What kinds of agency projects work for Service Learning at Gavilan?
Gavilan faculty in different disciplines—communications, English, ESL, history, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and biology—are involved in providing students real-world connections to academic material, so there is no one right answer to the question. Generally, faculty want students to do work that relates to class content.
What might this work look like?
- Many faculty believe that dialogue between students and clients is the best service learning experience. Dialogue should be long enough and open enough so that clients and students may relate or share stories and aspirations.
- A student doing intake at a homeless shelter is engaged in dialogue. A student giving out blankets at the shelter is probably not engaged in dialogue.
- A student taking life histories of immigrants to create an exhibit about immigration is engaged in dialogue. A student doing data entry about those immigrants is probably not engaged in dialogue.
- A student playing with kids or helping them with homework at a battered women’s shelter is engaged in dialogue. A student providing childcare for toddlers is probably not engaged in dialogue.
If dialogue with clients is not possible at your agency, many faculty are happy to have students involved insignificant short-term projects. A significant short-term project helps students understand issues faced by clients, agencies, and/or the society. Students may serve clients directly or indirectly; extend agency visibility or outreach; gather and/or analyse information from clients, media, or stakeholders; teach skills or content; aid in building agency infrastructure for future work.
- A student planting a demonstration container vegetable garden in a blighted neighborhood and holding garden tours and talks has a significant short-term project. A student doing landscaping at an agency probably does not.
- A student doing presentations in classrooms about substance abuse based on a website she/he developed has a significant short-term project. A student teaching employees how to design and update a website has a significant short-term project. A student revamping the agency’s homepage from her home computer probably does not.
- A student interviewing hearing impaired clients served by an agency and reporting on service areas needing improvement or best practices probably has a significant short-term project. A student contacting corporate donors to support a program for hearing impaired clients probably does not.
How can this work relate to class content?
- This too, naturally, will differ. But most faculty have themes or concepts they wish to relate to the Service Learning work. Most will discuss these ahead of time with the partner agency. Most will have written assignments asking students to relate academic questions to their Service Learning work. Most will provide time in class to make connections during lecture or discussions. See reverse for an example.
How does an agency identify projects that meet faculty and student needs?
- Your agency’s strategic plan is the best place to start. Is there work your agency needs help to do better? Are there projects that staff just don’t have time for? Research no one has had time to do? These are all potentially excellent sources of student projects.
See reverse for a particular example of a college history class as it might relate to an agency that serves immigrants.
Example: How Service Learning can work: California History class
Class content: A study of California's history from pre-contact with Europeans to the present day. Social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental issues will be explored for an understanding of California's history. Five themes will be explored: California exceptionalism and identity; immigration; social and cultural diversity; industry, labor, and capital; reform, radicalism, and reaction.
Metaquestion: How can the study of California history help me become a more informed and empowered community member?
Partners: Community agencies that work with low income or immigrant clients, or work on environmental protection, are appropriate partners for this class.
Class assignments: Weekly readings, tests on readings; midterm and final exams; research project on California indigenous group; research project on current California issue’s historical development; weekly work at a local agency and weekly journal entries & discussion on Service Learning that might include the following themes:
- Week one: My family and I, how we came to California, and how my family’s values have shaped family history
- Week two: My agency placement and why I want to work here
- Week three: My first agency experience and what I learned about agency values, culture, and history
- Week four: My agency’s approach to a defining and addressing major social problem
- Week five: How ethnicity affects clients at my agency and my work there*
- Week six: How class affects clients at my agency and my work there*
- Week seven: How gender affects clients at my agency and my work there*
- Week eight: A specific person I have met at this agency and how her or his story and values illustrate some aspects of California history
- Week nine: Myths and realities about people my agency serves
- Week ten: My ideas for agency-level change to better serve clients
- Week eleven: My ideas for state-level policy change to address the social problem/s my agency grapples with
- Week twelve: My assessment of my work at this agency, including values that have helped me in doing this work
(*alternative question may be posed to students doing environmental work)
Class objectives: 1. Students will describe, evaluate and assess key political, environmental, and socioeconomic developments in California from pre-contact to the present, demonstrating critical self-reflection of their own values and places in the political, environmental, and socio-economic systems that have evolved. 2. Students will develop an historical understanding of privileging, stereotyping, marginalization, and oppression that have shaped state history. They will demonstrate critical self-reflection of how these have affected their own family and community. 3. Students will demonstrate academic integrity, appropriateness, and discipline in class conduct and assignments, including any involving research or community service learning participation. 4. Students will develop cultural competence in entering, participating and exiting California communities with sensitivity and awareness. They will assess challenges, strengths, and assets in a chosen community, and propose ways to make a positive change in a chosen community or community agency.