Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Using Service-Learning to Engage Students from Diverse Backgrounds in STEM

Biochemistry professor Ken Cornell championed efforts to involve Boise State University students in service-learning with traditionally under-served populations in STEM, through a partnership with TRIOTRIO held its annual Student Leadership Conference on the Boise State University campus, October 4-5th. Boise State University professors saw the Student Leadership Conference as an opportunity to engage their students in service-learning and expose TRIO students to high quality STEM experiences.  

Dr. Ken Cornell’s CHEM 431 - Biochemistry Lab students developed activities for TRIO students to engage in learning about medical drug resistance and development research. A student from Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk’s BIOL 441 - Molecular Biology of Cancer class organized a lab experience investigating the molecular biology of cancer. The labs engaged TRIO students in laboratory science research that they would not have otherwise been exposed to until college. Seventy-five TRIO students participated in each of the three labs led by Boise State University students.

Mason Kreamer, from Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk’s class reflected on his service experience, “My service-learning activity with the TRIO students was an amazing experience. The students were great and were really interested in the biology of cancer. I learned a lot and it was a great way for me to gain some teaching experience. I would recommend service-learning to other Boise State University students”.

This model of STEM service-learning provides genuine learning for both Boise State University students who participated in the selection and delivery of the labs and the TRIO students who engaged in rich science experiences. Boise State University students deepened their understanding of the content as they prepared to demonstrated their understanding to the TRIO students, causing them to reflect and reassess their own understanding. This process creates a deeper understanding of the content  As students engage in service-learning they are giving back to their community, while extending what they are learning in the classroom. For these reasons, the National Science Foundation has endorsed service-learning a high impact practice.

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Sync"ed Partnerships

I recently had the pleasure of meeting the ladies at the Assistance League of Boise. During my visit with them, I took a tour of their Operation School Bell sight. Operation School Bell is an incredible philanthropy that touches over 3,520 Ada County elementary school children per year. From September through November the goal of the Assistance League’s Operation School Bell philanthropy is to dress every elementary school child in need within Ada County. The money earned through the Assistance League’s thrift store is used to purchase new clothes. Some of the clothing products come from large scale distributors nationally, while others are purchased from local retailers, such as the Bronco Shop.

My role at the Assistance League was to help make their vision, of engaging students in an educational experience while they are waiting to "shop", a reality. The challenge in making their vision a reality was in getting an army of volunteers trained to implement the lessons.  The Assistance League contacted two other community organizations that work with Boise State Service-Learning to help make their vision a reality, Foothills Learning Center and Boise Watershed. Each of these community organizations designed a lesson that could be easily implemented by Boise State Service-Learning students.  Boise State Service-Learning students from Environmental Studies 121 signed-up to share their understanding of the environment while engaging students in thinking about the water cycle and recycling.

The challenge then became making this vision come to life with a unified understanding of the lessons.  To create this unified understanding, I filmed the delivery of each of the lesson plans, edited the film, and uploaded the videos to the Assistance Leagues' OrgSync portal. Students who missed the orientation could then view those videos, as well as students who just want a review the material.

The Assistance League can now decide if they are going to grow their library of activities, by adding more lessons each year, or continue to use the same lessons with training just one click away. This form of training may become a great alternative to getting service-learning students off and running quicker.

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