The Pedagogy of Place in Early Childhood Education

Children’s lives are shaped by the places they inhabit. As early childhood educators and teachers of young children recognize the significance of place-based education, experiences and opportunities for learning in and with nature will expand. Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to learning in all areas of the curriculum. Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this pedagogical approach helps children to make a stronger connection to the natural world in a way that will increase environmental stewardship.

According to David Sobel, place-based education “creates a heightened commitment to serving as active and contributing citizens” (Sobel, 2005, p. 7).


Ann Pelo, featured speaker and facilitator at Walking in Place: Cultivating Ecological Identity in Young Children -- and in Ourselves: An invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth ( believes that it is the role of the teacher to foster an ecological identity in children, one that shapes them as surely as their cultural and social identities. This ecological identity can be born in a particular place (2009). 


For the York Region Nature Collaborative through the generous sponsorship of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority our place has been the Kortright Centre for Conservation ( and we look forward to building on our experiences with children in this place of wonder to find our own (as educators) sense of place. By experiencing for ourselves a bond with the earth we will see the possibilities for helping children build an ecological identity and a conscious connection to place. According to Ann “love for a specific place makes possible love for other places” (2009).


We are very excited about this conference and we see that others are too as tickets are going fast and spaces are limited! We are eager to have Parentbooks there with copies of the Goodness of Rain, as well as nature based children’s books and other titles of interest such as those related to the Reggio Emilia Approach We are looking forward to having other vendors there to support the participants in their ecological work with children. We hope that this experience in building a sense of place will encourage the participants to return to their contexts and invite children to braid their identities together with the place where they live. According to Ann this can be done by “calling their attention to the air, the sky, the cracks in the sidewalk where the earth busts out of its cement cage”. Children “learn about places with their bodies and hearts. They give themselves over to the natural world” (2009). By giving ourselves over to the natural world we will learn how to cultivate this love of place in young children’s hearts and minds. Please join us.


Pelo, A. (2009).  A Pedagogy for Ecology. ReThinking Schools Online. Volumen 23. No. 4. Summer.

Sobel, D. (2005). Place-based education: Connecting classrooms and communities. Great Barrington, MA: The Orion Society.

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