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building connections to the local community  

I enjoyed Jennifer's description of how her class let her meet the people that would allowed her to be engaged in the local community. I had a similar experience when I was working at Rochester Community and Technical College. I lived in Rochester but had no way in. I had several county officials come speak to my class -- this allowed me to meet them and eventually I was appointed to the County Environmental Commission. This of course gave me lots of new insights for things to do in my class related to local issues. Guest speakers might be a strategy for figuring out who is doing what locally that might be amenable to service learning projects


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I think the problem with getting in is still going on for me (trying to get Rita Harris to class for example)- the powers that be in Memphis are African American and there is a reluctance to accept what is perceived as charity from higher-income-white members of the community. A huge amount of cache is placed on "being from the hood" - which is not realistic. Opportunities to interact with the community are not color-blind. (Plus I have only lived in Memphis 6 years, so I am still an outsider.)
Going to the school is turning out to be very valuable since it puts faces on the project - in case I can't get Rita Harris to class.
I think next time I would also like to have Sierra Club draft a letter (or something similar) to my class framing the question so that it is perceived to be coming from that community.


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Campus Service or Volunteerism Offices. There may be resources on your campus that could help you build connections to your community. Many campuses have an office or a person with the job of coordinating or monitoring student volunteer work in the community. These same offices or individuals may also have some responsibility for service learning. Regardless of whether they do or don't, they have good contacts in the community that may turn up useful SL projects. Give them a ring or poke your nose into their office someday and see what you can learn. If they have nothing that fits you that day they will be thinking about you in the months that follow. In some states Federal funding has encouraged some of these offices to develop databases of service and service learning opportunities. If that is the case for your campus, now is the time for them to start concentrating on geoscience because we have a lot to offer and they should know that.



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I did start with the on-campus groups. They are either faith-based (that was the office that didn't have existing connections that would fit my course but suggested the Sierra Club) and something called the Learning Corridor (they work with only certain neighborhoods and schools but did not have any suggestions either). My impression is that each group has their own objective and they aren't coordinated under one umbrella program or office.
I can go back and ask more specific questions now that I have a better idea of a broader range of possible projects and see what I can find out.
Last week I heard about a proposal being planned by the Wolf River Conservancy to clean up certain riverfronts east of campus that they recently acquired and build walking trails, etc. - which would be great to tap into but they are waiting for their own funding to get started. Although there is no reason not to continue with SC in future semesters as long as they have a need for information we can collect, the Wolf River Conservancy is another option that hopefully will exist in the future.


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Jen, If you could offer some preliminary reserach or mapping to the Wolf River Conservancy, it might help them get $$.You could do water quality, map stream inputs, scout out interesting spots for benches or signage.


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