Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Education Theory and Practice


Curriculum and Instruction

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 351 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Carol Richardson-Rodgers

Committee Members

Robert Yagelski, David Greenwood


conscientization, critical pedagogy of place, place-based education, transformation, transformative pedagogy, Environmental education, Place-based education

Subject Categories

Education | Science and Mathematics Education


This phenomenological case study investigates the lived experiences of five educators who engage in on-board educational programs, offered by the non-profit environmental organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., and follows their stories of place-conscious development leading to place-based educational engagement. By analyzing surveys, participant-generated photographs, in-depth interviews, field observations, educator generated curricula, field notes, and member checking, this study examines each participants' recalled life story which provides a basis for understanding their present educational practices. Using a conceptual framework based upon Gruenewald's (2003) critical pedagogy of place supported by the constructs of conscientizacao (Freire, 1970) and the development of an ecological consciousness (O'Sullivan & Taylor, 2004), this study focuses on the experiences that lead participants to engage in place-based education and how their engagement transforms them personally and professional. Transformation is defined as the development of a social and ecological, place, consciousness. The study findings reveal how common experiences: 1) developing a sense of wonder, 2) building a learning community, 3) gaining knowledge, skills, and confidence, 4) engaging in complex pedagogical practices, and 5) successfully maneuvering through challenges to place-based educational engagement and identity traits lead to engagement in place-based education. Place-identity emerged at the intersection of each participant's self, social, and ecological identities. This finding supports a strong connection between identity and engagement in place-based educational practices which allows each participant to share "who they are" with others. Engaging in place-based education provides a "pathway" to place consciousness by reconnecting each participant with their "sense of wonder" as they develop complex, relevant and meaningful "place-based" learning situations for their students, similar to those experienced. Engaging in place-based education also provides a "pathway" for participants to take action, both individually and collectively, as they gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence that lead to personal empowerment, social transformation (decolonization), and ecological conservation (reinhabitation). Study findings support the development of complex, relevant, and meaningful "place-based" learning situations for pre-service and in-service educators to reconnect individuals to their sense of wonder, support personal and professional empowerment, and provide a means to take action through social transformation and ecological conservation.