Place Based Education with Tom Vander Ark

I’m excited to kick off our next Modern Learners Community theme “Places and Spaces” with today’s interview with Tom Vander Ark. Tom is the CEO of Getting Smart and his brand new book Place Based Learning: Authentic Learning through Place-Based Education has just been released. He co-authored the book with Emily Liebag and Nate McClennen.

In the book, Vander Ark defines place-based learning as anytime, anywhere learning that leverages the power of place to personalize learning. Later the authors add the idea of connecting projects to community, delving into authentic problems, and encouraging public products which ultimately develop an ethic of contribution.

My Community is My Place Based Education

I live in a small, rural community along the Mississippi River. We have birds and wildlife galore, and a beautiful park maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Burlington Northern Railway runs along the river and the barges carry corn down the channel. Our community is also home to the National Brewery Museum. The museum illustrates the historical and economical impact of beer on our community and the nation. Recently the brewery opened a manufacturing facility to decrease the cost of distribution. I’d be remissed not to at least mention the agriculture that is so prevalent in our community. My hometown is also the setting for the infamous YouTube channel “How Farms Work.” The students in my small, rural community have so many opportunities to learn, and with so much to learn it is difficult not to beam with pride and want to contribute.

As you listen to the show with Tom Vander Ark, I invite you to think about your local community. What learning opportunities are available there. Review the place based triangle. What is the ecology? What is the economy? What is the culture? I’d love to hear about your local community.  Please head over to and sign in or sign up! Once you’re in, share your story!

Oh…and if you missed last week’s show with Peter Liljedahl, you really need to go back and listen. His work on “thinking classrooms” is outstanding.

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