Thursday, February 7, 2013

Place Based Education

"Place-based education immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum. Place-based education emphasizes learning through participation in service projects for the local school and/or community."

There are so many enriching learning opportunities just in the environment around our school. Walking through our neighborhood we pass animals, markets, banks, grocery stores, clothing vendors, bakeries, doctors' offices, vehicle repair shops and so many different people- endless opportunities for asking questions, exploring and putting a context to the vocabulary we are learning in class. Sometimes we have sensory walks where we isolate one sense and then talk about what we saw, smelled, heard, touched and even tasted once we return to class. It is empowering for the students to be the experts as well as learn to experience their home in different ways. They are beginning to recognize the coexisting people, places and components of their community as they work to find their own place in it.
Here are some of the ways we have been learning by looking to the community around us:

Exploring different types of maps and creating our own.
As we explored our community on walks, the children became interested in the local comedors (small restaurants) and we decided to open our own comedor in class, which gave us many opportunities to practice different parts of our curriculum.
This project was fairly extensive, capturing the children's attention for weeks in which we made our own menus, practiced restauarant and food vocabulary, learned about money and used math skills with our new cash register (bought with funds raised at the CT fundraiser) as well as practiced speaking, writing orders and cooking which is great for literacy and math (reading recipes, measuring amounts). 
Miguel, Anastasia and Ana Evelyn hard at work in the comedor.
The class was so interested in cooking that they created opportunities with objects for nature patterns and outside during recess. The restaurant project will culminate this Friday as the First and Second Grade joins us in our restaurant!
As we build upon the restaurant theme we have also been expanding our exploration of the community, including community helpers like police, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, doctors and postal workers. Here Kimberly and Anastasia practice writing community helper vocabulary.
We documented our walks around our neighborhood with photographs and turned them into these community building blocks so we can recreate the community's geography inside our classroom.
Esther builds with community blocks, vocabulary: roads, buildings, vehicle names, trees.
After learning the names of vehicles (and tools) we opened our own mechanic shop.
Teamwork during morning free play to build a "hotel," definitely something that is very present in the community where tourism is a primary source of income for many families.
As a newcomer to Las Terrenas, it has been a gift to begin looking around the community and exploring it from the childrens' views. There are endless, rich opportunities for incorporating any type of academic curriculum in ways that are meaningful and useful to the students. The community involvement as well as finding an area where the children have the knowledge and can share their wisdom while learning are major components of the Las Terrenas International School Philosophy.
Current reading/ Inspiration: Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Freire, opening quote-, and special thanks to Brenda Hillenius for sharing her passion, resources and project ideas with us!

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