Take It Outside

Exploring Place-Based Learning and Risk

Place-Based Learning

I’m a big advocate for what Ira Socol and Pam Moran describe as P-Based learning. Three of the most common types of P-based learning that I see in schools are project, problem, and passion. But I would argue that place-based learning is the most powerful of them all.

Developing daily routines and a sense of place might revolve around creating meeting spaces or a sit spot.

A Connection to Place

When children have a storied relationship with a place, when they know its history and understand the flora and fauna that call it home, they care.

Post World War 2, junk or adventure playgrounds popped up in blighted and blitzed neighbourhoods in a bid to kickstart urban renewal. Children regularly turned bombed sites into spaces to play showing that meaningful connection to places can occur anywhere.

“For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human — all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.” — Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country.

Developing a Relationship with Risk

When I speak with educators about the barriers that prevent them from taking learning outside, the answer almost always boils down to risk. We live in an increasingly risk-averse society and it stands to reason this would extend to schools. So how can educators increase their comfort level with risk?

One of the biggest barriers to taking learning outdoors that educators describe is the need to manage risk, particularly with young learners. This graphic is based on the Four Zones of Outdoor Learning.
  1. Be clear about why you are going outdoors and what students will be doing in the chosen space.
  2. Work out how you're going to get there. What are the risks involved with travelling to the location? What happens when you arrive?
  3. Establish clear boundaries about how far students can move from the meeting point. This might include using natural or built features in the environment to set boundaries. For younger students, it could include taking a certain number of steps or a short amount of time.
  4. Know how you will get everyone back together. It could be a simple “Cooee” or a whistle or bell.



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Abe Moore

Education blog. "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say" - Flannery O'Connor