USFWS Spring Creek NFH

15 Ways to Know You’re Connected to a Place

What Does “Connecting to a Place” Really Mean?

By Cliff Knapp

Environmental and place-based educators frequently refer to a goal they set for their students — connecting or reconnecting them to a place. What does this really mean? How will I know when my students are connected to that place? What kinds of behaviors should I look for to determine if my students have reached that goal? The following observable outcomes will serve to indicate that my students have connected or reconnected to a particular place:

1. When they can orient themselves in that place according to the four cardinal directions and the elevations above sea level.

2. When they can tell a short story about the history of that place.

3. When they can identify and call some of the human and non-human residents of that place by name and know something about their life histories.

4. When they know which plants and animals found there are native to that place and which ones humans have introduced.

5. When they know which animals stay there all year round and which migrate in and out of that place.

6. When they can name some of the natural resources in that place that are useful to humans.

7. When they frequently return to that place because they want to spend more time there.

8. When they feel inspired to write poems, essays or stories about the benefits they receive by being in that place.

9. When they know the origins of some of the human-made objects found in that place.

10. When they can comfortably spend time in that place using healthy and safe practices.

11. When they know what kinds of rocks and soil are found in that place.

12. When they know where a drop of rain would travel over the land surface as it joins a body of water.

13. When they can describe some of the weather and climate patterns that affect that place.

14. When they know some of the problems and issues faced by the people who occupy that place.

15. When they can describe some of the movements and changes of the sun, moon, stars and planets throughout the year.


Cliff Knapp has been involved with COEO since the 1980s running graduate courses though Northern Illinois University. He is a long-serving member of the Association for Experiential Education and author of many books and articles on a wide array of outdoor education topics centering on community and nature themes. This article originally appeared in Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education, Fall 2010, 23(1).