Attempting to Make Place-Based Pedagogy on Environmental Sustainability Integral to Teaching and Learning in Middle School: An Instrumental Case Study

Gayle A. Buck, Kristin Cook, Ingrid Weiland Carter


Local environmental topics can serve to motivate and empower students to change their behavior and take action for sustainable practices. In order to better support middle level teachers as they incorporate such topics into their professional practice, we sought to enhance our own understanding of their classroom-based experiences. In light of this, we conducted this study on a middle level teacher as she attempted to integrate place-based pedagogy on environmental sustainability into her science curriculum. The guiding questions of the study were: a) What student experiences emerged as a result of the teacher’s implementation of the curriculum?, and b) What practical understandings emerged for the teacher as a result of implementing a place-based unit on environmental sustainability? Data sources included interviews, observations and written documents. The findings revealed that the teacher’s efforts to connect the instruction to a local issue of water quality led to student engagement and an eagerness on the part of the students to share what they did with others. Unfortunately, several aspects of the teacher’s efforts did not successfully lead to greater student understanding of content and multiple viewpoints on local issues. The results extend current understandings of the how to support middle level teachers in the development, enactment and refinement of place-based pedagogy on environmental sustainability.


Place-Based Pedagogy; Sustainability; Middle Level Science

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