Place-Based Learning

Northwood School is dedicated to providing authentic and enriching learning opportunities for all students. By connecting learners to their communities, place-based education increases student engagement, provides valuable hands-on learning experiences, and gives students the chance to grapple with and create solutions for real-world issues.



What Is Place-Based Learning?


Sometimes referred to as pedagogy of place, experiential education, or community-based education, place-based learning takes advantage of an area’s local assets such as parks, public places, museums, and businesses as well as the local heritage, culture, and landscapes. This high-impact deep-learning model prioritizes engagement and authenticity to create a personalized learning experience for students.


Rather than exclusively studying information in a vacuum through books and technology, students get hands-on immersive learning experiences in their local area. By incorporating local knowledge and opportunities into our college-preparatory curriculum, we promote the autonomy of our students and enrich their academic experiences in meaningful ways.


Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains


Northwood School’s surroundings provide an exceptional setting for academic enrichment through place-based learning. Located in the six million acre Adirondack Park, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, Northwood School is nestled in the Olympic Village of Lake Placid, host of the 1932 and 1980 games. 


All of our students, not just our elite athletes, have the use of the village’s world-class Olympic facilities such as Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic hockey rinks including the storied 1980 rink, the Olympic Training Center (OTC), Mt. Van Hoevenberg Nordic Center, and the Intervale Ski Jumps to train, compete, play and study.


Our student-citizens also participate in the local community’s arts, cultural, and social scenes. While many boarding school students are encapsulated on their schools’ campuses, Northwood students become engaged members of the local area, and we consider Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains as part of our campus.

Experiential and Immersive Learning Experiences


Place-based learning opportunities are found in all of our academic disciplines. For example, students enter poetry contests and participate in local writing retreats in our English classes. In geology classes, students take scenic flights over the Adirondacks, and they visit local farms in Environmental Science.


Here are some of the ways our faculty weave place-based learning into the curriculum:

The Innovation Hub


With the addition of Northwood School’s Innovation Hub, our students are now more poised than ever to experience place-based learning. The Hub’s central location in downtown Lake Placid fosters natural and authentic connections between students and their community. The year-round events and activities that take place in Lake Placid offer a vast array of possibilities for student involvement and leadership, and the Hub’s “maker-space” resources provide students the tools they need to develop creative the solutions needed for success in any leadership opportunity.

Benefits of Place-Based Learning


Place-based learning offers multiple advantages to students:


  • Personalized, student-centered learning experiences

  • Utilizes interdisciplinary learning

  • Cultivates a sense of social responsibility by grounding students in local communities

  • Provides relevant experiences that boost student interest and engagement

  • Includes inquiry-based lessons developed around student interests

  • Encourages students to see the world through ecological, political, economic, and social lenses

  • Creates lifelong learners

  • Boosts motivation and persistence by giving students autonomy

  • Develops design-thinking and problem-solving skills in students

  • Facilitates deeper learning outcomes

  • Fosters students’ appreciation and understanding of the world around them 

At Northwood School, we offer place-based education as well as STEM classes and Advanced Scholar Programs as part of our college-prep curriculum. Our position in Lake Placid and Adirondack Park gives us the perfect environment for place-based, hands-on, community-centered, experiential learning.


Ready to learn more about how our boarding school can help your child make the most of this time in their life, while also preparing them for a successful future? Then, contact us today.