Start Thinking Locally
To guide your thinking about place- and community-based learning, reflect on
1. What local topics or issues are likely to be meaningful for students and give
them an opportunity to participate in learning activities that others will value?
2. What subject areas fit within this topic? List specific subtopics that students
might explore, including those incorporated in your curriculum.
3. What four or five overarching questions might guide your students’ study?
4. What specific learning standards would this topic enable you to address?
5. How will you assess student learning? List possible strategies, including
some culminating projects. Discuss how you will scaffold the learning that
6. What community partners might you bring into the classroom to help teach
this unit or to support activities outside of school?
7. What field studies, monitoring, or other inquiry activities might students
become involved with in their neighborhood, community, or region?
8. What community needs might students address as part of this unit or
project? What service learning opportunities does it afford? How might you
publicize the contributions that students make?
9. How might students become involved in community governance activities
related to this project? How could they participate in data gathering, reporting,
or other forms of public participation, such as organizing meetings or planning
10. What creative possibilities in the fields of art, music, dance, film, or theater
relate to this project? What about vocational opportunities or internships?
In Schwartz’s remarks during the
dedication, he cited W. E. B. DuBois’s
statement that the purpose of education
should be to “produce young men and
women of devotion who will lift again
the banner of humanity and work
toward a civilization which will be free
and intelligent, which will be healthy
and unafraid” (quoted in Fraser, 1997,
p. 194). Schwartz pointed out that this
experience had helped the students
gain the democratic skills needed to
live in freedom. These young people
on the cusp of adulthood were helping
their elders preserve a crucial piece of
their history as well as celebrating the
courage of those who had made this
Place- and community-based learning
does not, however, need to ignore
events that happen elsewhere. Concerned about the recent earthquake
in Haiti, students in a class at the
Kennedy High School in Cottage Grove,
Oregon, decided to educate themselves,
their peers, families, and community
members about conditions in Haiti and
to take steps to respond to this disaster.
After investigating Haiti’s history,
corporate policies that have conspired
to keep wages for many people below
$5 a day, and the widespread practice of
substituting sand for concrete in Haitian
buildings, students produced an eight-
minute film they posted on You Tube
titled “Haiti Uncovered” (www.youtube
.com/watch?v=1-l-CUmbkUY). The film
includes moving photographs of life in
Port-au-Prince after the quake as well
as students’ recommendations about
two aid organizations they felt best
addressed the people’s needs: Partners
in Health, which they note employs
4,000 Haitians; and Trees, Water,
People, an organization that distributes
high-efficiency but low-cost cooking
stoves invented in the students’ own
hometown of Cottage Grove.
The Power of Relevance
Place- and community-based education injects value and meaning into