Skip to main content

Place-Based and Project-Based Learning (Archived)

This teaching guide has been retired. Visit our revised guide on this topic,
Community Engaged Teaching Step by Step

Teaching towards sustainability lends itself to place-based and project-based approaches to pedagogy.  Although sustainability is a global goal, its problems and solutions are always importantly situated in local ecologies and communities.  Instructors might consider taking a “bioregional” approach to teaching about place, encouraging students to think about their local watershed as a meaningful way to conceptualize community.  In addition, focusing on sustainability solutions requires the cultivation of an imaginative experimentalism – the difficulties involved in transitioning to a more sustainable world can only be worked out in the process of formulating practical alternatives to the problems at hand.

Field Trips

Field trips bring people together in ways that go beyond traditional classroom experiences.  Planning the logistical details of a field trip take time and foresight, but the rewards of a well-planned field experience can make it worth the effort.

  • Be sensitive to time and place; it is impossible to plan for every contingency, but keep in mind the variability of seasonal weather.
  • Don’t plan every minute of the trip.  Create time for observation and “poking around.”
  • Create solo time – consider having students bring a journal; offer the option of a reflective writing assignment.

Campus as Sustainability Classroom

Encourage students to think of the campus as a sustainability laboratory.  Assign projects that allow students to create solutions to sustainability issues they identify in their own dormitories and dining halls. Get in touch with your campus sustainability coordinator to brainstorm projects and to help connect students with existing campus resources and organizations.

Classroom and Community

There is an important relationship between the university and the larger community of which it is a part.  Teaching about sustainability is, in large part, a civic education.  Instructors can encourage students to see not only their campus, but also the city and countryside in which it is located, as a sustainability classroom.  Assign projects that help students to map and engage with sustainability issues and initiatives in the community.  Consider assigning students to attend a city council meeting and write a response.