2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
Paper No. 187-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

PLACE- AND PROJECT-BASED LEARNING IN THE JOHN DAY COUNTRY OF OREGON

HUGO, Richard C., Department of Geology, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97201, hugo@pdx.edu, CUMMINGS, Michael L., Department of Geology, Portland State University, P. O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, WADDELL, Dale, Wolftree, Inc, PO BOX 646, Beavercreek, OR 97004, and BRENNAN, Rhonda, Mitchell School District, 340 SE High Street, Mitchell, OR 97750

The communities of the John Day River watershed in north-central Oregon depend on varied and often unique natural resources. The mainstays of the region's economy are ranching, farming, logging and mining. Poverty rates are high and populations are declining. As a result, school districts face serious challenges, especially in science education. A promising approach is to incorporate local issues into K-12 science curricula. Placed-based learning strategies use local features and ecosystems as objects of study, while project-based learning incorporates complex, authentic problems. These strategies make learning relevant and challenge students to create practical solutions to real-life issues.

We present a geoscience education program that combines project-, place-, and community-based learning strategies. In this model, pioneered Wolftree, Inc., students are provided a resource utilization problem by a community partner. Guided by volunteer scientists, students narrow this complex problem down to specific questions and then design appropriate experiments. To encourage intellectual investment, students are given broad latitude over their project goals and direction.

In a recent pilot project at Mitchell School District, a Natural Resource Science class addressed sustainable management of a local rancher’s soil resources. The students practiced a variety of field and laboratory techniques to evaluate soil types and productivity. Techniques included field assessments, laboratory nutrient analyses, and GIS mapping of field and laboratory data. Students were given increasing autonomy as the project progressed, and were given complete control over their final field days. The students chose to present their results to local ranchers and farmers at a monthly school board meeting.

By addressing an important local issue, students had strong motivation to learn the geologic processes that created their landscape. They also learned valuable critical thinking skills and gained academic confidence. Community members derived real benefits from the project, and other local ranchers and farmers have come forward with project requests. We hope to develop this into a self-sustaining program that will generate benefits in both the schools and the local community.

2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 187--Booth# 297
Earth Science in Place-Based Teaching (Posters)
Oregon Convention Center: Hall A
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 487

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