At the heart of the Middle School program is what's called the "pedagogy of place," which focuses on helping students find their position within broad social, geographic, economic, and historical contexts. "It's very common for pre-teens and teens to struggle to find a comfortable identity in our society," says Omni Head of School Grae Baker. "Students this age are undergoing major physical and emotional changes, and are often bombarded with extremely counter-productive influences from television and other media. Our job is to help them navigate the journey of finding who they are, where they fit in the world, and how their lives can move forward in a myriad of positive directions."

The Land Lab is indeed a place, with authentic social structures, a micro-economy, and distinctive natural and human history. It allows students to engage in adult occupations and enterprises, to serve the local community, and to connect with history and science in meaningful ways that inspire more than dry lessons from a text book. If properly engaged, students begin asking questions: What do I want this place to be? Who am I in this great story of human life on earth? Am I going to protect this place? Will I be a significant part of it?

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