Saturday, July 30, 2011

Self-portrait in the Land

Draw or paint a landscape self-portrait of yourself - depict your town with all the local landmarks, geographical or architectural, that represent you. If I were to paint a landscape painting that represents me I would include the mountains because I love hiking, the school I used to work at, my house, the hospital where my son was born, the grocery store where I get my food, the library where we go to storytime, the beach, an airplane because that connects me to my family back East etc...  Extensions for the lesson include having the students guess who's painting is whose and writing a key explaining what  each landmark is and why it was included.

Richard Louv

"An environment-based education movement--at all levels of education--will help students realize that school isn't supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world." 
~ Richard Louv, Author of Last Child in the Woods & the Nature Priciple
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder  The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder

Local Fare

In the home or classroom: make a meal of traditional local fare. Research why it is a favorite in your neck of the woods, where the ingredients come from. Is it a favorite because there exists a concentration of people from a certain nationality in your area, is the produce grown or harvested there or does it grow naturally? 
Cooking is such a great learning opportunity to involve your children in concepts such as volume, measurement, fractions, states of matter, physics and chemistry can be experienced in context. Not to mention they also get to take in sensory information, use descriptive language and just have good old fashioned family fun!

John Dewey

John Dewy, though not credited with creating the idea of place-based ed, certainly inspired and paved the way for it.

"Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife."
"Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself."

"From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school. That is the isolation of the school, its isolation from life. When the child gets into the schoolroom he has to put out of his mind a large part of the ideas, interests, and activities that predominate in his home and neighborhood. So the school, being unable to utilize this everyday experience, sets painfully to work, on another tack and by a variety of means, to arouse in the child an interest in school studies."
"... the great waste in school comes from the child’s inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while at the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school."

~ John Dewey


“So the question, again, is not if we ‘need’ standards in our schools but with what sensibilities we navigate between the two extremes of regimented learning with destructive overtones, on one side, and pedagogic aimlessness and fatuous romanticism on the other.” 
Deborah Meier, Will Standards Save Public Education?, 2000

Steiner & Waldorf

I always find great inspiration when reading the writings of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education.
"If a child has been able to play, to give up his whole, loving being to the world around him, he will be able in the serious tasks of later life to devote himself with power and confidence to the service of the world."
"Receive the children in reverence; educate them in love; let them go forth in freedom." 
~ Rudolf Steiner

Recess - The Ultimate Classroom

A recent article had me riled up, " Tuesday's Wake Up Call! Are your schools cutting back on recess?"
Sometimes the only place-based ed. kids get is at recess! Free play is so important to the mind and the morale of a child. Before I left the classroom to stay home with my family for a few years, I worked at a Title 1 school. It wasn't making AYP for a myriad of reasons. One of the knee jerk reactions was to cram more kids into the after school program, but not give them a recess in between regular school and their extended day. The behavior problems that factor alone created made the program so much LESS effective then it could have been, This is a huge problem in under privileged schools. We take away the things that are most enjoyable and then wonder why the drop out rate is so high!

Summer Fun

Summer family adventures - take a family trip to your local visitors bureau or Chamber of Commerce and take a closer look at those old familiar places you drive by everyday.

Brain Power

Eric Jensen suggests that IQ is not static. It can be changed! This is really very important when looking at children in impoverished and traumatic situations. Place-based learning is a highly effective way to help these students make the connections they are missing in the rest of their lives. I highly recommend reading his books: Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It and Teaching with the Brain in Mind. If you are a principle, the staff training sessions are very powerful!
Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It  Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Revised 2nd Edition Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching

Traffic Jam = Math in Context

Planning for the upcoming school year? Every student wants to know at some point how learning this math is relevant to their lives. Here's an activity that is fitting for urban and suburban areas. Have the students study traffic patterns. Pic an intersection or a few to study. Invite a traffic planner in. Discuss how light signal timing works and explore the formulas involved.

Community Interview Projects

Planning for the upcoming school year? How about organizing a community interview project. Every year I tried to have one family member a week, come in, be interviewed by the class and then the students would write a newspaper style article about the person. As a thank you for coming in to be interviewed I would compile all the articles and make a book to present to the volunteer. Then have a tea at the end of the year for all the involved and celebrate the growth of the student's writing over the year.

Don't Ditch What You've Already Have

Place-based ed is not about creating a whole new curriculum, but enhancing and deepening the one you are already working with.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Start a Local Library

In the home or the classroom - start a Local Library. Collect books written by local authors, set in your region or illustrated by local artists. We have a bi-coastal library in our home. Books from New England and Alaska. It's a powerful thing to share your "place" with your children too. We love reading Good Night Rhode Island and talking about where Mima, Pepe, Auntie, Uncle and cousins live.
Sleeping Lady (Anniversary)Up on Denali: Alaska's Wild MountainTisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska WildernessJulie of the Wolves (rack)Recess at 20 Below
Good Night Rhode Island (Good Night Our World series)R is for Rhode Island Red: A Rhode Island Alphabet (Discover America State by State)The Great GatsbyJumanjiSomething Upstairs

What's in a name?

At home or in the classroom - investigate local place names. Does the name still reflect the location? If named after a person, what led the place to be named after them? Why do people name places after other people or themselves in the first place? Is it a distinct geographical feature that defines it? Has the place gone by a different name before? Here in Alaska the federal government calls the tallest mountain in North America Mt. McKinley, but the locals call it by it's Athabascan name: Denali, meaning "The Big One." Would you change the names of these places if you could? Take what you've discovered about place names in your area and look at places around the world. Do other cultures seem to do the same thing as us or are they different?
On Denali, aka Mt. McKinley