The positive aspects of sport participation have been widely chronicled in the professional academic literature. Athletic participation and training for sport provide numerous benefits to students that few other learning vehicles can offer. Benefits from sport participation include increased health promotion and disease prevention, along with increased social, academic, and psychological benefits (Fahey, Insel, & Roth, 2005).
Service-learning participation can have a positive impact on students as well. The literature on service-learning suggests that students who engage in service-learning activities reap a number of benefits similar to those derived from sport participation, including enhanced social, academic, and psychological well-being (Prentice & Garcia, 2000).
Service-learning is a form of experimental education that goes beyond the traditional classroom lecture, reading, and writing format. Service-learning offers students the opportunity to learn by being actively involved in a cycle of community action and related reflection (Furco, 1996). Typically, students engaged in service-learning become involved in specific community-based projects as part of class requirements. Although the concept of service-learning has been around for centuries, this pedagogy has become increasingly popular in the past decade (Eyler & Giles, 1999).
Since educators are continually trying to positively influence the lives of students, what greater vehicles to use than sport and service-learning? This article examines how a graduate sport-marketing class at an urban university implemented a sport-related service-learning program to encourage middle school students to become more actively involved in civic engagement and thus meet a critical community need.
What Is Service-Learning?
According to Geleta and Gilliam (2003), service-learning allows students to learn and develop through active participation in organized service that is conducted to meet the needs of a community. It is coordinated with schools, colleges, universities, or community service agencies and the community. One of the major benefits of service-learning is that it helps foster civic responsibility. It is integrated into the academic curriculum of the students and provides a structured link for participants to reflect on their service experience (Prentice & Garcia, 2000).
The service aspect of service-learning must be based on a communally recognized need. The community agency or group and the teacher or class involved in the service-learning experience must agree on the need. "Doing with," rather than "doing for," encourages an empowering form of service and promotes advocacy over charity (Taylor, 2002).
Need for Community Change
From mid-August to late September of 2004, four hurricanes--Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne--hit Florida. The storms' winds averaged 129 miles per hour. At the time, no other storm had been as powerful for the last century, when the state of Texas was ravaged by four hurricanes in 1886 (Stewart, 2005).
The majority of the storm damage occurred in Southern and Central Florida. Nearly 10 million residents were evacuated in response to the storms. More than 100 Floridians died. Damages to the state of Florida exceeded $17 billion. With all the destruction and devastation came the need for additional food and resources to help the affected families. Central Florida immediately faced several challenges, including the cost of evacuation and relocation of millions of low-income and working-class Floridians, the loss of income and jobs because businesses closed, loss of homes that were destroyed by high winds and floods, and health problems created or exacerbated by mandatory evacuations. These losses made it difficult for families to meet their most basic living needs.
In response to the crisis, many local food banks that provided food and water to emergency shelters …