Place-based education is a learning model that emphasizes the incorporation of community resources and spaces into the daily life of school children.
For many parents and prospective students, it's tough to visualize what this means concretely.
In this post, you'll learn all about what place-based education in Nashville looks like from my perspective as the head of Blyth-Templeton Academy in Nashville.
There Are Two Ways to Think About Place-Based Education
When it comes to place based education, BTA teachers approach it two different ways.
- Teachers choose a topic and curate a list of experiences that correspond with their learning goals. This way of incorporating place-based learning focuses on excursions to museums, exhibits, cultural centers, labs, farms, and other places in the local area that are relevant to the chosen topic. This is typically what people think of when they think about place-based learning.
- Teachers and students use a second place outside the main school building as a continuous classroom. This way of incorporating place-based learning utilizes publicly available spaces and reinforces the idea that children learn in places outside of school. It helps children encounter and interact with community members and community spaces, growing in their sense of responsibility and awareness of the people and place around them.
Keep reading as I explore what these two ways of incorporating place-based education look like in practice.
What Does Place-Based Education Look Like in Nashville?
Everyone knows that Washington, D.C. has museums and historical sites that attract school field trips from around the country so the concept of place-based education may make more sense in this geographic setting.
People often say, "I see how this model works in DC. How could it work in Nashville?"
However, Nashville has many museums and places of interest like the Adventure Science Center, Tennessee State Museum, and the Frist Art Museum to offer for excursions. We also have over 30 other museums, six universities, and many exhibits that change out throughout the year.
Last year, when I showed Nashville to the BTA Team, I did so through the lens of place-based education.
I first looked at current events in order to plan my excursions. The Parkland shooting had just happened, and teenagers all over the country were taking the lead on their own safety. They stood up for what they believed and organized events all over the nation. Using that current event and viewing it through the lens of a US history class, I curated a list of Nashville experiences.
We began at the First Center for the Visual Arts, where we viewed the “We Shall Overcome” exhibit. We discussed Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. From there, we went to the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Downtown Library on Church Street. We viewed the timeline and learned more about the civil rights work in Nashville that had been done. We went on to lunch at Woolworth on 5th.
After looking at peaceful movements like the Civil Rights movement, we also saw other exhibits about people peacefully trying to make change. We visited the “Violins of Hope,” which showed the instruments played by Jewish musicians made during the Holocaust. We went to the Ryman, which came into existence after Thomas Ryman heard a pastor at a revival and then created the Union Gospel Tabernacle. We finished at the Hatch Show Printing Press, where the very first print promoted Reverend Henry Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe).
After, we went and debriefed about how people globally try to create change and specifically how they have and could create change in the city of Nashville. This a great example of the first way we do place-based education.
In the second way, our students actually go and use an outside space for place-based education. Currently, BTA Nashville is working with a teacher to create a robust yoga program. In the course, students will take yoga with a certified instructor. When they reach a certain level, they will leave campus every day and take yoga at a particular studio, where they can become certified instructors themselves.
That yoga studio is less than ten minutes from our location and will essentially become an extension of BTA Nashville. Students will have class there, and that space will become their space.
This is an example of how we remove the walls, expand our campus, and cultivate student experiences through place-based learning.
Interested in Blyth-Templeton Academy in Nashville? Check out our comprehensive resource on applying to BTA!