Summer 2024 Course Information

Place-based Science for Educators

July 8 - 19, 2024
Online, with four synchronous sessions
Instructor: Mike Blouin, M.S.

Not able to join this summer but want to stay in the loop for next year’s course? Click here.

Course Overview

Break down the walls of your science classroom!  This online course, designed for science educators of all age groups, provides in-depth strategies to engage students in the places they live as they study science content and skills.  Educators will learn to how to “read the landscape” in their local communities as they learn new species, ecological frameworks, and observational practices. 

Participants will come away with place-based science activities and assignments they can use with their students, newfound connections to a community of like-minded educators, and a robust plan to integrate place-based teaching into their practice.

This course can be taken on its own ($750), or for three graduate-level credits through Vermont State University ($1185).  Scholarships are available for individuals; please note in your registration if you would like to learn more about that option.

You can see the full course syllabus here


Mike offers the most bang for your buck with this short yet overflowing course dedicated to building your background knowledge of Vermont ecology and increasing your ability to implement place-based learning. I loved the set up of the course and feel that I have walked away with ideas and information that will benefit my science classroom immediately.

– Torie, Middle School Science Teacher


Mike did a fantastic job with melding asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences. It’s clear he is an expert at place based learning and I would encourage any level of science teacher to consider enrolling in the class. 

– Keith, High School Science Teacher


Place-Based Science for Educators was just the course I needed. The blend of readings, videos, outdoor activities, and synchronous discussions were all very manageable, but also very engaging and motivating. I appreciated the captured time to be out in nature as it reminded me of its captivating and restorative powers. The course provided us with solid activities, examples and the time to create an achievable plan for implementing placed-based science in our own classroom. Mike’s enthusiasm, authenticity, content knowledge, and intuitive nature helped make for a great two weeks.

– Tom, Middle School Science Teacher

*More testimonials can be found here.

Course Goals and Objectives

Goal #1: Build competence and confidence in understanding the species and ecologies of local natural landscapes.  Specifically, participants will learn to:

  • Identify at least six common New England tree, herbaceous plant, and/or bird species.
  • Understand how topography, substrate, and disturbance history influence natural communities.

Goal #2: Develop new observation and investigation practices you can use with your students to help them learn about local ecosystems.  Participants will learn to:

  • Assess a chosen place using a “pieces, patterns, process” framework.
  • Use practices of sketching, photography, and question-asking to deepen their observational skills.

Goal #3: Build strong relationships with other teachers interested in pursuing place-based teaching and learning with their students; learn from these fellow educators.  Participants will:

  • Articulate their place-based experiences and aspirations to fellow educators, and serve as effective sounding boards for one another.

Goal #4: Develop a concrete and specific plan to integrate place-based teaching into your classroom or organization.  Participants will:

  • Develop a detailed plan that will allow students to use at least one specific place to practice science skills or learn science content.
  • Use content learned in the course to generate specific and actionable ideas for one’s own teaching practice.


This course consists of a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning, for a total of about 45 hours of work over two weeks.  It meets Castleton University’s requirements for a three-credit graduate course. There are four modules, each of which is briefly described below.  Each module includes:

  • A mix of video lessons and readings aligned with the theme.
  • One to two assignments to practice what we’re learning; usually this includes a visit to a site outdoors that you will return to throughout the course.
  • A live 1.5 hour session on Zoom in which we share with one another and build upon what was studied.

Module #1: Mon, July 8 – Tues, July 9

Theme: Starting Place-based Science Investigation

Description: In this first module, you will learn about the fundamental tenets of place-based education, identify a site to practice place-based activities you might use with your students, and begin learning some strategies you might employ in your classroom. 

Synchronous meeting: Tues, July 9, 3:00 – 4:30PM, Zoom

Module #2: Weds, July 10 – Fri, July 12

Theme: Reading the Local Landscape

Description: In this second module, we will sharpen our skills of “reading” the natural landscape. These will include species identification and pattern recognition. They are foundational to any aspiring naturalist, and can be adapted to students of a variety of ages.

Synchronous meeting:    Fri, July 12, 3:00 – 4:30PM, Zoom

Module #3: Mon, July 15 –  Tues, July 16

Theme: Integrating Art and Science

Description: In our third module our focus will turn toward the artistic and creative realms.  As we proceed, we’ll examine the ways that sketching and photography in particular can strengthen ties to place, and how this might relate to teaching science effectively.

Synchronous meeting Tues, July 16, 3:00 – 4:30PM, Zoom

Module #4: Weds, July 17 – Fri, July 19

Theme: Finalizing Your Place Plan

Description: In this final module, we will aim to transition from general to specific, from ideas to action. Our goal is to build a detailed, realistic plan to integrate place into your classroom — a plan that leaves you feeling excited and not overly daunted.


Synchronous meeting: Thurs, July 18, 3:00 – 4:30PM, Zoom

Readings and Resources

We will provide readings and resources as part of the course, and will provide a list of suggested materials that may be of interest to participants.  You do not need to purchase and books to participate.

Cancellation Policy

We understand that unexpected circumstances may arise.  If you need to cancel, please do so with as much advance notice as possible.  We cannot guarantee refunds for cancellations submitted within 14 days of the start of the course.