LSU Service-Learning Students Having Major Impacts in Area Public Schools
With its wealth of resources and expertise, LSU service-learning is reaching out to the local elementary and high school community, with projects ranging from school beautification to collaborative projects between college and K-12 students. Through a number of long-standing partnerships, service-learning faculty and students are helping K-12 youth to develop as citizens of the Baton Rouge, LSU and world community.
For 13 years, LSU service-learning classes have partnered with Volunteers in Public Schools, or VIPS, to tutor elementary students in the East Baton Rouge Parish public school system in reading, writing and math. In collaboration with LSU math faculty, VIPS developed its Everyone Counts Program to provide math tutoring for elementary students. LSU service-learning students now make up a majority of the math tutors in the program.
“The best part was being able to engage the resources of the university with the needs of the school,” reported a community partner from Dufrocq Elementary in an anonymous end-of-semester assessment. “Our students’ achievement increased and I believe the students volunteering time in service gained much from the experience of working with elementary students.”
Many students also serve as reading partners or tutors for underachieving K-12 students through VIPS. While working with reading partners, LSU students study such topics as language disorders, education, literacy issues, social change, minority representation in literature, composition instruction and how to make reading appealing to high school students.
Sociology students examine a variety of topics related to education, learning and schools, and use their experiences reading with students to inform their perspective on these topics. Students who work as tutors have the opportunity to connect theory with actual practice, while developing increased cultural competence and a greater understanding of the challenges and assets in public education.
“My students were very excited to have LSU students come to their campus to teach and work with them,” said another teacher in the year-end assessment. “The children were very interested in the topics presented and eager to interact with their special teachers. It was also rewarding to watch the faces of the ‘teachers’ as my students were positively responding to them.”
Communication studies students have studied group process, leadership and conflict, while implementing a children’s book drive and a school supply drive to benefit students at Baton Rouge public schools. In addition to receiving experience in collaborative problem solving, the LSU students further develop their communication skills by reading with elementary students once a week.
Not every project focuses on reading, writing and arithmetic, though; LSU classes also provide cultural enrichment for the students. Using books elementary students read during class, LSU theater students create and perform theatrical projects around the stories, bringing the books and their characters to life for the children.
“They got to see one of their favorite stories come to life in the form of a play,” said another teacher in the assessment, adding that the most significant impact from working with LSU students was that the elementary students were exposed to young adults in college.
Music education students meet twice a week with fifth, sixth and seventh graders at Sacred Heart School to educate the young students about instrumental music. The university students lead the ensemble in music making, play instruments alongside the children and occasionally work one on one with a Sacred Heart student who needs assistance.
“The children at Sacred Heart see the LSU students as being pretty special, as role models,” said James Byo, Carl Prince Matthies Professor of Music Education. “The LSU students benefit tremendously by witnessing first-hand how young people learn and having a hands-on opportunity to develop important teaching skills.”
And what would school be without recess? LSU first year students studying biological engineering work also with East Baton Rouge Parish public schools to design, implement and raise funds for “dream playgrounds” created by the elementary students.
In the planning stages, K-12 students create dream playgrounds and then LSU students work with the schools and local communities to turn the ideas into designs. Since 2000, LSU students have designed and constructed 18 playgrounds.
LSU also hosts what one of the largest science outreach program of its kind in the country – ChemDemo – in which 6,612 LSU chemistry students have introduced the wonders of science in approximately 3,358 East Baton Rouge Parish classrooms. The program has impacted more than 84,000 K-12 students since the program began in 1997. Microbiology students are currently collaborating with fifth-graders at a nearby school to develop ideas for science fair projects, working together on the actual project and assisting the youth in preparation of their displays.
LSU students who serve in Baton Rouge elementary, middle and high schools often have the opportunity to see tangible results of their efforts – increased reading scores, a first-prize science project and the smiles of children who just received new school supplies. Though the long-term impacts are not immediately obvious, students often can have a profound impact on K-12 youth. One LSU chemistry student reported that the only chemistry demonstration he saw in high school was performed by LSU service-learning students.
Service-learning is facilitated by the LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership, or CCELL. For more information, visit www.ccell.lsu.edu or call 578-9264.
Billy Gomila | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations