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ESF Students Make the Cover of the Journal of Chemical Education

Article highlights service track program in general chemistry
10/30/2012

ESF students were featured on the cover of the "Journal of Chemical Education" in conjunction with an article on the College's service track in general chemistry.

The November issue includes an article about service learning written by Dr. Kelley Donaghy, associate professor, and chemistry graduate student Kathleen Saxton.

Because service learning is often not considered in large enrollment courses, such as general chemistry, Donaghy "wanted to tell people that if motivated, it's possible."

"Our students do amazing things in our local community and it impacts them, the community and can sometimes makes huge differences in a student's career trajectory," she said. "Service learning works. It puts the students where the internships are and they end up with summer jobs and future employment." Service learning is a form of structured experiential education in which students engage with the community to be active learners, enrich their sense of civic responsibility, and explore a practical application for course content.

"Experiential learning is the way most people learn," said Donaghy, "and service learning takes it to another level."

Both the students and community learn during from the projects. Even students who did not directly participate in a project learn when it is discussed in class.

"I wrote the paper hoping to encourage other chemists to participate in service learning and to give them an example of how to do it," said Donaghy.

Donaghy started the general chemistry service track because of ESF's focus on community service and the large number of service hours ESF students contribute. ESF students contribute more than 65,000 hours of community service annually.

"I thought, 'Well they like to work in the community and they enjoy getting dirty and cleaning up streams. Why not tie it into their chemistry class and hopefully make chemistry a more relatable course?'" she said.

Working with the students beyond the classroom has also made it easier for Donaghy to get to know her students on a more personal level. "It's hard to be intimidated by the professor who screams in your ear when she touches a fish," she said.

The general chemistry service track has its roots in a 2008 Earth Day competition sponsored by the American Chemical Society where students were challenged to adopt a stream for Earth Day.

Donaghy approached her class with the idea and was met with enthusiasm. A dozen students met and planned a creek blitz. They organized a clean up of six local streams and had more than 300 students on the water doing chemistry. The group won the competition, $500 in prize money, and the service track was born.

"I thank those 12 students who taught me how to do this for inspiring me to do service learning and for showing me what a huge difference it can make," Donaghy said.

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