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What is the role of service learning  

What is the role of service learning in the context of your instructional setting, such as your institutional mission statement, or departmental curriculum? Reflect on how service learning can fit into the instructional fabric of your institution. What other service-learning resources/courses are part of your institution's curriculum?


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Honestly, I don't see that SL fits either the university's mission statement (which says that we are all things for all people) or my department (which just wants to get through the day, preferably richer than the day before). There is lip service to community service but either few resources (or none at all) and few rewards (or none at all). [We do have an Office of Community Involvement, but I can't find any Web link to service-learning courses, for example.] But it is a Good Thing for the reasons expressed in the icebreaker this morning. So the issue may be "Does it do enough for your personal self-image as a teacher and member of society to justify the costs?"


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This post was edited by Alana Danieu on Mar, 2017
If you are thinking of adopting SL or expanding your efforts in this regard, it it is very helpful to know where your institution officially stands on the subject. This sometimes resides in the President's Goals or the College/University Mission statement. Some years back I did a workshop at Keene State College in NH and looked up their mission statement ahead of time. Here is "part" of what it says, " It is the mission of Keene State College to provide and maintain an intellectual environment grounded in the liberal arts that fosters both the personal and professional growth of our students. In support of this mission the College promotes and sustains strong relationships among students, faculty, and staff that emphasize creative and critical thinking, scholarship and research, and a passion for learning. Through a mature commitment to learning and service, students will be able to integrate different forms of knowledge and will graduate with substantive knowledge in a chosen field of study. Through retaining and supporting a caring staff and a faculty of effective teachers and active scholars, the College prepares students for success in a complex, interdependent world."

Wonderfully supportive statement and there other equally supportive elements I am leaving out. SL is really taking off at KSC.

More recently I did a SL talk at a nearby Landgrant/Seagrant institution which will remain nameless and searched the web site for any mention of SL This is what I found

Yes, nothing. SL is not expanding at this institution. There are individual faculty who are doing great things on their own, but they have had to struggle with the support of sympathetic chairs.

These differences are not uncommon across the country. So, if you want to do (more) SL, it is important to know where your institution stands. I know I am really interested to hear what each of you has to say.

BTW, the Campus Compact (campuscompact.org) is a national organization formed by college presidents, to strengthen academic/community ties, engaging students in their community through their classwork. Has your campus (president) signed on?

Good luck



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Snow College added service learning to its mission statement and its goals some years ago. They actually have a full-time staff member who works with students in "student life" who supervises service AND activities. Our courses can have a service learning suffix (GEO 1010.001 becomes GEO 1010.SL1). Students can choose to have a "service scholar recognition" on their transcript and must take a certain number of courses with the SL suffix in addition to some 150 hours to receive this. The college has a Service Learning Committee with representatives from each academic "division" (we are small so this means Natural Science, Humanities, etc). The committee's role it to seek and maintain relationships with community partners, to approve service learning courses, encourage division members to create service learning classes, etc, etc. We are part of the Utah Campus Compact (which is then part of campus compact). We have the opportunity to meet twice yearly with the compact. Lots of awesome support....and it all came from one person who was committed to service to begin with. She convinced our Academic VP to buy in and ta-da. So, as I said, we have service galore. My problem is finding SL projects for my geoscience courses!


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The mission of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)is to provide leadership, plannning, financial assistance, information, and education for the conservation and responsible development of water for Texas.

Our vision is for sustainable, affordable, quality water for Texans, our economy, and our environment.

Since our agency works with water supply entities such as groundwater districts, river authorities, municipalities and schools, we hope to use service learning as a means of building understanding in Texas communities about the challenges facing our state in regards to the future water supply. We also hope that real-world problems surrounding water can be used to educate our citizens and encourage them to take action to help meet this challenge.


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Our school wants to move in the direction of service learning and I'd say we have a good "community service" component in place. However, making the transistion to service learning will be our challenge. One of the sustainability/grounds fellows will be joining me in our presentation on the Japanese Garden and when I showed him this website...he was very excited. He said "this is what I want to see happen." I agreed. Our project needs the direct alignment to service learning and I hope to see how others have accomplished this. So I think my school is on board with administrators,staff parents, students and faculty, but everyone wants to make sure it is "learning" that will align to the needs and requirements of our students as well as being service to our community.


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My understanding of service learning is that it is another teaching strategy that has as its goals the goals of the course. This definition helps me frame the activity and choose which activities are appropriate for my course. It is not community service and yet is linked to that department.


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Rhodes has designated 12 "foundations" that courses fit into, one of which is "Participate in activities that broaden connections between the classroom and the world... to become engaged citizens, participating in the local community - its politics, its culture, its problems, its aspirations – and in the world community. Students gain skill in connecting knowledge to its uses through educational experience that takes them off campus." Most of the courses that fulfill this requirement are immersion-type experiences: study abroad, internships off campus, research off campus. A few traditional courses taught on campus also count, mine included. There is definitely support, although I'm not sure how much faculty agree on what service learning is or how it should work - every faculty member I've talked to about it in preparation for this course seemed to have a different view. I think the College's goal was to expose students to a degree of diversity that they wouldn't otherwise experience (Rhodes is private, liberal arts and very expensive and therefore self-selecting) - not necessarily the same as service.


