What is Place-Based Education and Why Does it Matter?

By Getting Smart, in partnership with eduInnovation and Teton Science Schools

Click here to download the publication.

Last July, we launched a thought leadership campaign called “Learning & The Power of Place.” We set out to learn more about Place-Based Education (PBE) and to share what we learned through a blog series, social media campaign, podcasts and publications designed to support new programs in their implementation.

We were overwhelmed by the response of the education community. To date, more than 60 blogs have appeared in the series and hundreds have shared contributions to the social media effort.

Today, we’re excited to share the results of this collaborative effort—the first publication in what will be a three-part series. What Is Place-Based Education and Why Does it Matter? offers an overview of PBE including definitions, benefits and examples.

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What Is Place-Based Education?

Through our work in partnership with dozens of contributors to the campaign with guest blogs and social media, we arrived at a new definition of PBE. The new definition situates PBE inside global conversations about innovative instructional approaches that enable student agency, boost access and opportunity, prioritize deeper learning and personalize learning.

a graphic with a globe and the outlines of people engaged in various activities of the different shapes that place-based education can take--meant to be a visual representation of "what is place-based ed"

What Does PBE Look Like In Practice?

In the guide, you’ll also find dozens of examples of PBE in practice. The array of examples captures the diversity of approaches towards PBE across rural, urban and suburban areas; in early education, K-12 education and higher education; in formal and informal settings; and from single lessons to full programs.

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Why Does Place-Based Education Matter?

Our exploration of PBE revealed that teachers and communities are creating place-based opportunities for students in many different settings. Place-based learning is truly possible anywhere—from the most rural schools to the most urban ones, and everywhere in between. We are just beginning to understand the possibilities for implementing and scaling place-based learning with the deliberate intention of boosting equity, access and outcomes.

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As we included in the Smart Cities book: “Learning is the best formula for promoting economic growth and reducing the crippling effects of poverty…Schools can serve as the foundation for highly functioning democratic and sustainable communities and societies.”

We believe Place-Based Education offers a path to achieving this goal, and invite educators to learn more about PBE and how they can implement it in their schools, districts and programs.

Download What is Placed Based Education and Why Does it Matter? here.

This overview is the first in a three-part publication series from Getting Smart. For additional publications in the series, including “Quick Start Guide to Implementing Place-Based Education” and “Quick Start Guide to Place-Based Professional Learning,” see our Place-Based Education campaign page. For a collection of all of the contributions to our “Learning & The Power of Place” campaign from educators all over the world, see our collection of posts here. And don’t forget to check out the hundreds of examples of Place-Based Education in action and share your own using #PlaceBasedEd on social media.


Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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Hi, what would a classroom schedule look like?

Toni Miller

Would you be using common core? Is your approach to learning anything like American preparatory academy?

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