Urban Farming, Soil Science and Me - Reflection 1

Federica Raia
City College of New York of CUNY
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This reflection assignment is used within a service learning project to bridge three fundamental categories: community service, personal growth and course content. Reflections are designed to gauge students' expectations, thoughts, learning and understanding and make them evident to the students. Students reflect back on the experience(s) and also relate it to what they had written at the beginning of the course. The first assignment of the reflections series is presented along with the general expectations for reflections (which will become a rubric), The DEAL Model and questions guiding critical reflections.

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The course - Environmental Soil Science for Urban Sustainability - is an upper level undergraduate course specifically targeted to students of earth science engineering and economics and political science to support environmental entrepreneurship.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered


How the activity is situated in the course

Reflection-1 is the first assignment of the reflection assignments series. The reflections are an integral part of students' learning and are aimed at integrating students' personal growth, content knowledge, and community service experience.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • To elicit students' knowledge, understanding and expectation of Environmental Soil Science for Urban Sustainability in the context of community service,
  • Support students in identifying what they do and not know and understand and, connecting course content to community service.
  • Guide students in how to approach and learn about organizations/institutions they wish/will work with.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students are able to: identify expectations and understandings; describe them, reflect on the meaning of the experience in the context of their knowledge and expectations; identify what they do not know and understand and; start connecting course content to community service

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Writing in a cohesive logical and clear way,
  • Connecting different learning contexts (academic, community, personal)

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this reflection, students are assigned to do background reading on the organization they will/wish to work with for the Service Learning component of the course. Students then are guided into a reflection with the following questions:
  • Why should you know about the people or organization with whom you'll be working?
  • Why do you think this partner was chosen?
  • After reading about the partner organization, how would you like to contribute to their work, (what kind of support would you give and/or project would you do?) How does it your idea/project relate to the content of the course and the organization mission and goals?
  • What are you hoping to learn from the collaboration/ project?
  • What do you hope to have gained from this project and
  • What do you think your service-learning partner hopes to have gained after completion of this project?
The assignment also gives students practice in eliciting their own thoughts and reflections when approaching a new experience

Determining whether students have met the goals

I use a Critical Reflection Rubric checking on the following:
Students: a) clearly show connections between personal/content/service that are relevant to the topic/ question asked; b) elaborate the thoughts for clarity; and provide sufficient examples and details) justify their thinking or "how they know what they know";

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Teaching materials and tips

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