Connecting Science to a Sense of Place

Science education is researched and discussed through many lenses. Scholarship discusses perspectives that range from inquiry-based, STSE frameworks (science, technology, society environment), socio-scientific issues, motivation, authentic science, traditional ecological knowledge, informal verses formal setting, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math; as art + design becoming increasingly more important elements to the discipline), community-referenced and more. All reveal balanced approaches to teaching and exploring scientific concepts, and have much merit for pedagogy in science education. I gather these perspectives and see how they compliment a lens I tend to lean more towards. The focus I lean on is place based practices, which connect scientific learning to the communities in which the students live and learn from.

In a recent interview for a video series with Trent University, I was asked what is a major challenge in science education now and how I propose we overcome it. I could have been very specific, but I kept it broad for our diverse student base. Thus in a very open response, I remarked that it was instilling motivation and interest in young students. The reason being is so their interest would carry forward with them to continue pursing studies in scientific subjects beyond the requirements of highschool, either into their professional careers, or into the choices they make in their personal lifestyles as citizens of the 21st Century. To be a scientifically literate person does not mean they are scientists, just confident knowledge bearers and skilful in problem solving, inquiry, experimentation and exploration. My proposal for this challenge is steeped in ways we can connect science to the issues that matter most to them in their communities and life. This promotes a place based approach to critical pedagogy. A critical place based approach, in my opinion, motivates learning because it gets student thinking more deeply about scientific issues as it relates to a myriad of relevant and meaningful connections, such as society, environment, cultures, health, politics, economy and history. Above all, this type of thinking and practice is imperative for students in order to prepare them for a more sustainable future. With these perspectives in mind, we will be more cognizant of the choices we make and the lifestyle we encourage, so as to protect the earth and its resources, and act sustainably.

Teachers have an important role in nurturing this kind of thinking. And in many cases they are doing phenomenal things that connect science in meaningful ways, and promotes critical thinking, sustainable action and compassion for all effected by the scientific and technological progression of our time.   They are teaching sustainability, they are using digital technologies to do so, and they are promoting inquiry, and the curiosities and wonderment that give way for innovation and inspiration. In the mean time, I continue to explore ways of enriching teacher practice and inspiring our young learners.

Here is the link to the video interview with Trent’s School of Education

I also include information for two of my favourite reads and what served as an introduction to place based education for me:

Place-based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities

by David Sobel (Author) 2006

Place-Based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity by David A. Gruenewald (Editor), Gregory A. Smith (Editor) 2007

I just found this talk on youtube by David Sobel:

 @6:56 Sobel sums it up eloquently through a passage he reads that he interprets by saying:

“Place based education is a response to the ‘Berlin wall’ that’s been built between schools and the nearby environment and the communities.”

(The passage he read was “How My Schooling Taught Me Contempt for the Earth”. (1996), by Bill Bigelow).


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