First Person Physics

Place Based Education

Kirby Urner


You will have no trouble Googling up a ton of YouTubes on what some consider a rather faddish notion: that one’s own time and place might be a core anchor point, a theme even, for a whole curriculum. No, it’s not just about community service, although that figures into it.

As a teacher, I’ve taught a more general view of tossing an anchor to some time and place and growing out from there to encompass a topic. In other words, I don’t want to preclude methodology used by historians or writers of historical fiction. I might do place based education from Rome under the rule (reign) of Emperor X (pick one).

However, I’m quick to note that you (almost) always (seem to) have a “you are here you” in “the matrix” (they get “the matrix”) and when you base your curriculum around you, your place and time, that’s another form of place-based. Let’s call it a “first person” or “autobiographical” curriculum. Think “first person physics” — another pet meme I feed.

The old wisdom (taking a snapshot from the 1980s, me working for McGraw-Hill after the Reagan-Mondale debacle): the only economical way to provide everyone with a minimum standard education, was to standardize, on textbooks from big publishers in particular. The biggest states with the biggest budgets would tend to call the shots (in terms of what everyone would get), and standardized textbooks were the rage of their day.

Then came the internet and desktop publishing.

An American Gotham

Today, it’s more than feasible to have a school server farm that grows generationally, with local events. Sporting events. Theatrical events. The life of the school fills the memory units (I‘ll skip specifying which specific storage technology). Alums still poke around, finding each other, and organizing seminars.

The faculty curates, authors, and contributes to, the curriculum repositories. My stash of Notebooks is available to my peers, students, parents, as this is where I publish. Other folders stay private. Not a new idea.

Presuming faculty are also local personalities, students too, we have a unique opportunity to customize the curriculum to have…