Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spring 2013 Reflections

The end of the semester provides a unique opportunity for Service-Learning students to look back and reflect upon their experiences both in the classroom and out in the community. Each student's service project is different, and, therefore, each student walks away at the end of the semester with a unique take on the Service-Learning experience. Reflection is an important aspect of Service-Learning; it is the string that ties together the time spent in the community with the time spent in the classroom.

Here is a sampling of some of the most poignant and thought-provoking reflections written by SL students for the spring of 2013.

"I got to see first hand how to help and communicate with at risk teens. I had a great time getting to know the real people behind the trouble which most don't get to see. It influenced how I look at the kids and how we can help them grow."
"It opened my eyes and showed me how to be a better teacher by explaining things in a way that could be understood by someone who does not speak English well.  I became more excited to become a teacher because the students at the Borah Bridge program were so eager to learn and inspired me to want to be the best teacher I can be." 
"The service learning experience helped me to fully know that becoming a teacher is what I want to do. Being able to work with many different students as well as teachers helped me to see and understand the ever growing concerns within schools and how I could possibly make a difference. The service learning experience was fun, worthwhile, and I definitely learned a lot. I would recommend service learning for any student that wants to become a teacher."
"It made me aware of social problems in a more intimate way.  The service learning gave me a deeper understanding of the issues."
"I loved it.  It correlated perfectly to what we were learning in class.  It seemed like they planned it that way, but they didn't.  I felt that everything about it was very valuable to me and I have experiences to take away that are highly positive."
"I decided on my future career plans after volunteering at the English Language Center."
"Service learning was very impactful in my life. It is one thing to talk about problems in class, but to actually see it is another story. I got so much from this experience and it has really made me take a second look at my life."
"I learned a lot about cultural diversity in the classroom.  I also learned a lot about classroom management skills and different ways to teach children math concepts."
"The service learning program gave me an incredible opportunity to network with professionals in a number of fields that I was interested in. It gave me a better understanding of the work that each of these agencies do and the importance of their work and volunteers." 
 As you can see, Service-Learning is often an eye-opening opportunity, affecting the way these students think about volunteering, service, education, and the community for the rest of their lives. Indeed, some have found their callings in the course of their Service-Learning classes.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Taking the Last Flight Challenge by Investigating Sustainable Development

BIOL/GEOSC/GENSCI/ENVSTD 297 - Investigations into Sustainable Development

Spring semester was a whirl wind of great service opportunities, thought provoking case studies, great guest speakers, and connections to the campus read, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw.  Students took part in service-learning through a survey model allowing them to participate in a range of sustainability efforts throughout the Treasure Valley.
Guiding our investigations were the three pillars of sustainable development: society, economy, and the environment. Everything we learned, evaluated, or took part in was connected back to these three pillars through reflection and class discussion. Students’ reflections were poignant and thoughtful. One student reflected, 

“The Lake Lowell case study provides a great example as to why conservation is so complex. Just like in The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, it's not as simple as having good guys who want to save the environment and bad guys who want to destroy it, which I feel is a common misconception. Social and economic issues are equally important environmental impacts when it comes to conservation issues. The Lake Lowell case represents the current messy style of many environmental issues where everyone talks about what they personally want or need, without taking the whole system into account. I noticed this in The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, as well, the government wants one thing, the zoo lady wants something else so it's just all out war from there. In order to come up with effective solutions to environmental issues, people need to view the system as a whole and work on new answers to problems rather than just choosing a winner or a loser. Build the dam and kill the macaws or don't build it and no one can have power, neither of those are good options”.

As we looked at local and global issues we began to see more similarities than differences. The survey model of service-learning enhanced our learning and helped us to make these local to global connections, from a variety of perspectives. Our community partners included: Foothills Learning Center Community Education -KidWind Project on Wind Energy; Idaho Fish and Game Planting Native Plants and Monitoring Wood Duck Boxes; USDA Rangeland Resources Research on Microclimates; BLM Triangulation of Riparian Vegetation and Water Quality Data; and Idaho Bird Observatory.

