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Service Learning in the Geosciences

Students mixing plaster at Carleton College, as part of their Eco-House course
Service–learning energizes and engages your students to practice the concepts and skills you want them to learn by addressing problems that are important to your community. Their learning takes place in the context of the local region that many of you call home. Student retention can improve because of this community link. Students own their observations and data and can be more easily led to quantitative analysis. Students get a better idea of what life may be like as geoscientists when they graduate. For you it may be a chance to leave behind some well-worn labs and homework sets and try a new approach to teaching. You will become more of a mentor and facilitator as your students become more confident, independent learners. Working with community partners you will have a positive impact upon your community, one that you or your chair can describe to the administration.

"Usually in college we are given assignments that already have answers. The only goal of those assignments is to obtain a good mark, nothing more. Our service-learning project, however, will hopefully contribute some new and significant knowledge to the community... Our problem was very open ended and we ventured into uncharted territory. In high school and college we, as students, very rarely get an opportunity to try to figure out a problem that is yet unsolved."

Resources for Teaching with Service Learning


Virtual Workshop: Teaching Service Learning in the Geosciences

The service learning workshop showcased example projects involving water quality monitoring, teaching science in local elementary schools and building a sustainable garden. Participants learned about organizing a project using the 8 Block Model and strategies for finding and working with community partners. Through a peer review process, each workshop participant received feedback on their own service learning project. For more information or to view the presentations, visit the workshop program page.

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