Placed Based Education (PBE) is the idea of embedding learning in a local, authentic context. It is community centered with students addressing local issues. A great example would be this school in Canada. PBE does not ignore bigger, “world” issues, but rather seeks to have students find entrance into them through their own community and local contexts.
I recently went to the Great Lakes Placed Based Conference and it was much more science focused than on any other subject. PBE seems to target science and the environment, but social studies fits it too with a focus on local history. I think the emphasis on science comes from its origins in the environmental movement and it is now expanding to a broader focus. Another key part of this is the idea of uniting science and social studies together instead of siloing the subjects.
Our water project is one example of PBE that I have experienced. One thing that I can definitely affirm is that the local connections and purpose to the project made it more “real” to students than any other project that we have done. I brought a couple of students with me to the Great Lakes Placed Based Education Conference and we shared the project with them.
Some thoughts and observations about PBE:
- There are many schools doing incredible things in PBE, but the majority of them are not publicizing their projects.
- Social media is mostly absent of the PBE concept. I don’t see blogposts, tweets, or chats about it. One theory I have about this is that PBE people are more “outdoor” focused than “tech” focused. Not that these things have to be mutually exclusive, but it seems like they are in practice.
- PBE is heavy on science, but is expanding into social studies.
- PBE is not really unique. It is a “flavor” of PBL, just like service learning or passion based learning can be (depending on how it is done).
So on the one hand I think PBE deserves more exposure, especially the great projects that schools are doing, but on the other hand I wonder do we really need it as a separate movement from PBL? How many different labels do we need?