David Sobel

Antioch University
Home Faculty Directory David Sobel

Received a BA from Williams College and an MEd from Antioch University New England. He was co-founder of the Harrisville Children’s Center in Harrisville, New Hampshire, and has served as a publicly elected school board member in both Nelson and Harrisville, New Hampshire. He has served as a staff development and science curriculum consultant to schools in New Hampshire and Vermont and has been a guest speaker and workshop leader for a variety of school and environmental organizations. He serves on the editorial board of the Holistic Education Review and is the author of Children’s Special Places and many articles on children and nature. He is currently at work on two books on developmental psychology and ecoliteracy.

Academic achievement is important, but the sole function of a school shouldn’t be to turn out good test-takers. Schools should also be developing the skills of civic participation, and students should be exploring their communities and helping to make them better, healthier places to live. If it’s only academics, you diminish the virtue and potential that school can achieve.

View David’s presentation at AUNE’s Spring Speaker Series event, “Not Your Father’s School”, a discussion on innovation in New Hampshire education:

Teaching Faculty


  • MEd, Antioch University New England
  • BA, English, Williams College


Mapmaking with Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years.
The current crisis in geography education has spawned several new books on mapmaking, many of which advocate either recitation and drill or a conceptual top-down model that ignores children’s interests. Maintaining that there is no substitute for hands-on experience, David Sobel places the initial emphasis on local projects–projects that begin in students’ own backyards and communities, projects that provide a sense of place. His book identifies each stage of development, presenting relevant theoretical issues and several appropriate projects. In the beginning, students stay close to home, mapping their known world. Gradually, they move on to their neighborhood, developing a sense of place, scope, and perspective. Eventually, once students are older, they explore the nation, the world, even the solar system, creating raised relief maps and contour maps to develop visual literacy and spatial reasoning skills.

Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education Beyond 
Ecophobia speaks to teachers, parents, and others interested in nurturing in children the ability to understand and care deeply for nature from an early age. This expanded version of one of Orion’s most popular articles includes descriptions of developmentally appropriate environmental education activities and a list of related children’s books.

Know nukes : controversy in the classroom.
Classroom activities are presented to help teachers introduce general controversial issues and specific issues on nuclear power in their high school science, social studies, and English classes. Objectives are to help students understand the various techniques of persuasion; the relationship between bias, persuasion, and fact; how these techniques can serve as foundations for critical thinking; and their own assumptions regarding what is true about nuclear energy. Lessons provide clear directions and are presented in a format that includes worksheets, quizzes, and illustrations.

(LH)Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities 
The most comprehensive review of place-based education, its pedagogy and its practice; yet to appear, by the author of the highly influential book Beyond Ecophobia. Through academic research, practical examples, and step-by-step strategies drawn from classrooms throughout the United States, Sobel celebrates teachers who emphasize the connection of school, community, and environment. Place-Based Education uses the local community and environment as the starting place for curriculum learning, strengthening community bonds, appreciation for the natural world, and a commitment to citizen engagement.

Children’s Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood
An examination of the secret world of children that shows how important special places are to a child’s development.From the ages of five to twelve, the middle years of childhood, young people explore their surroundings and find or construct private spaces. In these secret places, children develop and control environments of their own and enjoy freedom from the rules of the adult world. Children’s Special Places enters these hidden worlds, reveals their importance to children’s development and emotional health, and shows educators, parents, and other adults how they can foster a bond between young people and nature that is important to maturation.

Childhood and Nature
Public discussions of global climate change and other threats to the planet are making children more aware of environmental issues. As increasing numbers of kids come to school wishing to take action, educators want to know how to teach in a way that fosters a love of nature and an understanding of the complexity and seriousness of these issues.

In Childhood and Nature, noted educator David Sobel makes the case that meaningful connections with the natural world don’t begin in the rainforest or arctic, but in our own backyards and communities. Based on his observations of recurrent play themes around the world, Sobel articulates seven design principles that can guide teachers in structuring learning experiences for children. Place-based education projects that make effective use of the principles are detailed throughout the book. And while engaged in these projects, students learn language arts, math, science, social studies, as well as essential problem-solving and social skills through involvement with nature and their communities.

The pressures of test preparation, standards, and curriculum frameworks often reduce the study of nature and the environment to a set of facts and general concepts. However, as Childhood and Nature demonstrates, linking curriculum with an engagement in the real world not only provides students with the thinking skills needed for whatever test comes their way, but also helps them grow into responsible citizens and stewards of the earth.

  • December 08, Professional Development and Design Charette, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • November 08, Orchard School Annual Meeting Talk, Alstead, New Hampshire.
  • November 08, Internship Supervision and Middle School Faculty Workshops, Wheeler School, Providence, Rhode Island.
  • November 08, Prof. Devel Workshop, Childhood and Nature Design Principles, Mass Audubon educational staff, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
  • November 08, Children and Nature Research Symposium, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
  • Grand Challenge 3: Cutting Edge STEM Content in K-12 Classrooms, University of New Hampshire NSF project Advisory Board, 2007.
  • Doctoral Committee for Science Education Doctoral student at University of New Hampshire, 2006-present.
  • Ashuelot Valley Ecological Observatory, Keene, NH, Board of Directors, 2006-present.
  • Place-based Education Initiative in Michigan Advisory Board, Great Lakes Fisheries Trust, Lansing, Michigan, 2006 to present.
  • Four Corners Outdoor Education Center, NSF project Advisory Board, 2003-present.

Announcing the Coalition for the Common Good, a higher education system of independent, nonprofit schools aligned around a shared mission.

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