Building Kids’ Character, Competence, and Sense of Place
Place-based education offers a compelling opportunity to engage students in the life of their community. More than just taking a field trip, participants in a place-based project make sustained efforts to make a difference and learn basic skills along the way. Academic concepts come to life as real-world problems are investigated from a local angle. Even global issues can be connected to the community, such as the high school in Missouri that linked local land-use choices to the «dead zone» in the Gulf of Mexico. For teachers, place-based projects offer a chance for professional revitalization as they orchestrate complex and meaningful learning environments that go well beyond scripted curriculum mandates. Both teachers and students benefit from a new level of agency as they take ownership of their work. Drawing on his own experience as a teacher and more than a decade of work supporting teachers in crafting their own projects, the author outlines the many benefits of place-based education and describes the challenges that must be overcome if we are to realize its potential.
Chapter 5. Reframing Childhood, Reframing Teaching Practice
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Throughout the discussion preceding this chapter, there has been an implicit framing of childhood that needs to be brought forward before wrapping up this analysis. This will lay the foundation for a set of conclusions and recommendations. To start, please recall the earlier discussion of frames from the Preface where the work of Erving Goffman (1986) and Donald Schon (1983) was drawn upon. In simplest terms, frames encompass a set of beliefs or parameters that work to provide a set of conceptual bounds. These bounds in turn help to define the range of choices available to an actor and define what constitutes an acceptable or reasonable choice. At that point the discussion focused on how teachers and parents frame their roles, but it is also useful for our purposes to consider how adults frame the role of the child in society, and in turn how students frame their own identities. As we will see, this mutual framing of childhood explains a lot in regard to how educational decisions get made and programs get implemented. Specific to the context of this book, different frames of childhood serve to enable or constrain the possibilities for place-based education, but by extension the same argument can be applied to other learning opportunities that depend on active student involvement. In any of these efforts, the extent to which we see kids as potentially capable actors—and empower them in fact to be capable—is a prerequisite for success. Programs that rely on but don’t successfully...
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