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Place-based Education for Montanans: Meeting the Challenge of Nature-deficit Disorder. J. William Hug, Ph. D. Presentation Overview:. Introduction Place-based Education Envisioning Place-based Education Benefits Challenges Strategies & Action.

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place based education for montanans meeting the challenge of nature deficit disorder

Place-based Education for Montanans: Meeting the Challenge of Nature-deficit Disorder

J. William Hug, Ph. D.

presentation overview
Presentation Overview:
  • Introduction
  • Place-based Education
  • Envisioning Place-based Education
  • Benefits
  • Challenges
  • Strategies & Action

What is a firefly?

Generic curriculum

Textbooks & tests are for profit not your community

“All education is environmental education” (Orr, 1992)

where do they learn about their community
Where do they learn about their community?

146,000 Public School Students

8,000 Private School Students

4,000 Home schooled Students

12,000 Teachers

(estimates from OPI

enrollment data)

key questions
Key Questions
  • How do we (educators) help students learn about local natural and human communities?
  • How do we help students learn to recognize natural and community health or ill-health?
  • How do we help students learn to contribute to the health of their natural and human community?
what do i mean by sense of place
What do I mean by Sense of Place?

Sense of Place is the meaning, attachment, and affinity (conscious or unconscious) that individuals or groups create for a particular geographic space through their lived experiences associated with that place.

(Hug, 1998)

dimensions of a sense of place
Dimensions of a Sense of Place
  • Geographic Landmarks
  • Natural Flora/Fauna Landmarks
  • Social / Cultural Landmarks
  • Historical Landmarks
  • Human Constructed Landmarks
place based education from sobel 2004
Place-based Education (from Sobel, 2004)

Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and other subjects across the curriculum.

place based education from sobel 20041
Place-based Education (from Sobel, 2004)
  • Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education
    • increases academic achievement,
    • helps students develop stronger ties to their community,
    • enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world and
    • creates a heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens.
place based education from sobel 20042
Place-based Education (from Sobel, 2004)
  • Community vitality and environmental quality are improved through the active engagement of
    • local citizens,
    • community
    • organizations, and
    • environmental resources
  • in the life of the school.
influential thinkers
Wendel Berry – What are People For?

Parker Palmer - Wholistic education

Gandhi - Head, Heart & Hands

Madhu Prakash - Living as Learning

Henry David Thoreau - Walden

Willa Cather - My Antonia

David Sobel - Place-based Education

David Orr - Ecological Literacy

Chet Bowers - Root Metaphors

Richard Louv - Nature Deficit Disorder

E.O. Wilson - Naturalist & Biodiversity

Aldo Leopold - Sand County

Influential Thinkers
do you know your place
Do you know your place?

Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.

Describe the soil around your home.

What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?

Name five native edible plants and their season(s) of availability.

  • What were the primary subsistence techniques of the culture(s) that lived in your area before you?
  • (Items 1-5 adapted from Devall & Sessions, 1985)
do you know your place1
Do you know your Place?

What is a major local business and how does it contribute to your community?

What is a major social festival in your community and how do volunteers contribute to its success?

What are the architectural influences in the buildings in your community?

How does your community take care of those unable to care for themselves?

Which families have lived in your community for generations?

benefits of place based education
Benefits of Place-based Education
  • Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC)
    • higher scores on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies;
    • • reduced discipline and classroom management problems;
    • • increased student engagement and enthusiasm for learning; and,
    • • greater pride and ownership in students' accomplishments.
  • (Lieberman, SEER, retrieved from
benefits learning is fun
Benefits: Learning is Fun!
  • Interviewer: So what is fun about [these activities]? I'm interested, what is it that makes [it] so fun?

Student: When we go outside we get to like experience the learning, use our sciences and stuff. But when we're in the classroom we have to sit down, be quiet, look at books that just show pictures and it's not a primary source.

(transcript 7, p. 12)

benefits student teacher relationships
Benefits: Student-Teacher Relationships

Student: It’s not, it’s not just educational…it’s fun. You get to know [your teachers].…You get to know your teacher a little better because you’re with him or her the whole day. (transcript 7, p.39)

benefits student teacher relationships1
Benefits: Student-Teacher Relationships

Interviewer: So you said a couple things there. Could you say that again in a different way about teachers and what you learned they know by going outside?

Student: Yeah. Kids probably think that the teachers just can't teach anything else [except their subject]. [Teachers] just know what they're designated to teach so therefore its doesn't matter. You don't have to respect the English teacher for math. You don't have to care whether the science teacher is saying something about the history of [our town]. [They know more than what they teach] They're just not as dumb as they look!

(transcript 11, p. 1)

challenges to implementing place based education
Challenges to Implementing Place-based Education
  • Nationalized generic curriculum - NCLB
  • Textbook adoptions
  • State / National Testing
  • Either/or Framing
  • Institutional Barriers - administrators, financial, time
  • Definitional Barriers - learning, schooling
  • Fears - content knowledge, classroom management, student safety, etc.
implementation strategies organization
Implementation Strategies: Organization

Put an environmental educator in every school.

Create broad-based steering committees.

Create a community vision and action forum event.

Tread lightly until the community knows your work.

Nurture continuous improvement through ongoing professional development.

Nurture community exchange.

(adapted from Sobel, 2004)

implementation strategies standards
Implementation Strategies: Standards
  • Review the Montana Standards for Science document looking for standards that could be accomplished through your place-based teaching
  • Review the local School District Scope and Sequence Documents
  • Design a Curriculum Alignment Document specific to your school, community and intended place-based teaching
implementation strategies students parents
Implementation Strategies: Students & Parents

Parent: What did you learn in school today?

Student: Nothing.

Parent: What do you mean nothing?

Student: Well, we just went outside and had fun.

“Learning” = listening to teacher, reading text, taking tests, sitting still, being quiet

“Fun” = going outside, moving and being active, talking with people, sense of freedom, rolling over a log, wading in the creek looking under rocks for crayfish, etc.

implementation strategies learning how to learn in a new learning environment
Implementation Strategies: Learning how to learn in a new learning environment
  • Students need to be explicitly taught how to learn in outdoor environments.
  • High achieving students need to have reassurance and explicit directions about the new learning environment.
  • Parents need to have information before initiating the intended changes.
implementation strategies activity resources
Implementation Strategies: Activity Resources
  • Project Books: Learning Tree, Wild, WET, WOW
  • Sobel: Mapmaking with Children
  • Leslie: Nature Journaling
  • MT Fish Wildlife Parks: Posters, CD’s, Booklets
  • Identification Guides
  • What others would you suggest?
implementation strategies organization resources
Implementation Strategies: Organization Resources
  • Montana Environmental Education Association
  • Montana Outdoor Science School
  • Teton Science School
  • Museum of the Rockies
  • Montana Watercourse
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • What others would you suggest?
implementation strategies www resources
Implementation Strategies: WWW Resources
  • Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks
  • State and Environment Roundtable
  • Yellowstone National Park Etrips
  • National Geographic Lesson Plans
  • Montana State Science & Natural History Filmmaking Program
  • What others would you suggest?
in closing
In closing…..

J. William Hug, Ph. D.