Northeastern Section–41st Annual Meeting (20–22 March 2006)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:25 PM


GUERTIN, Laura A., Earth Science, Penn State Delaware County, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063,

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day! (AIKD) is a national volunteer project headed by Camp Fire USA that occurs on the third Thursday of March every year. The goal of the project is for every child in America to receive a letter from an adult, whether the adult be a parent, relative or complete stranger. A letter gives a child recognition by an adult, lets a child know that he/she is important, and the letter is “durable;” a child can reread and be reminded of the positive content in the letter communicated by an adult.

I teach introductory-level geoscience courses for non-science majors. One of my overarching course goals is for students to communicate the geoscience content they are learning through a service learning project. I decided to adopt AIKD as a service project to accommodate the busy schedules of the students, where the students could complete the service work on their own time. I wanted my students to write science-based letters that were educational and supportive for a group of children my students did not know, and we adopted the entire 6th-grade class an elementary school located in a nearby city.

My college students were required to handwrite a minimum three-page letter for AIKD. The students in the Biodiversity and Earth History course had to select an endangered species and write to a child about the species, the Endangered Species Act, what the threats are to the species and what is being done to protect it. The Sea Around Us students were allowed to choose a topic for their letter relating to current events and discoveries in oceanography. The students were encouraged to include what they were studying in school and to share some of their interests to personalize the letter. The project grade was based more on the science content, accuracy and clarity rather than creativity.

A strong impact was made on the undergraduate students through this project, despite the fact they students never met the target audience. Eighty-eight percent of the college students said that service projects such as AIKD belong in college-level courses. Before starting their letters, only 27% of the students said they would have voluntarily written a letter before participating in AIKD. After having experienced the letter writing, 53% of the students said they would write a letter in the future even if no grade or extra-credit would be given.