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Service projects increase learning, social impact for undergrads
Date:6/23/2011

COLLEGE STATION, TXService learning involves the incorporation of community service into a course as a requirement for credit or graduation. In the service learning model, students participate in ''real life'' and hands-on activities while also working within the community. Researchers T.M. Waliczek and J.M. Zajicek reported on a study of service learning integrated into a university-level horticulture course in HortTechnology. The team found that involvement in service learning changed students' opinions regarding community involvement and also increased their understanding of course material.

Proponents of service learning say the experiences enhance learning and improve students' academic achievement, civic attitudes, and social values. Additionally, supporters of the methodology believe that it improves "town and gown" relationships while linking academic ideas with practical applications. Opponents of the methodology cite drawbacks that include time constraints for students and instructors, and the tendency for service projects to distract students from academics. Some opponents argue that service learning promotes technical rather than theoretical learning.

To ascertain the impact of service learning on undergraduate horticulture students, Waliczek and Zajicek incorporated service projects into an undergraduate landscape design course. Students were taught the process of landscape design using real-life activities that included developing designs for campus gardens, the city post office, neighborhood parks, the campus childcare center, city road median areas, and the city women's shelter.

The team developed a survey tool to measure how students felt about service learning as a means to learn skills in class and to measure their perceptions of community involvement and social impact. Currently enrolled students and alumni from five classes taught in a similar manner in previous years were surveyed. Results from the study
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert

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