School-community collaborations through the lens of place-based education: benefits and challenges
This mixed-methods action research study investigated the benefits and challenges of school-community collaborations through the lens of place-based education (PBE) in two contexts. Each of these contexts was located in the Comox Valley, in School District 71. A survey was completed in one of the contexts, and focus groups with a variety of stakeholders, including students, staff, and community collaborators were held in each of the locations. One location was a rural Gulf Island, where the other was a suburban school. Five benefits and five challenges emerged from the data. The benefits were 1) motivation, 2) enrichment, 3) relationships, 4) health and safety, and 5) indigenous knowledge and perspectives. The challenges were 1) time and scheduling, 2) funding, 3) expertise and expectations, 4) organization and communication, and 5) mindset of administrators. An additional three themes emerged surrounding the role of place in school-community collaborations. These included 1) natural sciences, 2) culture, and 3) connections and relationships. These findings assert that the benefits to school-community collaborations are wide reaching, extending not only to students, but also to staff, collaborators, and the wider community. Other findings show that a greater emphasis on PBE could be seen in more urban or suburban settings. This study contributes to the literature by showing the similarities and differences in school-community collaborations in two distinct but geographically close contexts. Additionally, this study confirms the importance of school-community collaborations and the challenges inherent in these collaborations.