Exemplary Efforts

Good things happen at the intersection of place based education, philanthropy, and collaboration.

Missouri's Placeworks program, the brainchild of artist-educator, Kate Baird, is a wonderful example of this synergy.

Exemplary Efforts


Ozarks teachers face a time crunch. With budgets threatened, programs like art and music are increasingly being squeezed out of the school week. Meanwhile, teachers look for creative ways to reach students with the lessons they are expected to deliver.

Placeworks Art Initiative to the rescue.

A program of the CFO's Rural Schools Partnership, Placeworks offers customized, interdisciplinary programs for Ozarks teachers in their classrooms, through a field trip or both. The program includes teaching artists covering a range of areas of expertise including visual art, music, theater, tableau and more.

Here's how it works: Teachers from schools involved in the Rural Schools Partnership apply for Placeworks programming and specify the type of lesson they'd like delivered. Past examples range from a Veterans Day presentation to the life cycle of a butterfly to school art installations (you can see more at placeworksart.org). With teacher input, Placeworks creates an artistic lesson around the subject. If the lesson requires a field trip, it is part of the program provided to schools. The goal is curriculum knowledge, plus a new way of learning for students.

"We want kids to learn how to think critically, solve problems, work collaboratively, take risks, try again after failing and have confidence in their own ideas," said Kate Baird, museum educator for the Springfield Art Museum, who started the Placeworks program in 2010. "The arts are an incredibly effective way to teach those things."

Placeworks teaching artists include: Baird, a Guggenheim-trained artist and educator for the Springfield Art Museum; Phil Dickey, a musician and member of the band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin; Rachel Jamieson, a theater professional and international educator; and Hadley O'Brien, who specializes in jewelry, glass blowing and other craft art.

Placeworks is funded through the Rural Schools Partnership by the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation of The Commerce Trust Co. Contact Julie Leeth at 417-864-6199 or jleeth@cfozarks.org if you would like to learn more or would be interested in implementing the Placeworks concept for your community or region.

Thank you to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks for providing this story.

Two excellent sources for exemplary place-based learning partnerships are the Vermont Rural Partnership and the Ozarks' Rural Schools Partnership. Also, for more exemplary place-based learning stories, go here.