A Forest in the City: Exploring place-based education with the US Forest Service (2010)

Client Organization: 
USDA Forest Service, Urban Connections Program
Project Location : 
Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL
Summary of Project Idea: 

How can we engage urban teachers in place-based education methods? This study analyzed the feasibility of adapting a place-based professional development program called A Forest for Every Classroom (FFEC) in two urban locations (Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL). FFEC was originally developed in Vermont through a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other public- and private-sector organizations and has since expanded to New Hampshire, Montana, and Texas.  Now the USFS's Urban Connections (UC) Program is exploring implementing FFEC in Milwaukee and Chicago.  UC seeks to provide place-based professional development to K-12 teachers through collaborative partnerships.  The University of Michigan (UM) Master's Project Team determined the feasibility of adapting and implementing a program based on FFEC in these two cities.  Objectives of the UM study were to (1) assess the cities' needs for place-based professional development, (2) explore the extent to which FFEC can support the missions and goals of UC and USFS, and (3) provide recommendations for successful FFEC adaptation and implementation in Milwaukee and Chicago.  Methods consisted of a literature review, FFEC program observation, face-to-face and phone interviews and focus groups with approximately 80 stakeholders (including teachers, environmental educators, USFS employees, and FFEC program coordinators), and the development of a synthesis report.  A steering committee consisting of key decision-makers provided direction throughout the process.  Data was analyzed using content analysis with categorization of responses.  The team's final synthesis report was provided to Urban Connections, the USFS Conservation Education Office in Washington D.C., and research participants.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 
  • Enthusiasm for outdoor education
  • Interest in working with an interdisciplinary group
SEAS Program Areas: 
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

Experience in working with a public school, and  an interdisciplinary group, working with a non-profit, developing curriculum, evaluating policy, working on a place-based education program that could applied to other schools, possibly presenting at a national conference.

SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Michaela Zint
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • John Cawood, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Catherine Game, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Annie Gregory, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Andrea Liberatore, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Ericka Popovich, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Mona Younis, MS Environmental Justice
Project Status: 
Past Project