A New Paradigm in Learning
by Gregory Smith


World Watch
http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4910Grounding Learning in Place

A new paradigm in learning represents an emerging approach to curriculum development called place-or community-based education, which seeks to link classrooms more tightly to their communities and regions. These programs have helped encourage teachers to document local art and history, to work with students to create new businesses, and to strengthen the teaching of science through the development of aquaculture and gardening projects. Place-based education works to cultivate students' knowledge of the unique characteristics of their home communities and to engage them in meaningful and authentic work. It begins with the belief that young people will be more likely to invest their time and energy in the care and support of the places where they live if they are familiar with local assets and come to see themselves as valued contributors to the common life of their families and neighbors.

Humanity faces major global challenges, and it is becoming increasingly clear that neither nation states nor transnational corporations display much willingness to invest the energy or resources needed to seriously address issues such as climate change, the peaking of oil production, or the dislocations caused by economic globalization. Major cultural and social adaptations will be required in coming decades if the wellbeing of human populations and the integrity of natural systems are to be protected and improved. It is not surprising that those who have the most at stake in the status quo are reluctant to embark upon a transformational agenda that could threaten their privilege and power. This means that meaningful change must take place outside the centers of current political and economic authority-and those places include the neighborhoods and communities where most citizens lead their lives...