PROJECT-ORIENTED GEOSCIENCE SERVICE LEARNING: TANNERY BROOK AS URBAN LABORATORY AND SCIENCE-TEAM BUILDER
Education and the social sciences have long recognized the benefits of service learning—of tying community service to instruction in the content, techniques, and philosophy of a discipline. These disciplines know that students of all ages typically become more engaged, and actually learn more, when their studies include opportunities to do, as well as to know, and to do something that matters to them and to their community.
But only relatively lately have the geosciences begun to consider how to integrate this highly active and interactive form of learning into their teaching. Intrigued by the opportunities service learning offers for stretching both teaching and learning, I first introduced the concept in my Fall 2011 introductory geology class at Holyoke Community College (HCC) in Holyoke, an industrial city of 40,000 in Western Massachusetts. That semester (and every semester since), my students have provided analysis and restoration services to several community organizations whose property abuts Tannery Brook, a stream that has been severely impacted by its urban setting. Our community partners have been hugely appreciative and supportive; students have been enthusiastic and engaged; and I’ve found that I can offer service-learning opportunities without significantly increasing my workload.
In this presentation, I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to set up and manage service learning projects in the geosciences. You’ll leave with practical strategies for getting started on service learning with your own students.