Our approach to Place-Based Education

The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition includes K-12 educators and district staff, community partners and community-based organizations, students, university community, municipal organizations and institutions, youth activists and administrators. We bring the art and science of Place-Based Education into core practices in schools, and advocate for long term, deep changes to K-12 institutions, colleges and universities, so that these systems serve the benefit of all living systems. We believe our schools are centers of possibility and can thrive in sustainable, healthy and just communities.

We support teachers as they bridge classroom learning to the community, so that, in partnership with others, students can solve real-world problems and create positive change. We do this through place-based education—an immersive approach to learning that empowers students to act as environmental stewards, caring for themselves, their peers, and the land and community where they live.

We use an Ecojustice Education framework to critical address our world, and center justice in our questions, instructional design, and adult and student learning.



The SEMIS Coalition uses research-based practices in teacher professional development and coalition building to provide sustained professional development throughout the year, including an intensive summer institute.

We also facilitate partnerships between school teams and community organizations, and provide on-site facilitation of professional learning communities, classroom coaching, and active coordination with school administrators.

Anchors of Place-Based Education

*This conceptual work was originally designed by Becca Nielsen and Ethan Lowenstein.

Student Centered Inquiry

Strong place-based education experiences introduce students to real world issues through questions, investigations and phenomena that draw students into learning. Place-based educators always ask themselves the question—how can I provide more choices to students so that they can explore what they are curious about and choose the direction of their own learning?

Understanding of, and Connection to Place

Strong place-based education experiences provide opportunities for students to build relationships with community members and their peers while being in the local community and environment. PBE experiences ask students to learn more about a place, including its history, uses, physical attributes, and webs of relationships. These experiences allow students to develop personal connections to the place they are investigating, as well a deep sense of belonging. Although students address community problems, the emphasis in PBE is on community strengths. As young people start to see themselves as belonging to a strong community, they gain control over their own story, and are less likely to internalize negative stories that others tell about their communities.

Informed Civic Engagement

Strong place-based education culminates with opportunities for civic engagement and action taken by students. Students may plan and build a park in an abandoned lot or build awareness of a local water issue through a community forum or public presentation. Students may work with local legislators or city officials to change a policy or bring attention to a local issue or may clean up a river site or city lot. Students may work with peers to help their school become more energy efficient or to solve stormwater management issues on the property. The opportunities are endless. To be effective as civic actors, students need to be informed. In order to gain power as advocates and change makers, PBE requires students to use subject matter knowledge and skills like using evidence and making reasoned arguments.

Pictured here are several of the 2022 Annual Award recipents at the 2022 Community Forum. People are pictured in front of the Lake at the Eastern Michigan University’s Lake House.

Support our Mission - Share your talent and resources