Place-Based Learning Land Use Analysis

Good work in Hartford, Vermont, a Place Network School member!

February 16, 2021 |

Covid-19 has been an ongoing challenge for teachers and schools across the rural landscape. So that is why we are so heartened when our Grants in Place Fellows share their personal stories of good progress. Melissa Wyman is a 2019-20 Grants in Place Fellow, and the pandemic certainly changed the nature of her action research project. However, she has persevered with her colleagues and students, and their school community continues to move forward in pursuit of place-based education strategies. In fact. the Hartford School District became the 15th member of Teton Science School's Place Network this year!

Congratulations to Melissa and her community! Also, thank you to our New England Hub partners, Plymouth State University and the Rural Educational Leaders Network, for making this connection possible.

Rural Schools Collaborative Grant Report and Update: Melissa Wyman, Grants in Place Fellow, 2019-2020, Hartford, Vermont

Unfortunately due to COVID we were unable to follow through with our plans last year to go and visit several place-based schools; however, we were still able to provide a training workshop for five members of our staff and host teachers from around VT, ME, NH, and Central America. This workshop happened a week before the world changed, and as such, many great plans were put on hold as we all tucked in, hunkered down, and trudged through the school year.

It did plant seeds, however, that were carried into this school year. Our school decided to intentionally partner with the Teton Schools as a result of this training, and we began this academic year with a deep dive in place-based education for all staff. Our Teton coach, Betsy, is absolutely phenomenal and has been willing to work with us to offer responsive, directed, and personalized professional development this year. At the mid year mark, several faculty members have shared some of their place-based projects:

  • A music teacher had students in a Composition class compose a piece of music based on a place in the upper valley
  • An art teacher had students engage in an “Art Walk” where they practiced visual literacy skills by noticing, identifying, and reflecting on art in their community.
  • A science teacher engaged in a mercury project where students had to capture dragon flies from local water sources and test their mercury levels
  • Another science teacher engages students in projects where they consider ways to reduce their carbon footprint by finding way to harness the energy of their place to achieve tasks that would otherwise be achieved with fossil fuels (e.g. creating solar cookers)

In addition to these initiatives, with the support of the folks from the Teton Science Schools and Plymouth State University, I was able to develop and offer a class called “Hands on the Land”. The course is designed to provide a hands on, minds on, outdoor learning opportunity for students that utilizes a place-based and deep learning/inquiry model that pulls English and possibly other content areas outside of the classroom and on to the land. The long term goal is to start a farm and would entail creating an outdoor place that promotes the values and vision of the district through which students can demonstrate a complex and deep mastery of content performance indicators and learning outcomes.

We were able to run three sections of this cporse this year and serve approximately 50 students. We will offer this again next year and include a Level II of the course which will entail more independent application and mastery of the skills and goals of the course.

Listen to an I Am a Rural Teacher Podcast featuring Melissa by clicking on this image.

In addition to partnering with Teton Schools, we’ve used some of the funds from our grant to purchase small hands tools and equipment for our on campus garden which we used over the summer to offer 4-5 students opportunities for hands on learning and community service. We are hoping to utilize some of the remaining funds to visit the schools we had hoped to see last year when restrictions ease.

We are grateful and thankful for these funds from the Rural Schools Collaborative, and excited for the opportunities they have allowed us to explore.

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