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Service-Learning: Theory, Experience, and Reflection

“Teaching is what I want to do,” Emily Spencer told the group that gathered for Keene State’s first service-learning summit, which was held at the College on Friday. More than 50 faculty and representatives from area nonprofit agencies attended the event, which provided examples of existing service- learning opportunities at the College and in local communities, and described a vision of how service-learning may develop in the future.

Describing her service-learning experience at the Compass School in Westminster, Vt., as “awesome,” Emily spoke of taking classroom theory into the field and returning to the class (ESEC 250) and her professor, Pru Cuper, with experiences to relate and questions to ask. Summit facilitator Dan Forbes then summarized Emily’s experience as “children giving a future teacher more information about her career and helping to build confidence in herself as a teacher.”

The value of service-learning was apparent from the projects described by faculty and students, said Ann Rancourt, associate vice president for academic affairs. “Service learning helps students become more interested and interesting learners, establish valuable networks, and contribute something positive to their communities,” she said.

According to Service-Learning Initiative Team co-chairs Therese Seibert, Michael Hanrahan, and Karrie Kalich, it is evident that community agencies are excited and are starving for more faculty and student involvement - especially from the humanities. “We had agencies asking for projects involving American heritage, dance and theater, and graphic design,” Therese says.

Next steps in the project, says Michael, include creating a database and web site that will allow faculty to see what needs are present in the community and allow the community partners to see what skills and courses are available for projects.

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