Thursday, February 27, 2014

Taking the Next Step

Tyler Johnson’s Kinesiology 305—Adapted Physical Education uses Service-Learning to provide education majors a hands-on and authentic experience working with adults with disabilities. Through the application of best practices in a least restrictive environment, students worked with disabled individuals on a range of activities, from food preparation and nutrition, to adaptive physical education. Community partners included local high schools, Trailhead ABC, and the adaptive programs offered through Boise Parks and Recreation. 
The value of the experience is best captured by the poignant reflection of one student, who remarked,
Our hope is that others will realize the many ways that individuals can give back to the community and those with specific needs. We were surprised to find that volunteering one hour a week, we could positively touch someone’s life and gain a sense of personal satisfaction.
Kinesiology 305 not only introduced students to the theories and best practices associated with adaptive education, it also instilled in them the significance, value, and importance of volunteering one’s time in the community. For James Reneau, John Cassels, and Billal Sultani, three students who took the class last fall, Kinesiology brought to light the obstacles facing both physical educators and adults with disabilities in Idaho, and inspired them to take the next step and see what they could do to make a difference. 

James, John, and Billal decided to establish the Boise Community Adapted Education Club after consulting with Dr. Johnson, who now serves as the club’s faculty advisor. Unlike most student clubs, which primarily serve students, the focus of the Adapted Education Club is to serve the community through students. The club’s mission is to enrich the lives of people with disabilities through any and all forms of traditional education. To accomplish that goal, the club partners with organizations working with adults with disabilities. Currently, the club collaborates with the Boise Independent School District’s STEP program, which works with adults 18-21 years of age.

For James, the club provides a “pathway to volunteering.” Getting people out into the community, he says, is “what it’s all about.” The success of the club, he notes, is intricately tied to increasing the number of student volunteers. While the club is always looking to expand the number of organizations with which it partners, the impact of the club hinges on the number of dedicated students willing to devote a few hours a week to serving in the community. However, James acknowledges that it can be difficult to motivate students. For various reasons, students are often reluctant to volunteer, but James points out that even one hour of volunteering a week can have a tremendous impact on the community.

The club is seeking students in all majors, not just those studying education. Physical education is only one part of a larger goal to assist disabled individuals in learning life skills and general knowledge. The STEP program, for example, is looking for students to come in and give 15-30 minute presentations on everything from personal finances to animal care, and everything in between. 

To learn more about the Boise Community Adapted Education Club and find ways to get involved, please contact James Reneau at

- Sam Wonacott, Boise State University Service-Learning


Monday, February 10, 2014

Microgravity students make STEM Service-Learning a Priority

Boise State University students make a difference in our community and will represent Boise State University on the national stage.

Dr. Elisa Barney Smith, Barbara Morgan, and Dr. Julia Oxford are guiding ENGR 475 Microgravity University students on a yearlong journey, as students propose, design, fabricate, fly, and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment for NASA’s Reduced Gravity Educational Flight Program. Their chosen topic must align with NASA’s priorities for future research, outlined in NASA’s Strategic Knowledge Gap (SKG) and Critical Technology Developments (CTD) documents. Like research proposals for the National Science Foundation, an important aspect of their research proposal is their outreach plan.

In December, the team learned that they had been chosen by NASA to conduct their research on “Gravitational Effects of Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure and Flow in an Anatomically Representative Model,” at Johnson Space Center. Their flight day is set for June, so there is much to do. This spring semester the students will not only get their experiment ready, complete supporting documentation, and fabricate the physical model used in their experiment; they will be out in the community conducting service-learning. Students in ENGR 475 have developed STEM service-learning opportunities with several community partners throughout the Treasure Valley. Their first service-learning event involved area elementary teachers in a workshop focused on connecting science and engineering to the Common Core State Standards.

In their most recent outreach event, they participated in the STEM Exploration Day at Boise State University. This opportunity engaged these undergraduates in educating the public about their microgravity research and providing opportunities for children and adults to engage with Toys in Space microgravity experiments, and in constructing and launching Stomp Rockets. Additional upcoming outreach activities include: a STEM day with the Girl Scouts, a Mini-Microgravity University Competition at a local elementary school, and a STEM day with young mothers and toddlers at Marian Pritchett School.

This semester is going to be busy as these students carry full academic loads, in addition to their reduced gravity research project. The students are enjoying engaging with the community and have found their experience rewarding on many levels. They will represent Boise State University as one of only 18 university teams selected to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. These students from Boise State University will conduct research alongside NASA researchers and students from Purdue University, Stanford University, and Texas A & M University, to name a few.

To learn more about these students' academic journey, please visit the Boise State University Microgravity Research Team's website at

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