Module 4: Moving Beyond the Classroom

Learning in the Community:

Service Learning


In service learning, students actively participate in projects that meet community needs; for example, designing a drainage system for a community park or monitoring water quality in a river. Such projects allow students to apply skills and knowledge they've learned in class to critical issues. Students may work in groups or independently, often serving several hours a week for several weeks. Some service learning projects may be just a one-day experience.

Students can also benefit from short, informal learning experiences outside the classroom. Read an example of such an opportunity as described by Elaine Craft:

Elaine Craft

"A local retirement home with a drainage problem called our Civil Engineering Technology Department for help. Several Civil Engineering Technology students were assigned the project of making an inspection and developing a recommended solution. The students became so interested in the challenge and in the people they were helping that they volunteered their time on a Saturday to help install a system to permanently eliminate the problem."
—Elaine Craft, Director, South Carolina ATE Center


As you consider these learning possibilities and your own ideas, think about the time and effort you are willing to put into the project. For a beginning teacher, setting up a guest speaker may be a good way to start; it can be as simple as calling a friend in the industry and scheduling a day for her to visit the classroom. Field trips require a little more planning, but can still be straightforward if you are visiting a facility on or near campus and can schedule the visit to coincide with your usual class meeting. For more ambitious trips, you may need to obtain the permission of your department.

Incorporating internships or service learning into your course requires extensive planning. Generally, you need to set up a contract with the student outlining goals and objectives for the project, the amount of time to be spent on the project, and any papers or presentations that will come out of the experience. Check with your department head before you attempt to implement internships or service learning as a part of your class to ensure that you address the necessary requirements.