Performing chemistry experiments with pre-schoolers, helping prepare fourth grade math students for a standardized test, and creating memory boxes with family members of critically ill patients; these are only three examples of how a philosophy known as service-learning has been put into practice at William Woods University.
Service-learning programs involve students in organized community service that addresses local needs, while developing their academic skills.
Since the spring of 2005, William Woods has been a member of Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 950 colleges and universities dedicated to promoting community service, civic engagement, and service-learning in higher education.
The establishment of the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement in January 2006 has helped and will continue to help promote classroom teaching methods that focus on critical, reflective thinking and civic responsibility.
The office was established through a grant received from Missouri Campus Compact. During its first six months, Scott Miniea served as the director of service-learning and civic engagement. Miniea continues to serve as the director of grants and foundations at William Woods.
The goal of the new office has been to encourage instructors to implement service-learning in their classrooms, help them design activities that help to meet their curricular goals, and contact the right community organization. The office has been very successful in this endeavor, and the benefits of such a philosophy are far-reaching.
Shari Means, assistant professor of education, is coordinator of the Office of Service Learning, and she is well-aware of these benefits.
“If you look at the learning pyramid, you will notice that students actually learn a great deal more by ‘doing’ or ‘practicing’ what they are learning in authentic situations,” said Means. “Therefore, teachers (professors) work with different community organizations to have their students implement what they are learning in a meaningful context.”
Although this program is fairly new to WWU, many service-learning projects have already been implemented and successfully put into action.
In the spring of 2006, 166 art students studied the book, “Celia: a Slave,” and then completed various projects inspired by the book.
After reading the book, “Bowling Alone,” several honors students determined the needs of several community service organizations and then selected three projects to undertake.
Students contacted a service agency to determine its needs, and then planned and implemented projects for that agency.
Ten chemistry students designed experiments for Fulton preschoolers to execute.
Pre-service teachers determined a need to better inform public school students about appropriate items to bring to school. They had high school students present a skit, which was turned into a DVD, and design a game to teach and enforce these concepts.
Five business students took their abilities and ran a computer repair business.
Twelve students were trained as mentors to high school student during the Heartland Region PeaceJam Slam event.
Pre-service teachers designed and executed activities for Title I Reading students and parents.
After consultation with local fourth grade teachers, pre-service teachers designed a math activity that would help students prepare for the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test. Stations were set up and fourth graders rotated from station to station throughout the day.
Art education students traveled to a St. Louis hospital to help families create memory boxes for their critically ill family members.
These are only a few examples of the many service learning opportunities William Woods students have had, and will continue to take advantage of in the future.
“It is mutually beneficial,” Means said of the service learning program. “The student learns and the person receiving the service benefits. And, not only does the student learn his or her curriculum, he or she also learns what it feels like to give to the community, to be a contributing member of a community.”
Laura Tenney, a William Woods University senior majoring in social work, assists with a service-learning project. The decorated barrels were used to collect blankets for needy families in Callaway County. A Fulton resident, Tenney is a member of the Fulton AmeriCorps.