definitions and ties between indigenous land-based curriculum and place based curriculum. I’ll introduce the subtleties of Emdin’s work, that I feel would enhance the creating and planning of a unit of place-based curriculum. If I can find the resources, I’ll tie it up with a couple critical opinions, if any, of the practice.
Sobel, David, et al. “Look, Don’t Touch.” Orion Magazine, 2012, orionmagazine.org/article/look-dont-touch1/.