The impact of place on teacher's professional and ecological identity

Place-based education has many forms and is based on the concept that education should prepare people to live and work to sustain the cultural and ecological identity of the places they inhabit. If modern science based education focuses on the social and urban context, place-based education in contrast emphasizes the ecological and rural context.

In place-based education local ecological and cultural sustainability is viewed as a primary goal. The nature of professional development for place-based education is complicated because

`place´ is specific to a teacher’s own school setting yet professional development courses generally will draw teachers from a wide geographical area. Here we report on how `a sense of place´ experienced by science teachers on a summer institute in the spectacular Rocky Mountains in Alberta influenced teaching of ecological concepts back in their own school settings. We used focus group interviews at the outset of the institute and then 6 months or 18 months afterwards. Our interpretation of the data was phenomenographical in approach to help describe the different ways of experiencing place. We found that being in an inspirational place was highly motivating and that teachers found it easy to transfer their ideas and experiences into their own school contexts. We conclude that experiences in significant natural environments can be tremendously beneficial in developing a professional and ecological identity in science teachers which helps young people value local urban habitats as well as understanding complex ecological concepts.