The Place-Based Approach to

What It Is and Why It Matters


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Templeton Academy students are more empathetic, passionate learners and members of their local community than other students. Why? We use the place-based education model to teach our students.

But what is place-based education and why does it make students more involved in their communities? What skills does a place-based education student develop? Can it really prepare my student for a competitive college?

In this resource, we will explore place-based education and the benefits it has for students and their environment.


Understanding the Relationship Between
Place-Based Learning and Experiential Learning

Before we dive into the details about place-based learning, it’s worth clarifying how place-based learning fits into the context of experiential learning more broadly.

At Templeton Acedmy, we incorporate several different experienced-based elements into the day-to-day rhythm of our school, so that our students can capitalize on their sensitive period for brain development, gain independence, and become lifelong learners. All of these elements, including place-based learning, are part of our larger commitment to experiential learning.

Check out the visual below to see how place-based learning fits into our experiential learning model.


What is Place-Based Education?


You’re probably familiar with the traditional education model — students are seated at their desks in uniform rows while the teacher faces them and tells them what they should learn.

Place-based education disrupts that model.

Instead of emphasizing lectures and technology, place-based education focuses on the power of place and the individual’s experience to personalize learning to each student. A distinct advantage place-based education has over the other models is that in can happen at anytime and anywhere because the immersive learning experience uses the student’s geographic location as a resource to learn.

The Center for Place-Based Learning and Community Engagement defines place-based education as a learning model that “places students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, and uses these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.”

The place-based education model takes the student away from their textbook and teacher’s lecture by challenging them to find the information for themselves. They learn through experience and exploration, not just from taking notes in a classroom. In addition to their personalized experiences, students engage in meaningful self and group reflection and thorough analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.

Place-based education enables personalized learning by giving students a voice and choice in determining what, how, when, and where they learn. It ensures mastery of high academic standards while promoting student agency by tailoring learning to each student’s strengths, needs and interests. These benefits can positively impact students, teachers, and families as well as the communities they live in.



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Place-based education is not a new concept. The focus on geographical location and community as educational tools spans way back to before the invention of modern schools. It’s often easy to forget that these society-wide institutions as we know them are less than two centuries old.

Humans had exceptionally efficient methods of learning before the traditional educational model took off. Before schools, most children learned from watching and imitating their families as well as exploring their neighborhoods, communities, and the natural world around them. They learned through personal experience, not through passive sitting in a classroom.

Students growing up in pre-19th century America or Europe experienced this educational methodology, learning the skills and crafts required of adulthood from their parents, other family members or people they apprenticed with when they were old enough to leave their own homes. However, much of this was lost for many years when compulsory school attendance laws were passed and students were forced to spend most of their day in school instead of learning in an inclusive, personalized environment.

But the place-based approach to education never truly died. As early as the late 1890s, the University of Chicago Lab School began experimenting with this methodology. The movement continued into the late 19th and 20th century when the United Nations sponsored several conferences that advocated the integration of nature into students’ curriculum to enhance their awareness of the world and deepen their curiosity for nature and other life forms.

Today the place-based education model is gaining traction as many schools across the country are implementing this practice and recognizing its value.



Place-Based Education Can Help
Local Communities Grow

Place-based education can not only benefit students and teachers, but also the community around them. It encourages students and educators to connect with their environment to learn and grow. Students can form opinions on the aspects of the community that they like and parts they believe need improving which, in turn, can help benefit the environment itself. Students learning about the community in their own backyard can ignite a passion and appreciation for the place they grow up in.

Burlington, Vermont’s Lawrence Barnes Elementary School, for example, adopted the place-based education model and explored their urban surroundings. They noticed their neighborhood lacked “school zone” safety signs to alert drivers to slow down for the safety of the children. To rectify this, the fourth and fifth grade students petitioned to expedite the signs installment during a visit to the Director of Public Works. Their petition worked, and the school zone signs were successfully installed, making their community a safer place all while learning about local government through first-hand experience.

