Tips and Trends in Service-Learning in STEM 2011

by Natalie Hambalek

Early this semester Merith Weisman, coordinator of the Center for Community Engagement, provided a workshop for faculty members focused specifically for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines which aimed to assist them with incorporating service-learning into their curricula. Unlike other Tips and Trends workshops in the past, this one was funded through the SWEEP grant and had the largest turnout we’ve ever had. Faculty members representing many of the schools at Sonoma State University, especially those teaching in the STEM disciplines, were in attendance and were very excited about all of the possibilities.  This workshop, or a slight variation of it, typically runs each fall semester.  Its main focus is exploring  service-learning pedagogy and current trends in academic learning, planning, community relationship building and reflective analysis activities.  Nathan Rank, the Chair of the Department of  Biology explained that it can be harder to use service-learning in science courses because the work has to be both valuable and reciprocal.

“The work has to be relevant to the people who need the data and satisfying to the students who participate.”

Despite some of the barriers that arise while using service-learning in STEM courses, the outcomes are definitely worth it.  Excellent past examples of service-learning in the STEM disciplines include Farid Faramand’s Engineering Science Class.

Keep your eyes open for the Tips and Trends in Service-Learning workshop next fall.

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