Vernier Science Education - June 2024


Forums / Rural Teachers / Place-based Instruction in Rural Communites

Rural Teachers

Place-based Instruction in Rural Communites

Author Post

How do you use your local setting to enhance your science and STEM instruction?

Flavio Mendez Flavio Mendez 53041 Points

Dear Bev,

Great topic. I did a quick search on NSTA journal articles for middle school educators (Science Scope) using the keywords 'place-based instruction' and found a few gems.  I am listing them below in case you (and others) would like to review them and share them forward.

(1) Using Place-Based Inquiry to Inspire and Motivate Future Scientists

(2) Integrating Technology: Lens on Climate Change: Using Place-Based Learning to Explore Climate Change Effects

(3) Using Place-Based, Structured Inquiry to Motivate At-Risk Students

Take care,


Erik Lucas Erik Lucas 705 Points

My school site is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, near the site of an old gold mine. Whenever natural resources come up, gold is one of the go-to examples students come up with since they've grown up learning about the mines. 

Thanks Flavio!

Now I need to search for elementary and high school sources! Then we will be well-rounded in resources!


When I taught in a rural community, I used the school lawn for teaching my version of astronomy with a stick--we used a telephone pole as one of our 'sticks' throughout the school year to 'see' the movement of the sun and moon in relation to north and south (even though it really was our orbit path changes through out the year; this made understanding easier for HS students). I have attached the moon phases activity with student handouts included for those interested. I used this in physical science (9th graaders) and in Earth Science when it was taught. I even used it sometimes in trigonometry.

I also used the surrounding geology; the problem of building a new elementary school on Mancos shale-although the building was stablized to bedrock, the hillside to the NE of the school wasn't stabilized and we monitored the movement of the hill via a retaining wall and how much the bricks were pushed out. 

We collected water quality data on the stream about 0.5 miles from the school for the state as well as our own interest. 

These are a few of my place-based lesson ideas many which become projects for students. 

Richard Gilbert Richard Gilbert 50 Points

Even though it was written in 1964 one of thebest books I have seen for rural science activities, boh national and international, is the 


700 Science Experiments for Everyone by UNESCO. Yes some of experiments and 'old and basic' but that is the fun of hands on.  You do not ned access o fancy and expensive equipment to perform experiments or activities

Torrey Wenger Torrey Wenger 907 Points

Well, what do you have?  There's an active Osprey nest at the elementary next door.  I'm working on getting a nest cam installed but there's soooo much else I could do - connections to other countries (stopover sites & wintering grounds), how birds know when to migrate, ecosystems & food webs, bioaccumulation of toxins, math related to bird banding & recapture data, citizen science reporting, etc etc.

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64775 Points

I agree with Torrey.  First ask what do you have around you.  In my rural setting, I have a nearby tallgrass prairie and a local reservior.  We use both in our studies in biology and earth science.  Like Bev, I also have some great geologic formations that my freshmen in earth science love to visit.  In physics, we utilize our ag-ed shop to build catapults.  We also use a local swimming pool to race life-size cardboard and duct-tape boats. 

I think it is important to be creative and think outside of the box. Just because we don't have new equipment does not mean we cannot have meaningful learning in science. In addition, since I have smaller classes and typically have students for more than one year, we can perform multi-year studies. This is especially helpful when we are studying climate and ecology. 

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers