"Without a sustained process for building a shared vision, there is no way for a school to articulate its sense of purpose. As members of a community, we need to meet in person when we talk about what we really care about."

- Peter Senge, 2001


The Nature of Schools

old-fashioned classroom

My friend Kate—after an inspirational day she organized with high school teachers to share stories and strategies about youth at risk- exclaimed: “I am so OVER high-school as it is currently defined. It doesn’t work. We have demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t work. All these good people have tried everything they know to help kids do their best-and it’s not good enough. Why are we still knocking our head against the wall. Let’s move on.”

Good teachers know what works. The solutions are in view. Teachers need time, support and resources to do their job well. This doesn’t always mean money-although that is very helpful. But it does involve harnessing the power of what can happen when a system is working well together. It involves changing the culture of a school into a place where teachers and students feel listened to, cared about and empowered.

Students learning locally has the potential to change the nature of schools. Authentic work creates multiple points of intersection with the people and places in a community.

Students interviewing shopkeepers, planting gardens, monitoring safety in neighborhoods, collecting water samples, writing opinion pieces, decorating neglected walls with murals.

Girl making kite

Elders sharing stories, town councils consulting high school classes, workers learning with students, artists acting as mentors.

In this way, place-based education can be thought of as a school change movement. In many ways it is. It fills the school with new energy. The work becomes more authentic. Teachers and students feel more energized by the worth of their endeavors. Members of the community get involved in worthwhile projects and foster useful and productive exchanges with young learners.These acts of teaching and learning become generative points of growth in how people think. A new dialogue emerges from these relationships.