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Place-Based Learning

What Is Place-Based Learning?

Sometimes referred to as pedagogy of place, experiential education, or community-based education, place-based learning takes advantage of an area's local assets such as parks, public places, museums, and businesses as well as the local heritage, culture, and landscapes. This high-impact deep-learning model prioritizes engagement and authenticity to create a personalized learning experience for students.

While many boarding schools are in the middle of nowhere, we are in the middle of somewhere special, and our position in Lake Placid and the Adirondack Park gives us the perfect environment for place-based, hands-on, community-centered, experiential learning.

Northwood School is dedicated to providing authentic and enriching learning opportunities for all students. By connecting learners to their communities, place-based education increases student engagement, provides valuable hands-on learning experiences, and gives students the chance to grapple with and create solutions for real-world issues.

Rather than exclusively studying information in a vacuum through books and technology, students get hands-on immersive learning experiences in their local area. By incorporating local knowledge and opportunities into our college-preparatory curriculum, we promote the autonomy of our students and enrich their academic experiences in meaningful ways.

Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains

Northwood School’s surroundings provide an exceptional setting for academic enrichment through place-based learning. Located in the six million acre Adirondack Park, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, Northwood School is nestled in the Olympic Village of Lake Placid, host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. 

All of our students, not just our elite athletes, have the use of the village's world-class Olympic facilities such as Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic hockey rinks including the storied 1980 rink, the Olympic Training Center (OTC), and the Intervale Ski Jumps to train, compete, play and study.

Our student-citizens also participate in the local community's arts, cultural, and social scenes. While many boarding school students are encapsulated on their schools' campuses, Northwood students become engaged members of the local area, and we consider Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains as part of our campus.

Experiential and Immersive Learning

Place-based learning opportunities are found in all of our academic disciplines. Students enter poetry contests and participate in local writing retreats in our English classes.  In geology classes, students take scenic flights over the Adirondacks, and they visit local farms in Environmental Science.

Here are some of the ways our faculty seamlessly weave place-based learning into the curriculum:

  • Geology:  Students visit the Cascade Waterfall, raft on the Hudson, explore Clarksville Cave and the caves on Pitchoff Mountain,  and even get to try cliff jumping at the Flume Falls swimming hole on the Ausable River. They also search for garnet crystals in Henry's Woods, see weathering and erosion along the Peninsula Trail, look at metamorphic rocks and view the Adirondacks' high peaks from Cobble Hill, and find glacial erratics and moraine deposits on Whiteface Mountain. 
  • Biology: Our biology classes visit the Biodome and The Wild Center. They also engage in local water testing and learn how to  identify the flora and fauna in area forests.
  • Environmental Science: Students participate in the maple sugaring process, learn about land use, conduct soil profiles,  visit a local wastewater treatment facility, and assume leadership roles in the Youth Climate Summit, a two-day conference on climate action, at The Wild Center. 
  • Physics:  To study the physics of motion, students take part in a ski-jump egg drop, launch rockets off Mirror Lake and in Gabriels, NY, and explore the bobsled/skeleton push track at the Olympic Training Center.
  • Social Science: In Social Science classes, students visit a variety of local museums and historical sites such as Fort Ticonderoga. 
  • The Arts: Northwood School offers a unique Adirondack Art Exploration course in which students seek inspiration from area landscapes and surroundings, visit local artists at their studios, attend guest lectures, and do ceramic firings with other schools. We enhance our students' artistic endeavors through  partnerships with local art institutions including Pendragon Theatre, The Upper Jay Arts Center, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, and the Dance Sanctuary in Saranac Lake.

The Innovation Hub

With the addition of Northwood School’s Innovation Hub, our students are now more poised than ever to experience place-based learning. The Hub’s central location in downtown Lake Placid fosters natural and authentic connections between students and their community. The year-round events and activities that take place in Lake Placid offer a vast array of possibilities for student involvement and leadership, and the Hub’s maker-space resources provide students the tools they need to develop creative solutions and to experiences they need to find success in any leadership opportunity.

Benefits of Place-Based Learning

Place-based learning offers multiple advantages to students, and we have embraced this learning model for the following benefits:

  • Offers personalized, student-centered learning experiences
  • Utilizes interdisciplinary learning
  • Cultivates a sense of social responsibility by grounding students in local communities
  • Provides relevant experiences that boost student interest and engagement
  • Includes inquiry-based lessons developed around student interests
  • Encourages students to see the world through ecological, political, economic, and social lenses
  • Creates lifelong learners
  • Boosts motivation and persistence by giving students autonomy
  • Develops design-thinking and problem-solving skills in students
  • Facilitates deeper learning outcomes
  • Fosters students' appreciation and understanding of the world around them 

At Northwood School, we offer place-based education as well as STEM classes and Advanced Scholar Programs as part of our college-prep curriculum. 

Ready to learn more about how our boarding school can help your child make the most of this time in their life, while also preparing them for a successful future? Then, contact us today.