Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Service Learning and Parks and Recreation Education. (Society of Park and Recreation Educators)

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Service Learning and Parks and Recreation Education. (Society of Park and Recreation Educators)

Article excerpt

Over the last several years, institutions of higher learning and their professional associations have embraced the use of service learning and civic engagement as a means of enhancing student learning, improving liberal arts education and preparing students to address complex social issues. Yet as this worthwhile practice continues to grow, program evaluations have shown that guidelines are needed to be sure that both the student and community benefit.

Avoid the "do-gooder" approach to service experiences, Charity projects that are based on the belief that we must give handouts to the needy reinforce stereotypes of superiority and inferiority. To offset this issue, make sure students are involved in program planning with agency staff, not just the final service stage. High-quality student service programs allow students to work with members of the communities they serve to develop programs that meet community needs. It's also critical to find agency staff willing to engage in this process.

Create experiences that allow students to have a real impact. Often students may not believe they're making an impact because they don't know how their project fits into the ongoing work of the agency. One of my students recently spent several hours working at our local senior center. Initially, he was concerned about the amount of physical labor (painting, moving furniture, making minor repairs, etc.) that he was asked to do. After the director spent time with him reviewing budget constraints and identifying inadequacies in the facility, he thought that his work was so important that he continued to volunteer for the remainder of the year and devised a plan for recruiting additional volunteers from the university. …

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