Understanding Poverty and Income Distribution through Community Service
This course introduces students to topics of income distribution and poverty. Groups of two to four students volunteer at one of a number of community agencies that serve low-income households (homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food banks, after-school programs etc). Students visit their chosen site twice–at the beginning of the term and again at mid-term. They use their service experiences as a spring board for discussion of course material.
-Provide students with opportunities to interact with people who may be in a different socioeconomic class
-Provide a context or common experience as a backdrop for class discussion of course material.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
1. In a personal reflection journal, briefly describe the service experience. What stood out? What questions about income or poverty were raised? What would you like to know that you don't understand about the experience/
2. As a team (of 2 to 4 students) students from each service site describe their experiences to the larger class.
3. Together the entire class, based on their collective experiences, generate a list of questions about income and poverty they would like to answer over the course of the term.
After the mid-term service experience:
1. In a reflective essay, students reflect upon both service experiences by linking their experiences to themes and content discussed in the classroom.
2. In a class discussion, student share how their different experiences reflected course content. They make note and discuss questions from the beginning of the course that remain unanswered.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Before sending students out to their volunteer experience, describe the community agencies where they will volunteer, their clientele, and other necessary information. Students can rank their top three choices and faculty then assign students according to student preferences and community constraints.
Having students serve in groups of two to four students is important. It facilitates students' processing of their service experience and it can be re-assuring for younger students.
While it may not be possible to answer all student-generated questions, having student identify questions they'd like answered early in the course increases student ownership of course material.
-Quality of questions generated from their initial service experience.
-Quality of the linkages drawn between volunteer experience and class content in reflective essay.
Based on the other determinants of a students grade, the service-learning component can be between 15-25 percent of course grade.