||Centre launches Community-Based Learning initiative
RELEASED: November 5, 2009
By Leigh Ivey
DANVILLE, KY—A new program at Centre College is providing students with educational opportunities that are outside the box—or in this case, outside the classroom.
This fall, the Community-Based Learning program was introduced at the College, encouraging professors to integrate community service into their curriculum.
Available to any professor who wishes to utilize the program, CBL bolsters course material, broadens students' social perspectives and provides needed services to members of the local community.
Kerri Howard '08, coordinator of Community-Based Learning through the VISTA Americorp Program, serves as the liaison between the Boyle County and Centre College communities.
"Centre does a great job of educating the 'whole student,' and Community-Based Learning is just another powerful pedagogical tool for doing that," Howard says. "When students get to see—immediately—how what they're reading about in books and talking about in class plays out in the real world, their education suddenly becomes much more relevant."
And perhaps of even greater significance, she believes, is that "because CBL has students using their education to do good in the community, what they're learning takes on an importance beyond grades—it becomes valuable work that impacts other people."
A key component of CBL is reflection, both academic and personal.
On the academic side, students collect and present data and write essays and research papers; on the personal side, they keep journals and hold informal discussions in pairs and groups.
"Reflection exercises complete the cycle of Community-Based Learning, bringing it back to the learner," Howard says.
Ten professors are already making use of the program, and several more have plans to utilize CBL in their CentreTerm and spring term courses.
One of these is Dr. Sarah Goodrum, associate professor of sociology, who plans to use CBL in her CentreTerm Death and Dying class.
"Students will be required to complete six hours of CBL in the three-week term," she says. "They'll have the option of helping with a memorial service at a local funeral home, helping with office work at Heritage Hospice, or helping at a local nursing home. We'll also help conduct a cemetery clean-up for two of our local cemeteries."
Currently, students in several Spanish and psychology classes are tutoring local schoolchildren and spending time in schools doing craft projects and other activities. Other members of Spanish classes have volunteered as interpreters at women's health fairs throughout central Kentucky.
Several professors of sociology and mathematics classes are also currently participating in CBL. Their students are volunteering with the Bluegrass Community Action Partnership, assisting residents in completing needs-assessment surveys.
So far, Howard says, the community's response to the new program has been "overwhelmingly positive. Usually people can't believe I'm calling them to see if they need help with anything."
And as CBL becomes more widely utilized, the impact it has on students and those in the community whom they serve will continue to grow.
"I think CBL can benefit students and the community by giving students hands-on experience with the issues of interest and by helping community agencies with their work," Goodrum says. "CBL allows students to apply their knowledge in the field, improve their public speaking skills and gain professional development skills."
Howard agrees. "Beyond what CBL can do for students academically and personally," she says, "it also fosters a more consistent and mutually supportive partnership with the off-campus community. We're all living here together—why not learn and work together, too?"
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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