Building a National Network of Next-Generation Place-Based Schools

Authored by Teton Science Schools' Nate McClennen

August 21, 2019 |

Nate McClennen is Vice President for Education and Innovation at Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyoming. His work focuses on how to scale the impact of place-based education through technology, innovation, design thinking, rural education, and school networks. Nate was part of the founding faculty at Journeys School from 2001-2006 and served as Head from 2006-2015. Since 1993 he has taught science, technology, robotics, and math at secondary and university levels. Nate serves as an adjunct faculty of the TeacherLearning Center at Teton Science Schools, implementing teacher workshops nationally and internationally. As Director of the Place Network Initiative, he is supporting the launch of a national network of rural place-based schools.

Nate also serves as the point person for the Rural Schools Collaborative's Northern Rockies Hub, which is anchored by a partnership with Teton Science Schools. Nate recently published "Scaling Place-Based Education: Building a National Network of Next-Generation Place-Based Schools" in the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly.

Engaging Place

By Nate McClennen

In his opinion essay, a Nation of Weavers, David Brooks argues for the need of weavers to address societal changes that are disrupting community:

Social fragmentation is the core challenge of our day. We long to be together, but we are apart. We are isolated by distrust, polarization, trauma, and incivility. We live in a hyper individualistic culture that pays lip service to community, but which actually values success above relationship, ego above care, the market above society, and tribal divisions over common humanity. (Brooks, 2019)

Despite this dire warning, committed adults in communities around the world work tirelessly in place everyday, against the odds of ecological challenges, social factions, and economic divides. How can we teach young people to accelerate this work? What would communities, regions, nations, and the world look like if all students were empowered to realize the power of the commons--the collective resources of place (Reich, 2019)? What if, over time, all young people developed the agency to understand and impact local places? Place-based schools accomplish this by helping every student find purpose and develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to thrive as adults. How might the world look if all students experience place-based education?

(Excerpted from McClennen's article in the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly)

We encourage you to read Nate's thoughtful and hopeful essay in its entirety. Nate describes place-based learning, the emergence of the Place Network, and how we can all work together to "weave" a national fabric of place-centered schools.

Also, we know you will want to learn more about the Green Schools National Network, an organization committed to leading a national movement to create green, healthy, and sustainable K-12 schools.

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