Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 2:20 PM


SEMKEN, Steven, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404,

Humans make places on and within the landscapes and environments of the physical Earth system, by imbuing localities with meaning and forming affective attachments to them. Geoscientific exploration and research are part of place-making, which is an inherent human behavior. The sense of place encompasses the meanings and attachments we link to a given place, either as individuals or as members of sociocultural communities. Sense of place can be characterized and constructively leveraged; hence, it can be considered one way of operationalizing the “human connection to Earth” for purposes of teaching and assessment.

The place-based approach to teaching, including geoscience teaching, integrates and leverages place meanings (including but not limited to scientific knowledge) and place attachments of students and instructor alike, to foster deeper engagement with places under study: landscapes, environments, communities, parks, traditional cultural homelands, and so on. Trans-disciplinary (i.e., scientific and humanistic) attributes of the places studied provide context as thematic elements and subject-matter organizers, while pedagogy actively encourages students’ interest in and concern for these places. In this way, both principal components of sense of place (meaning and attachment) function as authentic learning outcomes and assessment measures. Place-based teaching values and promotes sustainability of natural environments and human cultures, and stewardship of geologic heritage. Several recent mixed-methods research studies lend support to this practice of actively leveraging or integrating the senses of place of students and instructors in geoscience teaching for diverse student populations—particularly members of indigenous or historically resident cultures such as Native Americans and Chicanos, long underrepresented in geoscience. Wider use of place-based teaching in K-20 geoscience education is challenged by, but may also benefit from, the explosive growth of virtual and online education.