Place-Based Education (PBE)

The aim of place-based education (PBE) is to, “ground learning in local phenomena and students’ lived experience.” (Smith, 2002, p. 586)
  • Greg Smith is an expert on PBE and has worked with University of Wyoming Educators through an extensive workshop. He has provided many resources in collaboration with Sylvia Parker and Martha Inouye of the University of Wyoming’s Science and Math Teaching Center (SMTC).

  • PBE can occur along a continuum but is typified by 15 Aspects that include its authenticity (Does it center on real issues?), the students’ roles (Are they creators of the curriculum?), its location (Is nature essential to the curriculum?) and services (Does it benefit the community?). This rubric created by Sylvia Parker and Greg Smith allows instructors to assess their PBE courses and projects on this continuum.

…to make a space a place, there is a social investment of meaning…(Taylor, 2004, p. 1)

As you consider deeply integrating place into your science teaching, we suggest reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. In this book, Robin elagantly knits together indigenous ways of knowing and botanical scientific knowledge. She both celebrates and challenges traditional scientific approaches and shows how they could be strengthened by acknowledgement of our emotional connections to the earth and all of its beings.

In this writing, Dr. Michele Larson writes about placed-based learning and outdoor experiences.

Two students critically view a flowering vein growing on a wall.

References and Resources

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and The Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Smith, G. (2002). Place-Based Education: Learning to Be Where we Are. 584-594. Phi Delta Kappan.

Taylor, L. (2004). Sense, Relationship and Power: Uncommon Views of Place. Teaching History. 116: 6-8, 10-13. Retrieved from