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Teaching place: Heritage, home and community, the heart of education

Judy Kay Lorenzen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


My dissertation examines my implementation of a Place-conscious pedagogy as a means to teach heritage and sense of place. This pedagogy is framed upon the premise that trying to understand our heritage and place—ourselves—are crucial elements in our ability to live well as individuals who are connected school/community members, who help our schools/communities thrive, becoming Place-conscious citizens. I argue that in teaching in such a culturally diverse community, tensions rise as immigration has become a main focus. Our school/community has experienced many ethnic groups with vast social differences for which Place-conscious education offers practical solutions. These students have a great need to feel a sense of belonging and their families need help in overcoming the challenges in school and local policies that come with immigration. Students who are native-born also experience challenges. Within this pedagogy’s framework, my students were first given the task to interview family members for oral, written, and digital history narratives; then they utilized mapping exercises to create deep maps, family trees and/or diagrams to enhance learning. The end product of this heritage work was to produce authentic writing that resulted in self-knowledge of where the students’ families immigrated from and to honor and give voice to that heritage, and, end in promote community and active citizenship. I examined the patterns, themes, and understandings that emerged in student writing practices within the framework. These historical narratives involved generational connections. Students investigated how their ancestors’ purposes for coming to the Great Plains impacted their lives. I examined the appreciation of place and identity as place; I laid the groundwork for or planted the seeds of stewardship, conservation, and ecology of place—sustainability. I concluded that one critical aspect of these Place-conscious assignments brought solidarity: we are all immigrants and need to feel a sense of belonging and community. Through these assignments, student realized the historical forces, which led all of their family members to America. We understood the need to all work for our mutual good, not self-interest. We need social justice. I see great hope in this conclusion. These assignments enhanced critical-thinking skills.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Lorenzen, Judy Kay, "Teaching place: Heritage, home and community, the heart of education" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10241476.