Recently I attended a pre-conference workshop in Kamloops, BC run by professors from several different disciplines — geography, fine art, literature, philosophy, and biology — who had been collaborating since last summer on “place-based pedagogy.”
Informed in large part by a hybrid of environmental education and critical pedagogy, place-based pedagogy has to do with, as our homework reading suggests, “decolonization” and “reinhabiting” of space and place. We experienced first-hand some of the assignments the group had worked on for an interdisciplinary course, assignments and activities that each had used in her or his own course but that now were being blended together anew. We tried an event map and a collaborative photograph project on part of the Thompson Rivers University campus; after lunch, we did a walk around a shopping mall to uncover the palimpsestic layers of use and meaning that were partly submerged and lost, or very apparent but nevertheless hard to see because we’re so accustomed to them.
The workshop ended with examples of student work from a fine art class, in which students were focused on geography, place, biology, and representation. It was a transformative day for me, and I found immediately useful some of the assignment ideas for my own Cultural Studies course (especially when we get to our unit on Un/Natural Spaces). I’ve added my own 5 pictures from our group’s 20 pictures, which were part of a display of about 100 in slideshow format (we had taken them in the morning as a means of “seeing” the landscape and all its meanings; then they were collected and broadcast to us for discussion after lunch). I’d love to know if anyone on our campus thinks of him or herself as a “place-based educator” or involves students in mindful consideration of space across disciplines.
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