Curious About Place-Based Education? Let the STAR School Be Your Guide

[Place-based Education (PBE) is gaining traction across the country. This Edsurge article highlights the STAR School in Arizona. However, PBE can fit any environment – urban, suburban, or rural. As a classroom teacher in West Virginia I challenged my students to use the local habitat to understand scientific principles. In my work today as an educational technology broker I work with districts, like Avonworth, that challenges its students to redesign its high school based on human centered design processes along with an insight into art gained by working with a consortium of local art institutions, or South Fayette where students are redesigning the outdoor environment to provide for more student learning experiences in sustainability, or the Manchester Academic Charter School where students designed an outdoor garden in the shape of an airplane honoring Charles William Tate, a resident of Manchester, who served as one of the Tuskegee Airmen.]

By Jen Curtis Mar 6, 2017

Tucked into the southwest corner of the Navajo Nation, Arizona’s STAR School is a charter school that knows its place—literally. The school is completely “off the grid,” powered by solar panels and wind generators. There’s a campus greenhouse that provides students with locally grown vegetables and the opportunity to garden. The curriculum, designed to serve the school’s exclusively Native population, emphasizes Navajo language and culture as much as it does the Common Core standards.

STAR is a proponent of place-based education (PBE), a philosophy that aims to immerse students in the local history, culture and ecology of the area they live and learn in, using these as the foundation for academic study. Schools that practice PBE view the community as an extension of the classroom rather than a separate entity. At STAR, PBE is apparent in every aspect of the school, from the food served to the community-based service projects students design and complete every year.

Place-based education may seem especially well-suited to a school like STAR, where the student body is uniquely tied to the land and local culture. But across the country, schools of all kinds have been adopting the model to improve student engagement and, by extension, student success. EdSurge took a look at how STAR is making the model work—and what other schools can learn from their example.

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