The Center for Place Based Education

Dr. Arnon Ben-Israel, Head of the Center
Dr. Arnon Ben-Israel, Head of the Center

The Center for Place Based Education (PBE) – The Place for Significant Learning

The Center’s Objectives

The Center for Place Based Education or PBE examines the field of education from the spatial outlook that characterizes cultural geography, architecture and anthropology, based on qualitative and quantitative research tools. The Center for PBE – The Place for Significant Learning gathers, perfects and encourages research that examines different spatial and environmental aspects related to formal and informal education in Israel. Two overarching themes are considered via the following key questions – How does the space educate? How does education expand spaces?

How does the space educate? What symbols and values are embodied in the geographic space, how are they experienced and by whom? This is examined in different spatial contexts: the city, neighborhood, prison, military base, road, educational institutions, classroom, school playground…

How does education expand spaces? What is the role of education in shaping the geographic space? How does the field of education act as a force causing people to relocate from place to place – a force that encourages settlement on one hand, or alternatively a force that causes people to move away from the periphery? How may education instill a positive feeling of space, or in contrast may undermine a person’s connection to the space and create a sensation of a trap or ghetto? If, and why, do educational issues stand at the center of the way communities form and organize themselves, while they also stand at the heart of fierce battles that influence communities and sometimes undermine their foundations?

Some of the issues that the Center addresses:

  • Advancement of the PBE (Place Based Education) approach.
  • The study of the relationships that form between the educational institution, the community where it operates and the adjacent environment.
  • Designing learning spaces and the school playground as a ‘space.’
  • The potential of replacing the spatial context with frameworks such as outdoor training and wilderness therapy, with an emphasis on educational expeditions in open spaces, for young adults and other distinct social groups.
  • Teaching in ecological spaces – open areas, community gardens and neighborhood sustainability centers, as factors in shaping social-environmental awareness.
  • Movement as an educational act – going to the school, moving within it and away from it: the importance, safety and educational potential.
  • The city/village as a school – the educational potential that exists in the everyday city space.
  • Schools and educational institutions as agents for changing spaces: trends of relocation as a result of educational initiatives, educational quality and educational approaches functioning as strengthening elements of community unity, or alternatively, elements that split or even dismantle communities.

The Center’s Contribution

The initiation of interdisciplinary academic discourse that examines the educational-spatial aspects in Israel is of vital importance. As part of the Center’s activity, social and spatial principles will be drafted that invite meaningful learning processes and space-based learning, including learning outside of the classroom, outside of the school, in the natural and local environment and in close relation to the community and the city/town. This dimension of education/space has been rejuvenated over the past few years in the United States and Europe, while in Israel it is at the beginning of its development and is usually included as part of the definition of environmental education.

Target Audience

The Center directs its efforts toward researchers in the field of education, society and space, and various social and environmental organizations in the Negev. It encourages them to take part in creating a joint dialogue by holding seminars and conferences and by researching and writing together. To build up its independent research infrastructure, the Center for Research writes research proposals for submission to relevant research funds.

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