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Motivated by a Sense of Community

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As part of my beat here at Education Week, I cover rural school issues. I'm relatively new to this subject, and over the past month or so, I've been gathering as much information as possible about the challenges that rural schools face and ways to overcome them. This afternoon, I attended a Webinar put on by the Rural Schools and Community Trust called Engaging Students and Revitalizing Communities through Place-based Learning, which seemed particularly suited to share with you all.

Here's an article about place-based learning--what it is and some examples--from the Rural Schools and Community Trust's Web site. The Webinar was basically about how place-based learning, or expanding the classroom to include the students' community and surrounding environment, can motivate and engage students by providing them with opportunities for hands-on learning and emphasizing the relevancy of what they are learning. This is presented as an idea firmly rooted in the rural schools community, but I think it has implications for all districts. Helping students learn by studying the history, culture, and environment of their own community seems like it would not only engage students, but also build a strong relationship between schools and the outside community (which, by the way, seems to be a running theme on Motivation Matters lately).

Do you have any examples of this happening in your school or district? And if so, have those efforts been successful?

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The Montana Heritage Project has organized such programs in 33 communities in the state. At times, the results have been stunning. A community heritage fair organized in the tiny community of Simms featured the best sustained academic performance by high school students I have ever seen, as kids used video and powerpoint as a "gift of scholarship" back to their elders, retelling a hundred-year history of the place.

For my part, I find the whole approach enchanting. An education void of enchantment and eros is not the real thing.

This reminds me of a focus of some charter schools. To allow the students to experience "real life" opportunities by going out there in the world, will only help prepare the students for the future. We want them to be life long learners and we should begin to use this form of teaching from the primary grades.

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  • Jaclyn Sinclair: This reminds me of a focus of some charter schools. read more
  • Michael Umphrey: The Montana Heritage Project has organized such programs in 33 read more

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