Why PBL in Mountain Environments


• First hand experiences in field-based settings invite high level engagement and questioning that can function as entry event or prompting of essential questions.

• Students are actively engaged in field based learning, therefore they find the experience more interesting, fun, practical and relevant. This leads to increased motivation to learn and build knowledge both in the field and back in the classroom.

• Inquiry into the hows and whys of mountain environments facilitates exploration and connections between big picture views, geologic and human history to specific features of our mountain topography, streams, and forests.

• The depth of knowledge in field-based PBL has high potential to be deep and robust.

• Learning in the field encourages habits of self-directed learning and peer collaboration.

• Teaching students about the places they live, and the rich history of Appalachia encourages a sense of ownership, pride and commitment.

• The Mountain Institute has the capacity and resources to make it easy for WV teachers to use our mountain environments as the backdrop for developing highly effective field based learning units in accordance with WVDE content objectives.  TMI has a long history of providing the type of planning and logistics that teachers have no time for in their day.


Resources and research citing the benefits of well-designed field-based learning initiatives in science.

  • … students who participated in the field trip stressing knowledge and idea processing outperformed students who participated in the passive field trip. This was true at the conclusion of instruction and again 12 weeks later. Information and skill links such as those encouraged during the excursion described seem to aid recall and retention of facts and skills. Field Instruction in School Settings. ERIC/SMEAC Environmental Education Digest No. 1.  http://www.ericdigests.org/about.html
  • …. Kern and Carpenter (1984) found that a field-oriented approach had a pronounced positive influence on the affective responses
  • of participating students. Interest and enjoyment both increased dramatically, ……leading to an increase in student motivation.
  • Field Instruction in School Settings. ERIC/SMEAC Environmental Education Digest No. 1.  http://www.ericdigests.org/about.html
  • …..Falk and Balling (1982b) … of the Smithsonian Institution's Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies, demonstrated that children do learn a great deal on well-structured field trips, indicating that design and execution of the field experience, including well planned pre-trip orientation, are critical. http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-927/learning.htmCognitive Learning in the Environment: Elementary Students. ERIC/SMEAC Environmental Education Digest No. 2, 1987
  •  The scientific study of these field sites requires conceptualizing the “meaning of long periods of time and the relationships among events that occur in seconds or minutes to processes that work on timescales of millions or billions of years.” Manduca, Mogk, and Stillings. "Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences." EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (REC 021365). (2002):http://serc.carleton.edu/research_on_learning/
  • “Thinking like a geoscientist,” in short, grows out of exposure to a continuum of scaffolded learning opportunities that start with the most basic of information and simplest of tasks and build gradually to a composite, integrated understanding of the Earth system. Manduca, Mogk, and Stillings, (2002).
  • … the ability of an expert to “read” the geological history of a field site in its physical features. This ability unites the visual, temporal, and conceptual aspects of the discipline in a heightened feel for physical place, augmenting a deeply rooted natural human tendency. (2002).
  •  [Helping students] to “think like a geoscientist” translates into preparing them to make informed decisions as stewards of the Earth in their roles as voters, consumers, and contributing members of society.”(2002).