Incorporate place-based learning into your classroom – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Incorporate place-based learning


Take advantage of your surroundings by incorporating environmental, place-based learning into your classroom. When students have the opportunity to connect to the natural environment around them, they build important social-emotional skills like empathy. Creating a sense of place for young learners empowers them to be stewards of their community, and connects the learning to their own lives in a meaningful way.

How to incorporate this in your classroom

1. Take it outside.

Go for a walk through your school’s outdoor space or around the block. As you walk, use your senses to make observations with your students about the living things all around them, including plants, insects, animals, or other people. Point out living things to them, and encourage them to call out what they see as well. Afterwards, put together a collaborative map of the space you observed with pictures or drawings of what you saw. Encourage your students to add to it freely on their own, or together after additional group outings.

2. Think locally.

During a class brainstorming session, work with your students to identify problems that local animals or plants might face and come up with solutions. For example, if there is an endangered species in the area, talk through changes to the environment or to humans’ behavior that might help it thrive. If there are local plants that have been impacted by seasonal weather, talk about what conditions would be more ideal.

3. Go green.

Bring a local plant (or several!) into your classroom, and encourage students to make observations about how it changes over time. You can do this out loud as group, or have students make notes or draw pictures of their observations in individual journals. Working together as a class to care for the plant will also foster a strong sense of community and environmental stewardship among students.

Standards Alignment

Environmental and place-based learning provides rich opportunities for students to engage in science and engineering practices outlined by the Next Generation Science Standards.

When observing natural elements from the environment, students will have rich opportunities to ask science-based questions. Bringing a plant into the classroom gives students a chance to analyze and interpret data and construct explanations for science, as they notice how the plant changes over time and present theories for why those changes occur.

The Research Shows

Exploratory learning leads to new ideas.

Children are naturally wired to explore the world around them, and this type of exploratory, hands-on learning helps children connect learning to their everyday lives. Exploratory learning is also intentionally open-ended. There is no one “right” solution; real-world problems rarely have just one answer. When students realize this, they generate more creative ideas.

See our Educational Research in Action

During our Explore the Shore STEM Workshop, students walk from BADM to nearby Horseshoe Cove to investigate the animals and plants that call this habitat home. In addition to making observations about what they find, students can complete an engineering challenge to invent and design their own creature with adaptive features that would help it thrive in this unique environment.

Registration for Fall 2019 opens soon! Look out for an email from us in May with more information. Browse hands-on STEM programs for students in Preschool to Grade 5.

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