The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Department or Program Affiliation

Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctorate of Education


Education Leadership and Inclusive Teaching

First Advisor

Larsen, Donald

Second Advisor

Robertson, Wayne Thomas

Third Advisor

Granger, Christopher John

Fourth Advisor

Everett, James (Superintendent)


The research for this qualitative bounded case study on place-based/outdoor education in Mount Baker School District focused on fourth through sixth grades. The research was done mainly through interviews collecting the voices of 37 students including 16 fourth graders, 11 fifth graders, and 10 sixth graders. Twenty of those students were boys and 17 were girls. A total of nine District staff were interviewed including seven teachers and two administrators. Leaders at each of our Community-Based Organizations from Common Threads Farm, Wild Whatcom, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Camp Saturna, North Cascades Institute, and Whatcom Environmental Education Coalition making up our Connections Program were also interviewed. The purpose of the study was to identify and analyze the impact of the Connections Program in Mount Baker School District as well as identify the leadership and essential components needed for place-based education to have a meaningful and lasting positive impact on students' lives. Among the outcomes the study may examine are the social-emotional and academic fulfillment. The following questions guided the research: What characteristics of place-based learning distinguish this approach to learning? In what ways, if at all, does place-based learning enrich the learning experiences of students in a rural school setting? In what ways, if at all, is leadership in a place-based learning setting different from leadership in a setting that lacks a place-based focus? What do leaders in placed-based learning settings do to support and sustain the success of their students? The analysis of the research indicated that place-based learning provides in-the-moment, real-life learning that helps students make connections to their local surroundings and how they can become stewards of our air, lands, and waterways. Leadership necessary to make place-based education successful must be equity-based, committed, collaborative, supportive, and willing to take risks. Mount Baker School District's Connections Program aligns learning for Kindergarten through sixth grade. It has caught the attention of the media and local leaders; financial support has been garnered through the Washington State Legislature.




place-based education, outdoor education, rural schools, school leadership, student engagement, learning


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Place-based education--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Outdoor education--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Rural schools--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Educational leadership--Washington (State)--Whatcom County

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.)




doctoral dissertations




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.