In conversations on access to education, there is an emphasis on numbers and enrollment and the quality of education provided is somewhat ignored. Attending the Great Lakes Place-Based Education conference gave me access to a community of passionate educators who are looking for ways to increase classroom engagement. During the conference, I attended panels and presentations by students and educators who are constantly looking for ways to increase access to quality education through grassroots initiatives.
I also had the opportunity to present on the Engaging Youth Engaging Neighborhoods (EYEN) project, a partnership between the University and the Neighborhood Resources Connection in South Bend. The interactions, feedback and questions after our panel, pushed me to think of ways to scale the place-based approach to education into other communities. I had to seriously consider what place-based education can look like in a community like my own in Zimbabwe. A noteworthy experience during the conference was the keynote presentation by Chad Pregracke, where he discussed his personal experience of leading a movement to clean up America’s rivers. His story was an essential reminder of the power of great ideas and creative spirit.
I am grateful for this opportunity to represent the university in sharing some of the educational work students and professors are carrying out in our local community. Most importantly, this was an essential opportunity to grow in my own conviction that we can do a lot more in making classrooms more engaged and equitable.