Service Learning Projects in the Spotlight

Story posted May 12, 2006

In Bowdoin's service learning courses students meet academic course goals by engaging in community-based work that satisfies particular needs of local organizations. Since the fall of 2000, over 600 students have participated in service learning activities.

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The symposium allows students to share their work with the Bowdoin and local communities and demonstrate how their unique contributions address real community issues through academic work.

This semester's service learning courses were in the spotlight May 11, 2006, at the spring Service Learning Symposium. Students, faculty members and community partners were on hand to discuss projects ranging from environmental research and French conversation to poverty examination and sustainable town planning.

"Service Learning at Bowdoin is a wonderful program, and I loved working with students," said Julie Isbill of the National Park Service in Brunswick. Isbill, involved in her third service learning project with Bowdoin, worked this semester with Matthew Klingle's students to develop interpretive posters for kiosks at several trails owned by the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust.

"The beauty of service learning for us is that the students are very independent -- they have professors to help them with the research and computers and other supports at the College. Compared to having an intern in your office, this is simple and satisfying. And I love the way it combines students with people in the community."

The following classes and projects were presented at the Symposium:

Computer Science 107: Introduction to Computer Science, with Laura Toma
Using the basics of HTML and software programs such as Dream Weaver and Photoshop, students designed and built websites for a local community agencies that did not have one. The project's community partners were Portland Arts and Technology High School (the dance program), College Guild, and Ricardo's Family Karate.

Environmental Studies 201/Biology 158/Chemistry 180: Perspectives in Environmental Science, with John Lichter, Dharni Vasudevan and Nancy Olmstead
Students analyzed the effects of salt marsh restoration on a local marsh and compared impacted and unimpacted marshes to determine effects of impacts and/or restoration activities. The project's community partners were The Nature Conservancy and Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area.

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Community Partner Julie Isbill shows off a trail poster created by Bowdoin students.

Environmental Studies 203/History 242: Environment and Culture in North American History, with Matthew Klingle and Eileen Johnson
Students conducted archival and oral history research for four community partners. Students working with the Cathance River Education Alliance compiled oral histories and charted changing land use patterns, while those affiliated with the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust created interpretive environmental history posters for the Sewell Woods and Fuller Farm properties. Teams partnering with The Nature Conservancy of Maine compiled information on the human and ecological changes to the Bufflehead Corner Preserve in Arrowsic, and the groups working with the Trust for Public Lands collected oral interviews and documents to support the preservation of Holbrook's Wharf in Cundy's Harbor.

Environmental Studies 391: Troubled Waters -- Fishing in the Gulf of Maine, with Anne Hayden
Students assisted in developing a strategy regarding reform of federal fisheries policy, created a brochure and presentation on mechanisms for protecting working waterfronts, developed a lobster education program, produced a fisheries information card, and informed Bowdoin students and Dining Service of seafood choices. Community partners were Conservation Law Foundation, Island Institute, Coastal Enterprises Inc., Curtis Memorial Library, Bowdoin Dining Service, and Maine Department of Marine Resources.

French 204a: Living, Learning and Language, with Katherine Dauge-Roth
Students partnered with the Mount Ararat High School French 5, planned and led themed French cafés throughout the semester, and facilitated conversation groups on a weekly basis. They also prepared classroom materials for high school teachers. As their final project for the course, students planned and hosted a French and Francophone Festival at Bowdoin for 30 Mount Ararat French students.

Geology 230/Environmental Studies 230: Geometrics, with Ed Laine and Cathryn Field
Students made maps for a variety of local organizations. Projects included trail maps, bathymetric maps, and maps to aid in analyzing changes in bird populations over time. Community Partners were Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, Sagadahoc Regional Rural Resources Initiative, Bowdoin Outing Club, and Bowdoin Geology Department.

Government 321: Social Protest and Political Change, with Laura Henry
Casey Dlott '07 investigated social mobilization around the issue of homelessness in Maine by interviewing representatives of the Preble Street Consumer Advocacy Project, based in Portland. Dlott then completed significant secondary research in order to situate the experience of Maine activists in the broader national movement against homelessness.

Interdisciplinary Studies 200: Examining Poverty, with Nancy Jennings and Susan Dorn
Structured as an interdisciplinary, team-taught examination of poverty both in the U.S. and in developing countries, this course focused on complicating and enriching students' thinking about issues of poverty. Students designed their own service learning projects with poverty-relief agencies. Community partners were ArtVan Outreach, Bath United Church of Christ, Coastal Economic Development, Inc., Family Crisis Services, MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program, Portland Housing Authority, and the Tedford Shelter.

Sociology 220: Class, Labor and Power, with Joe Bandy
Students surveyed a variety of sociological perspectives and applied them in analyses of class inequality, labor relations, and social policy. Students compiled a list of "warm sites" in the Bath/Brunswick and mid-coast area, facilitated the Missouri Community Action Poverty Simulation for the Brunswick community, refined and re-administered a survey assessing public opinion of homelessness, conducted interviews with former Tedford shelter guests, and designed and coordinated a campus-wide discussion of class and classism in the Bowdoin community as a part of kNOw Poverty Weeks. Community partners were the United Way, MidCoast Hunger Prevention, Tedford Shelter, and Bowdoin College Community Service Resource Center.

Sociology 310b: Current Controversies in Sociology, with Joe Bandy
Students conducted research into the issue of elder abuse, assessed the program needs and future service projects with community partners, evaluated the effectiveness of juvenile education and rehabilitation efforts in the state, and organized a conference on the education and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders at Bowdoin for members of the academic, social services, and criminal justice community in Maine. Community partners were Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities, and Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Sociology Independent Study by Rachel Kaplan '06 and Paul Jung '06, with Janet Lohmann
In Maine and several states around the country, policymakers, sociologists and education systems are setting up pilot programs that provide community service opportunities for suspended and expelled youth. For this project, two students interviewed the coordinators of five innovative programs throughout Maine and planned a summit to discuss the challenges and successes of service-based programs. The community partner was Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Sociology Honors Project by Ellie Benard '06, with Joe Bandy
Benard worked with the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence (CPHV) to assess their Controversial Dialogues program at Edward Little High School in Auburn. In addition to a year's research on racial identity development among youth and the development of white-Somali tensions in Maine, Benard conducted an evaluation of the Dialogues program using surveys, focus groups, and participant observation.

Visual Arts 233/Environmental Studies 233: Architecture and Sustainability, with Steven Theodore and Wiebke Theodore
Using design exercises, readings, class discussion, field visits, and case studies, students investigated why and how buildings can be designed in ways that are environmentally responsive and responsible. Students created a design for a bicycle center to encourage use of alternate transportation as part of a proposal for the old Brunswick High School focusing on an ecological, community building response. The Brunswick City Council was the project's community partner.

Visual Arts 275: Architectural Design II, with Wiebke Theodore
Students produced a housing design for Noble Street in response to preliminary schematics proposed in the Downtown Revitalization Plan, and designed a useful structure in honor of Bill Boothby at the Coastal Studies Center. Community partners were the Brunswick Town Planner, the Boothby Family, and the Bowdoin Coastal Studies Center.

Community Action Fellowship
The Community Action Fellowship program provides students the opportunity to work closely with either a community organization or faculty members to strengthen community-campus partnerships and support service learning initiatives. Community partners were Independence Association, MidCoast REACH, People Plus, and Volunteers of America.

To learn more about Service Learning at Bowdoin, contact the Community Service Resource Center at (207) 798-4133.

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