Service-Learning to explore Sustainability

Tracy Lai, Seattle Central Community College
Seattle Central Community College, Humanities/Social Sciences Division
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Service-learning involves volunteering for a non-profit organization or program for a minimum of 20 hours during the quarter. Students will be asked to choose an organization or program that will allow them to explore issues of sustainability. Students will compile a portfolio of writings about their experiences in relation to HIST 214 Pacific Northwest History themes and course information.

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Learning Goals

Students will first write proposals about the organization/program that they would like to do their service-learning with. The proposal should be specific in terms of how their service will involve sustainability. For example, if the student volunteers for Earth Corps, there is a strong possibility that there will be physical activity as part of their environmental service. Another student might volunteer for Community Alliance for Global Justice and their service may consist of researching and writing about food security. There is likely to be a range of ways in which sustainability would be explored. It is my hope that the process will also engage student reflection on their own life choices and the ways in which they may individually embrace sustainability.

Context for Use

Before students contact potential service-learning sites, there should be an orientation to what is involved and especially how to determine if the work at the organization or program will involve issues of sustainability (definition and volunteer tasks). Students need to determine how they will fit in the hours over the course of the quarter.

Description and Teaching Materials

Seattle Central Community College's Service-Learning program website has several manuals to orient students and agencies:

The Service-Learning assignment sheet for HIST 214 describes what is entailed. Service-Learning Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Jun21 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

If setting up service-learning in an 11-week quarter, it's essential that students start contacting organizations immediately. Many volunteer coordinators are themselves volunteers, so there is often a delay. Often students are expected to attend an orientation, but these may not be offered frequently.
Students should consider journal entries as a form of field notes that should be written down as soon after the volunteer session as possible.


Student Service-Learning is assessed in multiple ways:
1. students write about their learning and reassess themselves and their goals by comparing their original proposal at the mid-point (first 10 hours of service)
2. students will discuss their experiences with each other for feedback
3. the instructor will read journals and reflections for the first 10 hours and provide written feedback on the writing, content and relevance to the course (specifically historical issues of sustainability)

References and Resources

National Service-Learning Clearinghouse