Place-Based Education Pedagogy

Place-based education, sometimes called place-based learning, experiential education, community-based education, and service learning, is an educational philosophy that restores localness that engages the students with their communities.

Everyone is a learner and a teacher

Liberty Rural Learning Cooperative’s (LRLC) Applied Rural Arts program offers educators assets and tools to create localized and specialized classroom ready content that is prepared with today’s rural students and schools in mind.

Place-based education differs from conventional text and classroom-based education in that it considers a students’ local community as one of the primary resources for learning. This promotes learning that stems from the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art that anchors conceptual ties to their community. From the schoolyard to their neighborhood, from town centers and mainstreets to, family farms and field studies. A transformation of impactful education begins with the effort to learn how events close to home relate to regional, national, and global forces, leading to a new understanding of ecological stewardship and healthy community involvement. Place-based education should be interdisciplinary, thematic, hands-on, intergenerational and project-based. This approach connects context and skills to enhance a positive social life that both strengthens the students sense of community connectedness, and is therefore more meaningful to rural students.

Teachers determine the plan for learning in and about place

Develop your own place-based curriculum

Where else to discover authentic questions about how the world works but in the places where we live! Our forests, fields, streets and neighborhoods provide the setting for students to explore the BIG IDEAS of literature, social and natural sciences, math, art and civic engagement. It is hard to do worthwhile things in the abstract. For students to accomplish meaningful work, they need to do it with and for other people. When students participate in uncovering new information and find opportunities to share information with local audiences, they find personal reasons for learning. Authentic assessment can be defined when students ask questions and design answers in the context of the community to demonstrate mastery of content, process and meaningful results.

Take a big idea, frame an essential question, consider what evidence will show this new learning and then determine a pathway to that understanding. Teachers will need to identify what students need to learn and do and then connect that learning to the local environment, engaging students in their communities.

Tools and Strategies for teaching Place-based education

Teaching from a frogs-eye-view instead of a birds-eye-view

People Power

Asset mapping  is a way to assess and mobilize what your community has in order to focus on your communities’ assets, not on those found outside of it. To create place-based educational opportunities it’s best to incorporate local resources and engage them in experiential learning methodologies. Community asset mapping is relationship driven and seeks to build linkages among local people, institutions and organizations. Find diverse perspectives and unique skill sets, while understanding the physical, social and economic landscape and then catalog the resources available.

Places to start to find your communities unique resources:

  • Identify local businesses, organizations, non-profits, parks, schools, churches, libraries, museums, recreation facilities, hospitals and clinics etc.
    • Conservation office
    • USDA
    • State University extension offices
    • Community Resource Centers
  • Services/ talents / skills / resources found in the community right now
    • Self-employed people: artists, mechanics, contractors, carpenters, electricians, farmers etc.
    • Senior Citizen communities (retired experts)
  • Newspapers / Community directories
  • Ask your students:
    • what do they see as the local assets vs. challenges?
    • who do they know (individuals or entities) in the community that they find interesting?


Place-based education can be conducted through a variety of methods in a range of disciplines. 

Example:A biology class can explore their local environment, from  water issues to agricultural resources and from flora and fauna toland-use etc. As the students gain understanding of wider ecological, biological, and cultural processes, they are able to link the course content to the physical place they call home. In addition, the course can include a service component that allows students to “give back” to their community and reapply their knowledge. This project can be supported by a local organization involved in habitat restoration, conservation, etc. 

This model has potential for wider applications. All disciplines have the potential of engaging this model to help students strengthen the link between community and education

  • LRLC examples of creative place-based education:
    • Rural Musiciology – lesson plan available here
    • Prairie Writers Workshop – lesson plan available here
    • Prairie Seas Project: Farming Fluxus
      • Students will create a social-ecological contemporary museum exhibit focused on ecology, farming and hemp production in rural Colorado.
    • Artist-in-residencies
      • We have worked with local artists to create art projects for the community that are based on landscape and place.
        • Sculptural welding – using local junk steel students created a place themed sculpture for the park.
        • Sustainable building – using local materials (sand, clay and straw) students built a decorative wind-break and archway for the park.
        • Murals – students painted a series of place themed murals for the park