A Critical Pedagogy of Place

Dr. Carol Fulton
University of Regina
Overt, explicit, or written curriculum
Hidden or covert curriculum
Null curriculum
Societal curriculum
Phantom curriculum
Curriculum in Use
Received curriculum
Internal curriculum
Electronic curriculum
Everything is connected
We shape and are shaped by the places we
We are part of nested systems; our actions in
one system have consequences in other
Understanding our relationship to spaces and
places may help to develop an ecoconsciousness
Social justice and eco-justice are inextricably
It is time we
curriculum within
the interconnected
web of social,
cultural, political,
and ecological
contexts in which
we teach and learn.
(Judson, 2006)
Among the
complex systems
that are of
interest to
educators are the
human individual,
communities and
cultural systems
Space refers to a
physical context such
as building, park,
room, etc.
Spaces are dynamic
and changing because
of the interactions that
take place there and
the meanings people
attribute to the spaces
Place emerges from the construct
of space, as space endowed with
meanings” (Judson, 2006)
“where one knows others and is
known to others" (Relph (2000, p.
Places represent sources of
security and identity for
individuals and for groups.
Place contributes to individual and
collective identity formation
insofar as individuals identify with
places and, in turn, places
reciprocally identify individuals.
(Judson, 2006)
Immerses students in local heritage,
culture, ecology, landscapes,
opportunities, and experiences as a
foundation for the study of language
arts, mathematics, social studies,
science, and other subjects.
Encourages teachers and students to
use the schoolyard, community,
public lands, and other special places
as resources, turning communities
into classrooms.
Is project-focused and inherently
tailored by local people to local
realities, place-based education is
equally relevant in small towns and
big cities
Is equally effective for
kindergarteners and high school
According to Sobel
 “what’s important is
that children have
an opportunity to
bond with the
natural world, to
learn to love it,
before being asked
to heal its wounds”
(1996, p. 10).
Not as oppositional
or “messianic”
(Bowers, 2001) as
critical pedagogy
Just as devoted to
social change
Try to foster ecoliteracy and have
children develop a
relationship with
Believe that
introducing political
perspectives at
wrong time can
create anxiety, fear,
and hopelessness in
learners that makes
them less capable of
taking socially or
appropriate action.
Some argue that we need both critical
pedagogy and place-based education to
understand how the “isms” (racism, classism,
anthropocentrism, etc.) are related to
dominance and power.
We need both decolonization and reinhabitation.
Whose interests are
being served?
Who has power and
Who is left
How has power,
politics, history and
culture shaped
“Place + people =
(2001, p. 3)
[Critical] Place-based pedagogies are needed
so that the education of citizens might have
some direct bearing on the well-being of the
social and ecological places people actually
(Guenewald, 2003)
 “a metaphor for the
process of recognizing
and dislodging dominant
ideas, assumptions and
ideologies as externally
imposed” ( Smith & Katz,
1993, p. 71).
“a process of cultural and
historical liberation; an
act of confrontation with
a dominant system of
thought” (hooks, 1992,
p. 1).
 “learning to live-in-place
in an area that has been
disrupted and injured
through past exploitation”
(Berg & Dassman, 1990p.
“The study of place . . .
has a significance in reeducating people in the
art of living well where
they are” (Orr, 1990p.
Guenewald (2003, p. 9) states:
In other words, reinhabitation and decolonization
depend on each other. A critical pedagogy of
place aims to
(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces
and places that teach us how to live well in our
total environments (reinhabitation); and
(b) identify and change ways of thinking that
injure and exploit other people and places
Chet Bowers (2001) suggests Eco-justice has four main
(a) understanding the relationships between ecological and
cultural systems, specifically, between the domination of
nature and the domination of oppressed groups;
(b) addressing environmental racism, including the
geographical dimension of social injustice and
environmental pollution;
(c) revitalizing the non-commodified traditions of different
racial and ethnic groups and communities, especially
those traditions that support ecological sustainability; and
(d) re-conceiving and adapting our lifestyles in ways that will
not jeopardize the environment for future generations
This is a relatively new area of research, and
people have different priorities. It challenges
all of us to think differently because schools
have typically taught us to live in a
competitive society that emphasizes
economic growth at the expense of all else.
What are the places they know best?
Where do they feel safe, accepted, secure? Why?
Where do they feel insecure, helpless,
marginalized? Why?
Who and what are in spaces and places that have
meaning for them?
What can be done to improve a space to make it
a better place?
Foster empathy for the familiar
Move out toward exploration of the home
Move on to social action and reinhabitation.
Spaces and places are pedagogical, social, and
political constructions that are powered and
contested. Schools have a responsibility to
make individuals conscious of the interplay
between humans and their lived spaces and
how we are all actively engaged in making the
places that influence our lives. Place-making
is a democratic process. (Judson, 2006)
But we can work
within our spheres
of influence.
We can build
community and
work collectively to
bring about
Changes in one
system can bring
about changes in
What changes can
you make within
your spheres of
School curricula have generally failed to
communicate a sense of urgency regarding
social, economic, or cultural issues, let alone
to ever-increasing environmental degradation
and global climate change.
(Nelson, 2010)
What role should
schools and the
curricula have on
the consideration of
urgent impending
social and
(Nelson, 2010)
As you view the film
jot down notes
where you were:
 In agreement
 In disagreement
 Surprised
 Intrigued
 Angry
 Touched
Answer the
following question:
In what ways did
the film relate to
the lecture on
curriculum, placebased education,
and critical theory
Gruenewald, D. (2003). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place.
Educational Researcher, 32 (4), pp. 3–12
Judson, G. (2006). Curriculum spaces: Situating educational research, theory and
practice. The Journal of Educational Thought, 40(3), pp. 229-245.
Nelson, T. (2010). Fill this in at home.
Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond ecophobia: Reclaiming the heart in nature education.
Great Barrington, MA: The Orion Society and The Myrin Institute.

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