Exploring place-based education from the student perspective

Michigan Sea Grant and NE MI GLSI share a new report that explores place-based education from the perspective of the students involved.

Exploring place-based education from the student perspective

A new evaluative report explores the values and opportunities in place-based education, in collaboration with participating Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NE MI GLSI) schools, teachers and students. This report centers on four case studies illustrating place-based education at its best in northeast Michigan.

In addition, the case studies exhibit place-based education across a range of learning landscapes, from in-school elementary, middle, and high school examples to a summer natural resources science camp. Important in reviewing these case studies is the attention paid to place-based education as a learning process from the students’ perspective, as well as the experiences and values of the educators and youth engaged in this learning process.

The NE MI GLSI strives to promote principles and applied place-based education practices among a network of schools and community partners invested in positive youth development across the region. Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension provide leadership for this initiative in northeast Michigan. In the context of a broader statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network, this work is accomplished through three strategic pillars of focus – fostering school-community partnerships, supporting schools and educators, and engaging youth in hands-on, place-focused learning.

This report serves as both an evaluation of NE MI GLSI place-based programs in Alpena, illustrated by Great Lakes-focused “Our Rivers, Our Future” projects, and as a guide for teachers, administrators, parents, and community partners interested in learning more about the opportunities that place-based education presents. Because the report focuses on students’ opinions and perceptions of PBE, it complements existing research, which often ignores the student perspective. The report’s ultimate goal is to highlight the validity of students’ opinions and analyses in evaluating all types of in-school programs, particularly place-based education. When teachers listen to students’ voices and use this information to inform their lesson plans, students will be more engaged and will feel like valued partners in their own educational journeys.''

Reflected in case studies presented here are the efforts of students monitoring water quality, adopting public Lake Huron beaches, promoting Great Lakes fisheries, and interviewing local fisherman to help promote coastal tourism and interpret an historic Great Lakes commercial fishing boat. These students are promoting biodiversity conservation, monitoring aquatic invasive species, and removing invasive buckthorn plants as part of a habitat restoration effort in their schoolyard nature area. A goal of place-based education is to enhance the student learning experience, and there is little argument that these students provide important environmental stewardship and community development services as they learn and engage in PBE.

From a student perspective, this evaluation identifies four consistent principles that youth value as part of a place-based education experience. Place-based learning should be fun and engaging, applicable and relevant (hands-on, real-world), and rich with opportunities to contribute to the community and explore future career possibilities. Place-based education provides a framework and strategy by which these ideas can be meaningfully considered and incorporated as part of the learning experience. Students recognize that these principles give the most value, purpose, and meaning to their learning experiences.

The promise of place-based education efforts in northeast Michigan has been engaging youth in Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship opportunities to enhance learning and make a difference in their communities. To that end, the focus of this evaluation was asking students about what they value in their respective place-based education experiences.

Read full report online.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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