The Benefits of
A REPORT FROM THE
It reminds us that learning is way more
than words on a page. It’s water moving
around our boots. It’s mud and cold. It’s
all these sensory dimensions in the real
world we’re part of. If it’s rivers kids are
learning about, then standing in one and
turning over stones to find stoneflies
teaches in new ways that connect them.
They gain new respect for the river. They
have opportunities to see themselves as a
part of something that has a long history
and a long future. They become more
hopeful. Through the experience they
learn to become stewards.
Seventh and eighth grade science teacher,
Hartford Middle School,
White River Junction, Vermont
immerses students in local heritage, culture,
landscapes, opportunities, and experiences as a
foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics,
social studies, science, and other subjects.
Place-based education encourages teachers and
students to use the schoolyard, community, public
lands, and other special places as resources, turning
communities into classrooms.
Project-focused and inherently tailored by local
people to local realities, place-based education is
equally relevant in small towns and big cities, equally
effective for kindergarteners and high school students.
The Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative
is undertaking a rigorous and ongoing evaluation
process to gauge the effectiveness and outcomes of
the place-based education model. Since forming in
2001, the Collaborative has instituted individual and
cross-program evaluations of six place-based
education programs representing nearly 100 schools
(rural, suburban, and urban) covering twelve states;
The body of evidence reflects over 800 adult
interviews or focus group participants; over 200
student interviews; over 750 educator surveys; over
2,000 student surveys; extensive document review;
and dozens of on-site observations.
The findings are clear: place-based education fosters
students’ connection to place and creates vibrant
partnerships between schools and communities. It
boosts student achievement and improves
environmental, social, and economic vitality.
In short, place-based education helps students learn
to take care of the world by understanding where
they live and taking action in their own backyards
A second-grade teacher at the Bernice A. Ray School in Hanover, New Hampshire,
participated in a year-long professional development program to learn to use
I’ve never worked so hard before in my life, but it has
been so worth it. What these students are learning
place-based education. Her project focused on integrating the 32-acre forest
and doing is real. This is real education. I’ve always
outside her classroom window into her classroom curriculum. She also gained
wanted to teach this way, but never took the time.
confidence in her own leadership skills. Inspired and energized by her experience,
Sustainable Schools Project
she arranged for a summer workshop on place-based education for her fellow
teachers. One result: The second-grade curriculum at the Ray School has been
Because of CO-SEED I’ll never again be the same
teacher. And I say that because it’s an absolutely
redesigned around using the local forest to teach science, math and even language
life-confirming positive search. It’s transformed
arts. Students learn from the forest, and gain a deep understanding of and
my whole vision about how I teach my kids. It
gave me the tools, it gave me the vision, it gave me
appreciation for their local landscape. The teacher described the extended impact
the opportunity. The results are just phenomenal.
of this place-based education experience: “[It] gave me the peers on a professional
Between writing and reading, the kids are
hooked, and I will never teach the same again.
level outside my school to recharge and to update my knowledge and content. It
was that link that gave me the push to get the science committee to commit to the
Gilford Elementary School,
TRANSFORMS SCHOOL CULTURE
Three years of a formal place-based education program have helped to make the
[Our daughter] feels like she’s in a special
Dennis C. Haley Elementary School, a public school on a busy highway in
place…There’s a real sense of ‘we have a mission,
Roslindale, Massachusetts, a different place. The schoolyard and a local nature
we have a purpose, we enjoy ourselves. And what
we do really means something, not just to ourselves,
center have become outdoor extensions of Haley’s classrooms. Children grow
but to the world around us.’ There’s huge pride
gardens, explore a mini-wetland, categorize and analyze insects, track weather
[in the students] and in parents as well.
stations and write detailed reports on their findings. Students, said one Haley
—Second grade parent
teacher, are “more motivated, asking better, more critical questions” and “see[ing]
The days of sitting in the classroom are done…
themselves as scientists, observers, and they see that as an important, important
When [the weather] gets nice, now teachers
don’t say ‘Can I go outside?’ They say to me
thing.” Parent involvement at Haley has increased. Students and teachers report a
‘I’m going outside.’
new enthusiasm for teaching and learning science. Haley has gone from being
under-enrolled to being a “top choice,” model environmental school—with all
Dennis C. Haley Elementary,
Boston, Massachusetts, available slots filled by students whose fa
milies indicated Haley as their top or
second choice school in Boston. Collaboration among teachers has increased. New
teachers embrace the place-based education ideals, because those ideas have
become an integral part of the school’s culture.
“I think the [place-based education] mentality is really part of our identity,” said
one Haley teacher. “It’s who we are.”
HELPS STUDENTS LEARN
Ten studies from across the United States connect place-based education with
academic achievement. (See www.PEECworks.org for a complete breakdown.)