Students learning from and benefiting their environment isn’t limited to only urban settings. place-based education can also positively impact the natural world. A teacher can instruct their students to conduct river or ocean conservation studies, participate in stream clean-ups and revegetation projects, or raise awareness for the conservation of their local hiking trails. With teachers implementing a place-based education system, students can connect and impact their surroundings while learning through experience.


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Place-Based Education Gives Students
Crucial Tools for Success

The goal of any parent sending their student to school is that their student will receive an exceptional education that equips them with the proper tools for success later in life. So what tools does a Templeton Academy graduate have?

These experiential school graduates understand their natural gifts and how to use them. Every student is gifted with a unique combination of talents, abilities, and passions and, through the pedagogical approach, we find and then hone those interests and abilities. Our small class sizes allow our teachers to work individually with each student to unlock their true potential while effectively using their talents and following their passions.

The Templeton Academy graduate also views challenges as unique opportunities, not merely as obstacles. Since our school has such a distinct educational approach, our students graduate with a different mindset than your average high-schooler’s. Templeton Academy graduates welcome challenges and unknowns because they see them as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than obstacles preventing them from succeeding. These graduates will also become effective communicators and creative thinkers. With our collaborative and project-based learning style, communication and abstract thinking are imperative to success. These students learn the benefits of teamwork through abundant experience.

Not only do our students become great thinkers and communicators, but they leave Templeton Academy prepared for post-secondary education, careers, and life. We know that by focusing on educating and cultivating the whole individual, students naturally strive for academic excellence – which translates into preparation for their post-secondary education. With our individualized and place-based approach to education, each student develops important time-management skills and learns to lead a balanced lifestyle with regard to family, academic, and social responsibilities.

At Templeton Academy, graduates are global citizens, engaged and empathetic community members, and lifelong self-directed learners.

An overarching belief that we strive to incorporate in our education model is a focus on self-giving and empathy. Students are constantly encouraged to look outside themselves, to their peers, family, local community, and beyond.

Through our place-based learning model and emphasis on experiential learning and service, students develop a mindset and habit of community involvement and outreach. This habit becomes ingrained in their value system, and sticks with them the rest of their lives.

Our goal at Templeton Academy is for students to walk away from these personalized and enriching experiences with a deeper understanding of the world around them, a desire to be a member and contributor to their communities, and to become independent, confident learners.


How Place-Based Education Prepares
Students for College

There are many factors to consider when selecting a high school for your student. A question that we hear all the time from both students and parents is:

“Are you sure that your experiential learning techniques maintain the rigorous curriculum needed to help my child thrive in college?”

We are confident that our experiential learning program gives students the tools they need for success on any path they choose, including a rigorous college curriculum.

We have a four-stage experiential learning process:

  • concrete experience
  • reflective observation
  • abstract conceptualization,
  • and finally active experimentation.

In the concrete experience stage, the students engage in an activity, like visiting a museum or performing an experiment. The second stage is reflective observation. The students then reflect either personally or with a written assignment. Third in the abstract conceptualization stage, the student creates the “rules.” They can form a thesis statement for a history paper or a hypothesis for a science experiment so that they are creating something new from their experience. Last, the students test their theory or hypothesis. They can either be correct or would need to reapply their theory to another idea. A major benefit of this four-stage process is each student becomes fully engaged in their education through personal experience. They develop a deeper understanding of not only the information, but also the world around them.

Students don't lose out on building the transcript that will attract the college of their dreams because they are opting to participate in their learning experience. Instead, they develop more skills that will help them to present themselves as engaged, well-rounded learners who have developed critical thinking skills both inside and outside of the classroom.


Life at Templeton Academy
and Beyond

At Templeton Academy, the city is our classroom.

Located in the historically and culturally rich environment of Nashville and DC, our students have access to premier facilities and resources. The museums, art galleries, networking spaces, and community centers of these two cities give our students access to richly detailed source materials and strengthen their bond to the local community.

Our place-based approach to education gives students the tools they need to succeed academically and in life because they receive an individualized learning experience that teaches them how to think and communicate critically and become empathetic members of their community.


Connect with Us

At Templeton Academy, we are passionate about the educational model we are building and the kids we are serving.

Connect with us today to learn more about applying to and attending Templeton Academy!!


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