Reviving “Sense of Place”

When the education community was “atwitter” with the concept of a sense of place (1990s), I was an environmental educator in Arizona.  Much of the theoretical basis for this movement derived from studies that showed increased learning from experiential education (out in nature, hands-on, etc.)  Rachel Carson’s assertion that a child must first form an emotional attachment with nature before he is willing to protect nature is an assumption in the sense of place movement.  A National Endowment for the Humanities article by William R. Ferris (1996) is an excellent statement of the importance of place in human development:

Each of you carries within yourself a “postage stamp of native soil,” a “sense of place” that defines you. It is the memory of this place that nurtures you with identity and special strength, that provides what the Bible terms “the peace that passeth understanding.” And it is to this place that each of us goes to find the clearest, deepest identity of ourselves.

As Ferris explores the critical importance of the arts and humanities in education he offers a ten point plan that addresses the problems we face even now in 2012 (16 years later):

Those in politics have voiced their concern over the impoverishment of American life and values, but no one has found an answer to our problems. I suggest that the solution lies in the indigenous culture about which Alice Walker wrote, the familiar worlds into which we each are born. We must study and understand the worlds that make each of us American and through that journey we will renew American culture.

What is that postage stamp of place that makes you who you are?  Please share more and I also suggest that readers visit the link above to the Ferris article. Other resources to explore are:  Children’s Nature Network, A Sense of Wonder (film), The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich.

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