One thing we know is that kids’ writing is much
more interesting, complex, and detailed if they’ve
One study compared first graders who had one and two years of work with a
had rich experience…The current first grade has
teacher who employed a strong, place-based education model. First-graders with
about a third of the kids who didn’t have
Kindergarten here and in general it is
more exposure to strong place-based education out-performed their peers on all
breathtaking the difference in the academic
measures analyzed. Educators at sites using place-based education models
achievement. Our Kindergarten has the strongest
place-based education in the school, especially
consistently report that their students have become increasingly engaged and
with language development.
enthusiastic about learning. “My kids were so excited about the things that they
saw that I know they will look more and pay closer attention to our environment,”
Young Achievers School,
said a teacher who participated in a place-based education program in Missouri.
“Actually visiting the ecosystems helped them really understand the concepts that I
I wanted to prove forestry could be taught
was trying to get across.”
without sacrificing math. Now my kids believe
you can't learn about the forest without math.
The Beebe School in Malden, Massachusetts, is an Environmental and Health
Science magnet school which uses local resources to integrate those sciences into
Forest for Every Classroom program
the curriculum. Beebe has used the place-based education model since 1999.
Since 2000, Beebe students have outpaced their peers in the school district on
MCAS tests in math and science, suggesting a correlation between place based-
education and academic performance.
CONNECTS SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES
Lawrence Barnes Elementary School students went into their urban Burlington,
This is democracy at work! You students brought
Vermont neighborhood and made a detailed assessment of it. They noticed that
your recommendations to your elected officials
the neighborhood lacked “school zone” safety signs alerting drivers to the school
and they listened to you and responded.
Congratulations! What’s next?
on this busy thoroughfare. So the fourth and fifth graders went to see the city’s
Director of Public Works. They were told the process would take a long time. The
students pressed, asking why the process could not be sped up for such an
important safety issue. The process was expedited and the signs were installed with
the mayor on-hand to congratulate the young activists. The students also
presented their larger findings to the City Council and Neighborhood Action
Committee. Students from this low-income, urban neighborhood have been
referred to as “the future of city government.”
Recent research finds that place-based education:
ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO BECOME ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDS
A group of special-education students from Greenville, Maine has organized a
I know our students are walking away from the seventh
field research team to study the 100-Mile Wilderness, a segment of the
grade experience having a deep appreciation for their
Appalachian Trail. These students are producing signage and brochures for trail
own environment and the intrinsic value of the public
lands for all. They understand our responsibility
users, and will be hiking the 100-Mile Wilderness in sections over the course of a
to be stewards of our land, and not just users of it.
year. They were inspired to become AT stewards after their teacher attended a
Trail to Every Classroom Summer Institute, a week-long course intended to
Forest for Every Classroom program
encourage teachers to use the AT as a resource both in and out of their classrooms.
Increased Stewardship Behavior
At the New City School in St. Louis, Missouri, field studies are part of the
(from PEEC surveys, R2=.07, p<.01, df=1409)
curriculum, and students are encouraged to put their knowledge to work outside
the classroom. A band of fourth-through-sixth graders has been putting that
knowledge and passion to work as “River Kids.” The after-school group has
conducted a detailed river conservation study, participated in stream clean-ups
and re-vegetation projects, and continues to act as effective public advocates for
0.0 1.0 2.0
Student Stewardship Behavior Survey Index
Amount of Place-based Education
INVITES STUDENTS TO BECOME ACTIVE CITIZENS
The Forest for Every Classroom program has built strong connections between schools
Going into high school a lot of kids always say
and their communities, fostering opportunities for service-learning and stewardship.
‘I want to get out of here. I want to go to the big city.’
But after studying your town and finding out
Teachers from the program work with their students to map the locations of vernal
about people, buildings, and the community and
pools, collaborate with their local conservation commissions on inventories of
how it actually is, I think it’s a good place to be.
—Eleventh grade student,
natural sites, and conduct studies of invasive species in the White River in Vermont.
Community Mapping Project
Students are now actively involved in training others to carry on that work.
What is PEEC?
The Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC) is a group of five programs and one
foundation that work together to:
1. Improve their programs through individual and cross-program evaluation;
2. Identify, develop, and disseminate evaluation techniques, tools, and approaches that can be
applied to other place-based education providers; and
3. Contribute to the research base underlying the field of place-based education and school change.
For more research information and copies of evaluation reports, see www.PEECworks.org.
For more program information, see www.PromiseOfPlace.org.
Community-based School Environmental
Education Project (CO-SEED) of Antioch
New England Institute
A Forest for Every Classroom (Shelburne
Farms, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National
Historical Park, Green Mountain National
Forest, National Wildlife Federation, NPS
Conservation Study Institute)
Litzsinger Road Ecology Center
(Missouri Botanical Garden)
Sustainable Schools Project (Shelburne
A Trail to Every Classroom (National
Park Service, Appalachian Trail
New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
Design: Jennifer Krause, Missouri Botanical Garden
Printer: R.C. Brayshaw, Inc. of Warner, NH
Paper: Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. of Bennington, NH