An Action Research Report on Place-Based Education from Idaho's Becky Vordermann

July 22, 2020 |

Becky Vordermann's students engaged in outdoor learning in their local forest.

We invite you to read this incredibly comprehensive Action Research Report from one of our Grants in Place Fellows, Becky Vordermann of Swan Valley School District in Idaho.

For her Grants in Place project, Becky Vordermann took her K-2 class on weekly trips to the Targhee National Forest. There, students gathered samples from water and soil and conducted interviews with local USFS and IDFG representatives to gain a greater understanding of resource management. They then focused on sharing their newfound knowledge with the broader community.

In addition, ten of Becky's students participated in her research project. This lead to the report entitled "The Impact of the Place Network Principles on Student Engagement in the Community Impact Project Process in a Rural School".

Becky's report concluded that her student's preferred activities that took place outside of the classroom to those that took place in the classroom. She writes in the report that "the trips to the trailhead, snow shoe field trips, the fish hatchery tour, and scavenger hunts were all instructional activities that students noted as favorites. These instructional activities primarily represent the Place Network principle of “community as classroom". Additionally, she writes that "students showed excellent engagement overall in the place-based learning setting. Students that previously lacked participation in the classroom, showed greater engagement outdoors."

She also writes about the importance of place-based education for rural communities in general, stating, "Place-based education allows for students to connect to their community through educational experiences. Commercial curriculum is not easy for educators and students to connect to, especially in rural communities. If resources are sufficient, place-based education can thrive in rural school districts to meet the educational needs of students (Howley et al., 2011). The pedagogy of place-based education helps create an educational environment that integrates experience into learning, not just the memorization of standards".

You can read the rest of Becky's comprehensive Action Research Report here.

Becky Vordermann is currently the K-2 teacher at Swan Valley Elementary School in Irwin, ID, part of the Teton Science School's Place Network. Prior to moving to Idaho in 2014, she interned in environmental educator positions for Audubon New Mexico in Santa Fe and Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, MN. She spent summers working in Alaska. Becky completed her teaching certificate in 2015 through an alternative teaching program, as her Bachelor's was originally in geography. Becky is currently working on her master's in education with a focus on environmental education, through Concordia University-Portland.

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