Rural Winners of Lenore Annenberg School Fund Grant Delve Into Place-Based Learning

Last Updated: September 28, 2011

This article appeared in the September 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

This summer two high-poverty rural elementary schools participated in a place-based learning workshop led by Rural Trust staff.

“Place-based learning is a way for teachers and students and community residents to learn about their community, and it can engage students with academic content in their communities in ways that benefit both students and the place,” explains Jereann King Johnson, Project Coordinator/Trainer for the Rural Trust.

The two schools — St. Helena Elementary School in Louisiana and Dermott Elementary School in Arkansas — won grants earlier this year from the Lenore Annenberg School Fund for Children. The $100,000 grants are only available to schools where more than 90% of students receive free or reduced price lunches.

Both schools face challenges common to high-poverty rural schools, including low funding, a dearth of in-school resources, and often-troubled relations with state or local power structures.

Dermott Elementary is small with 240 students in pre-K through sixth grade. Located in Chicot County in south central Arkansas, the Dermott community has a population of 2,900. Currently, the community has its own school system, and most students live nearby.

St. Helena Elementary is in Greensburg, population 650, in St. Helena Parish, which is on the northern edge of Louisiana’s “boot.” The school is a much larger than Dermott and serves 531 students in Pre-K through fourth grade.

“Both schools are dealing with isolation and poverty and pressure from their states to improve test scores,” says Margaret MacLean, Project Coordinator/Trainer for the Rural Trust. And, like many other high-poverty schools, both St. Helena and Dermott have experienced administrative turnover or threat of closure.

In such circumstances place-based learning can be a stabilizing force. "Place-based learning offers many opportunities to provide children with a good education and to engage residents and students in research and problem solving in the community” Maclean concludes.

You can read more about place-based learning in “Place-Based Learning Offers Opportunities for High-Poverty Rural Schools” in this issue of RPM.

Read more from the September 2011 Rural Policy Matters.