What I do know about people and particularly about people who are developing toward adulthood, is that a sense of place is an essential foundational block that allows and supports courage to find out new things. It takes bravery to brainstorm and problem solve, particularly in social groups like school.
It takes practice, repetition and courage to swing out on the monkey bars or among the branches of a tree-or to stand on that skateboard for the first time. You can’t ride a bike without a sense of place.
A sense of place means–where is my body in space and how do I find it again to do the next move..?
A sense of place means…who can I turn to when I am confused, sad, frightened..etc.?
A sense of place means where can I go to count on myself to sort things through?
Especially for the very young (3-8 years), but also for the older developing child, sense of place incorporates all the senses-smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound….and these become associated with feelings of safety and well being…or not.
Familiar surroundings that look, feel and smell right are needed for thinking and eventually navigating confidently to new places.
Relationships with adults (parents, teachers and/or caretakers) can be very important-and separation from them can be incredibly stress provoking and thwart thinking and learning anything much at all.
Predictable schedules contribute to feelings of safety and confidence so that evolution to additions or subtractions within the framework can be navigated with confidence, toward success.
A sense of place supports autonomy.
In looking at schools for young and old alike, this support of a sense of place by the school environment is a deal breaker piece to watch for. If a school environment provides a setting for the growth of autonomy-maybe that is the most important thing a school can do.
Autonomy is not extrinsically created, but constructed by a person internally building knowledge and understanding of the world. People do not need to get “permission” to become autonomous, though the environment a person grows and learns in has a great impact on its development. Autonomy is intrinsically created.