Place-Based Education at the River Valley Outdoor Learning Center
Keller, Doreen Marie
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The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to explore how two fifth grade and two sixth grade River Valley School District* students experienced the River Valley Outdoor Learning Center*. Particular attention was paid to these students' connection with and curiosity about the curriculum there. Their relationship with the place that was the River Valley Outdoor Learning Center and their connection with the outdoors were also important foci. Finally, students' perception of their own contentment when learning there was explored. The study also was interested in the conditions that supported and constrained this particular program in providing place-based education approaches for its students. Data came from interviews with the four student participants, the students' parents and learning center educators. One of the student's classroom teachers was also interviewed. Additional data came from documents and observations of the fifth grade participants while they partook in a three-day culminating educative experience offered by the center. Findings suggested that the River Valley Outdoor Learning Center program that practiced a combination of place-based and environmental education pedagogies could survive and succeed when it worked within existing school systems and was supported in doing so. It was also found that the pull-out model at this center had lasting impacts on the study's four student participants. Additionally, this program helped these four students to be more connected to nature. Finally, these four students' voices offered deep and valuable insight into their own educative interactions and feelings. The research illustrated an approach that profoundly affected these four students' lives and wellness.