The semesters service-learning was kicked off with wood duck box monitoring with Idaho Fish and Game. During this experience we learned that the wood duck, like the scarlet macaw, is a cavity nester whose nesting habitat has been disrupted by the dam building here in the United States. Students felt a large sense of accomplishment after helping the community partners with their various sustainable development efforts.  Students also felt a strong sense of value in working with K-12 students in the KidWind Project because they felt it important to excite the next generation about STEM fields and the importance of sustainable development.

Highlights of the semester ranged from our invitation to dinner with Bruce Barcott, to the many service learning opportunities in the field and participation in a mock US Fish and Wildlife Services committee to determine if the scarlet macaw should be listed as endangered.

Investigations into Sustainable Development will be offered again Fall 2013. 

 -Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Meaningful Math

Meaningful Math Activities at Victory Library

By Autumn Reese

The purpose of Meaningful Math was to give parents and children an opportunity to share "meaningful" and fun activities that enhance mathematical skills in children of all ages and abilities. The kids had a blast and the parents appreciated the resources provided for math activities to do at home. This was such a great experience for me. To see the community come together and support one another made all the hard work totally worth it. This was definitely the most worthwhile project I've done throughout my education at Boise State!

Service Learning, Literacy, and Boise State

Service Learning, Literacy, and Boise State

For homework this semester, a group of Boise State English 101 students spent some quality time showing elementary students at Garfield Elementary School how to say “friend” and write letters in Arabic, Chinese, Persian, and other languages.

This “homework” assignment is part of Emily Simnitt’s cross-cultural English 101 class, a section of First Year Composition that partners with Service Learning to give students experience  in analysis, critical thinking, and writing in a context outside of the classroom. As part of Service Learning, Simnitt’s students exchanged letters with first, second, and third graders in an afterschool tutoring program at Garfield run by Boise State.

On the last day of the program, members of Simnitt’s class visited the Southeast Boise elementary school, bringing the last set of letters and meeting one-on-one with the children to share experiences learning to read and write.

The letter exchange was the culmination of a semester-long exploration of literacy. Simnitt’s students first explored literacy by working with Read to Me!, an Idaho Library Commission project that provides materials to parents of young children to help them prepare those children to begin school and to learn to read. The program had identified the need to translate these early literacy materials into Arabic and other languages to serve a growing population in the area.

The Boise State Service Learning Program matched the project with the Simnitt’s literacy-themed class of cross-cultural students, who speak 12 languages and come from all over the world, from Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, China, Peru, Iran, England, South Africa, Rwanda, and the US.

Drawing on the collective knowledge of the class about literacy, language, and culture, students translated the documents into their native languages and spent class time exploring and writing about literacy barriers and their own experiences learning to read and write in their native languages and English.

The class concluded that making reading fun for children is one way to improve literacy. To enact this solution, the Boise State students began the letter exchange with the young readers in the tutoring program at Garfield, also run by Boise State’s Service Learning Program.

“This project engaged my students with reading and writing for multiple audiences, a key component of First Year Writing,” says Simnitt. “At the same time, my students were able to use their unique skills to address a need in the community and have the opportunity to be role models to children who are just beginning to be readers and writers. Partnering with Boise State’s Service Learning Program this semester has provided so many great opportunities for my students to learn and to serve!”

What some English 101 students said about the project:
   My favorite part of the of the READ TO ME! project was translating. It was fun doing an official translation and sharing our stories about our process of translating.” 

   “It gave me a lot of knowledge about reading and how to make readers understand much better by using good words to explain.”

   “Our work will help parents understand how they can teach their children and make them good readers in the future.”

   “I learned new vocabulary playing games with the kids at Garfield. That was something I did not expect.”
   “The kids were great. I hadn’t spent much time with kids before. I enjoyed getting to know them.”