School gardens are the perfect medium for place-based education

School gardens have many of the necessary and positive attributes of an ongoing project for place-based education.

For those of you not familiar with Place Based Education (aka Place Based Learning), it is an educational process that places an emphasis on connecting students to their community through long-term projects. Students develop a connection to their community by repeated engagement with a specific natural feature – such as a school garden. Students see how it changes over time and how their gardens benefit and strengthen their community.

According to David Sobel in the book "Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities," by anchoring learning in the local community and environment, place-based education engages students, promotes academic achievement and fosters citizenship and community vitality.

An excellent example of a place-based education project was at Bingham Arts Academy in Alpena, Michigan where students worked with school educators and community partners such as the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI)[TD1]  in creating a schoolyard rain garden with the goal of helping reduce water pollution in the local Thunder Bay River watershed. Through this garden, students were able to explore and learn about many important concepts, such as the relationship between native plants and wildlife, pollinators, what makes a plant native, storm water pollution and much more.

School food gardens are also a well matched tool for PBE. After all, school gardens are an opportunity to build local partnerships while embracing the local climate, crops, ecology and addressing educational expectations. This creation of positive relationships amongst all members of the school community is a foundation for student success.

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