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Service to the local community is an integral part of the College of Saint Rose's mission statement - "Our engagement with the urban environment expands the setting for educational opportunities and encourages the Saint Rose community’s energetic involvement and effective leadership in society". This is evidenced by the support for serving learning components in pre-existing courses and the creation of new courses. Service learning can currently be found in science, education, social work, psychology, and english


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Tulane students are required to take two service learning courses to graduate, one at the 100-200 level and one > 300 level. The service learning component is often an optional component of a course; The students are required to spend an additional 20 hours through the course of the semester to receive service learning credit. Over 70 courses offered service learning last semester. However, there are currently no classes within the Earth and Environmental Sciences department that offer service learning. I would like to develop a new service project that could be offered with the physical geology class (enrollment of ~140 students).


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Service Learning can be a medium through which different aspects of CCNY mission statement can be linked and supported by specific activities. For example, the college is committed to providing a diverse student body with opportunities to achieve academically, creatively, and professionally in various disciplines; to fostering student centered education and; as a public university with public purposes, to contributing to the cultural, social, and economic life of New York. All these 3 major aspects of the college mission are connected by Service Learning: academic achievement in an context where students are actively engaged not only in their own learning but also shaping and creating their own learning; personal (including leadership, interpersonal development) and professional growth while at the same time creating a culture of service, civic engagement and public scholarship not only for the students but at college. Although sometime I think that colleges’ mission statements could be inspiring words with no much intent for real application, I also think that in the long run the contributions toward cultural and social change (meaning the words and application!) can come from activities components –as service learning, students and faculty because they are all active components of college (system).
At our college we have the Colin Powell Center For Policy Studies which has a Service-Learning Program. The center supports faculty interested in SL by small fellowship/ training/ workshop and one-to one help


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Renee, I like that your courses can have a service learning suffix - I will bring it up with Colin Powell Center For Policy Studies -SL Program!


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Unity College's current mission statement: "Unity College is a small, private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community."
We view service learning as a active learning experience that,in addition to meeting pedagogical standards, also connects students to issues that impact citizens.
The most active service learning opportunities at Unity are related to issue advocacy, working in the school systems, and the water/sediment quality work in my program.
Local NGOs are supportive of any of our efforts that help them to meet their missions. to me that is not quite the same as having a group come forward to request assistance on a particular problem.
That said, it sometimes seems like we have little money to support efforts with any cost associated with it.


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On February 15, Georgia Perimeter College will officially open the Atlanta Center for Civic Engagement & Service-Learning (the first of this type in the nation to be housed at a 2-year college). Special guest, President Jimmy Carter and his wife will be on hand at the ribbon cutting.

One of the college's Strategic Goals is "to enhance the economic, social and cultural vitality of our communities". "Georgia Perimeter College is a vital partner in the success of our communities. Along with our success, size and multiple locations, comes a responsibility to share our valuable resources with others. We will bring our human capital to our communities through innovative learning opportunities for our students and improved partnerships
with other educational institutions, business, industry and
government agencies to strengthen the future of our communities.
To accomplish this goal, Georgia Perimeter College will establish an office of civic engagement to link the college’s human capital with the needs of our communities through service learning, internship and experiential learning opportunities; ..."

They are very interested in having geology classes perform service learning projects at Stone Mountain Park, which is about 5 miles from my campus.


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Julie - I am impressed that Tulane has bought into the concept! I note that you have both an Office of Service Learning and a Center for Public Service - I wonder if they could provide any examples of large-class involvement. When I required a service component in a class of 40, the largest volunteer group was those who wanted to do door-to-door outreach and survey. This makes sense given the extroverted nature of most people (NOT scientists, geologists, or professors). If you take on projects that include that, you might find that 50 want to do various parts of project design and summary, and 100 want to collect human data! Potential problems: safety and liability.


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This post was edited by Kit Pavlekovsky on Jul, 2012
Thanks Bill, The office of service learning at Tulane is a wonderful resource and they publish a full listing of brief descriptions of every service learning project each semester. I'm posting the URL here because there are several project descriptions that may be useful for developing ideas:


Many of the science related projects involve educational outreach.

This workshop has been enormously helpful thus far in helping me to outline the steps that I need to take to begin to set-up a service learning project. One of the first steps is to talk with the Center for Public Service. I am thinking more and more of exploring the possibility of limiting enrollment in the service learning component of the course. This may be necessary to provide the individual attention to each student and develop the sense of community.


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Julie, We have found that a course that is completely focused on service-learning, should have


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