Service-Learning: An Overview
Like other writing courses, students in a special section of EWP 410 (Writing for Environmental Professionals) examine relationships between reading and writing in order to compose meaningful texts that are sensitive and responsive to audience and context. In addition, students in this course gain valuable experience while contributing to the local community by performing volunteer work and writing about it. This approach is called service-learning.
Service-learning is a form of active "hands-on" learning where college students engage in community service as part of their course work. In addition to doing community service, students write, think, and talk about their service experiences, connecting them to larger course topics and assignments. This approach provides students with a rich opportunity to use writing to organize, analyze, and reflect in a real-life setting, while analyzing and contextualizing their experiences.
Volunteer Sites and Class Projects
Example of volunteer sites where EWP 410 students have performed their service are:
- American Red Cross
- Baltimore Woods
- Beaver Lake Nature Center
- Center for Nature Education
- Dorothy Day House
- New Environment Institute
- Peace, Inc.
- Syracuse City Schools
- Syracuse Stage
- Westcott Community Center
Students have benefitted these agencies through creating such final projects as newsletters, brochures, grant proposals, and volunteer training manuals. Each student maintains a service-learning log throughout the semester. Students also write project proposals, job application materials, and progress reports.
One student wrote a children’s book to be used for environmental education programs.
Another student produced a cookbook and nutritional guide for a food pantry at a local church.
We foreground the service-learning experience by discussing the following questions:
- On reciprocity and developing ethical student-community partnerships: How do I enter a community site and start feeling comfortable? How are expectations established? What are participants’ expectations, and how do they affect the mentoring experience? How do the mentor and student build mutual trust and respect?
- On representing yourself and others:
How do I think and write about those I’m representing? What connections exist between representations of my experience and issues around race, class, and gender? How do we locate these representations in space and time? What is the relationship between representation and power?
- On reaching a deeper understanding: How can I analyze an experience in a way that gives me deeper understanding about myself? About my community? About the world?
For More Information
If you’d like to learn more about service-learning, contact Benette Whitmore, EWP 410 Instructor, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 470-6722.