Explore Teaching Examples | Provide Feedback

Service-Learning in University of Connecticut Upper Division Geosciences Courses

Compiled by Suzanne Savanick, Science Education Resource Center. Based on material from Lanbo Liu, Anthony Philpotts, and Norman Gray, "Service-Learning Practice in Upper Division Geosciences Courses: Bridging Undergraduate Learning, Teaching and Research" Journal of Geoscience Education v 52, n 2, March 2004 p. 172-177.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


Upper-division earth science courses taught in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Connecticut used a service-learning approach. The emphasis was on providing sound and useful scientific expertise through a project for the local community. Two projects, Imaging the Interior of the Nathan Hale Monument and Hydrogeophysical Investigation of the University Well Field, are described.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

The goal of the service-learning projects was to provide sound and useful scientific expertise through a project for the local community.

Context for Use

Service-learning was initially implemented in Engineering and Environmental Geology courses. Students tackled problems relating to: investigation and preservation of historical landmarks, investigation of water quality, and geotechnical investigation associated with construction and development. With preliminary success, two additional courses added the service-learning approach.

Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

Procedure to Implement a Service-learning Segment in an Upper-Division Geoscience Course:
  1. Identify particular geological and environmental problems in the community. This can be done by talking with town authorities and zoning officers, or can be based on previous work done by faculty and students in problem areas.
  2. Students select their project by considering their interests and expertise. Students who cannot decide on a project will be helped by the supervising faculty.
  3. Invite the town public works manager, town engineer, or zoning officer to act as the field advisor, and then introduce the student to the field officer. For certain projects (e.g., geophysical data), or certain stages of a service learning project (e.g. relatively sophisticated data processing), graduate students can participate to help the undergraduates. This practice will naturally introduce research to the undergraduates, and improve the graduate's teaching skills.
  4. Students and the field officer meet to lay out a plan of approach for a particular project, with the approval of the supervising faculty to insure that the workload and scope of the project are appropriate and realistic.
  5. Field project is implemented with close communication between the students, the supervising faculty, and the field advisor. During the project implementation period (usually the second half of the semester), faculty and/or the field advisor meet with students once a week, or at least every two weeks, depending on the complexity or scope of the project. Students are the center of this process.
  6. Preparation of report to summarize findings of the project.
  7. Reflection of the entire process by students and faculty advisers.


Participating students presented posters to fellow students, faculty and involved community administrative personnel (town managers, town engineers, zoning officers, and public work officials, etc. ). A final report containing student project reports for various field projects, was compiled. It included evaluations by field supervisors and instructors.

References and Resources

Lui, Philpotts, and Gray (2004) . Service-Learning Practice in Upper Division Geoscience Courses: Bridging Undergraduate Learning, Teaching and Research. Journal of Geoscience Education v 52, N 2, p.172-177.