Image Description: Five James & Grace Lee Boggs School Students and their educator, Jacinda Bowman, after their presentation titled “How Student-Led Environmental Justice Teams Organized the First Annual Boggs Earth Day Event.” Photo taken at the 2023 Place-Based Education Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The SEMIS Coalition staff (and several Coalition members) were able to participate with hundreds of educators during the national 8th Place-Based Education Conference last month in Grand Rapids. This three day event put on by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) was designed to inspire and support a community of educators around the power of place-based learning. The following reflections will give you a feel for the impact this conference has had on our staff.

“I attended a session by EMU professor Jessica Swan and two EMU undergraduates, Patricia Olds and Amory Zhoe-Kourvo titled, “Do I make you uncomfortable.” I enjoyed the conversation that took place to meet the students where they are and create spaces for them to feel understood. The presenters discussed the issue of identity and associated biases and how to create classroom spaces to discuss our experiences and find our humanity to make classrooms feel safe and collaborative.” – Dr. Nigora

“Having an opportunity to be among such many like-minded educators for the first time in four years was beyond what I could imagine. There has been quite a growth within the Place-Based Education community to move beyond focusing just on ecological issues and understanding that social issues are intertwined. Every single session I was in was not only well attended but had an amazing energy of hope and determination to support young people for their future.” – Sarah

“This year’s attendance at the PBE conference was special for me. I could see the years of our hard work in classrooms, in the connections, and in the quality of content throughout the entire event. It felt right to be with other educators who are answering tough questions about how to build better learning in schools, and advocating well-being through a connection to nature. The teachers we work with are total rock stars – it was a joy to team up with Pam Krebs – You are a fabulous presenter, and Place-Based educator. Thank you so much for helping me present and going with the flow! It is always rewarding to hear the stories that come through a presentation to others; similar to our youth Community Forum, conference workshops are filled with opportunities to do public, collective reflection on our efforts.” – Lisa

“Every time I attend the PBE conference, I’m in awe of this community of educators and of what the GLSI has been building since 2007. In just a couple days, I strengthened relationships, made new connections, and expanded my knowledge of place-based education by leaps and bounds. I left Grand Rapids with renewed energy and inspiration for this important work. Many thanks to the incredible presenters and tireless conference hosts!” – Laura

“This was my first time attending a PBE conference, so the overall experience was special and interesting to say the least. I walked into the conference with many expectations from previous stories I heard from others. It was a pleasure to connect with so many familiar faces I met over the years in person. The aura at the conference was so unique, simply complimenting the participants in attendance. I actually attended many sessions that day, supporting teachers I work with, workshops around PBE in action but ‘The Place Based Neighborhood Connection Between Classrooms and Business Partners’ stood out the most. The biggest takeaway from this session was learning that there are high risks and low risks when approaching a new partner. However, we cannot let our actions be shadowed in fear. The act of service is one that should be approached through love and measured by authenticity.” – Willie

“In reviewing some of the powerful accredited PBE programs being created by teams and individuals at community colleges and universities, I am inspired. These represent paradigm shifts with courses exemplifying ecojustice, STEAM/Green Career Technical Education development, all which give me hope for a healthier, interconnected future society that values, cares for our living planet Earth.” – Paula

I enjoyed hearing from all of the different perspectives at the event, and especially appreciated how Indigenous Leadership was centered! It was great to experience the sand dunes, and then connect with many folks who were present. Meeting so many educators passionate about Place-Based Education and hearing their stories was incredible. – Amy