The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

New district initative emphasizes service learning

By Julissa Treviño/south news editor

With a new pilot project, TCC is partnering with UTA, Fort Worth ISD and Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD to get students involved in the community through volunteer work and academic projects.

Faculty members from each campus have conceived projects and ideas for their students to participate in the community through the new service learning initiative, the Inter-Institutional Cross-Disciplinary pilot project.

“Service learning is an external learning experience—usually in the community—that is carefully designed to help students understand a possibly abstract course objective by working directly with a community partner,” Dr. Tahita Fulkerson, associate vice chancellor of teaching and learning services, said.

Headed by the project’s codesigners, Fulkerson and Dr. Shirley Theriot, director of the Center for Community Service Learning at UTA, the team has proposed this year’s theme of environmental sustainability, with most faculty members’ projects focusing on helping the environment.

“The environmental theme was selected by faculty in this year’s project because they are convinced that we must take action now to help save the planet,” Fulkerson said.

Fulkerson said that although only a few professors from each campus are involved in the inter-institutional, interdisciplinary project, other faculty members are also using service learning techniques with their students.

“Many TCCD teachers have been providing students external learning experiences for years,” she said. “As a national trend, service learning is decades old.” 

John Haglund, instructor of geology, said, “[The interdisciplinary project] is a long-term initiative that we’re trying to spread.”

Of TCC faculty involved in the project, professors include Dr. Lori Fowler, associate professor of sociology, NE; Altheria Gaston, instructor of education, South; Haglund, instructor of geology, South; David Puente, instructor of mathematics, NW; Theresa Schrantz, associate professor of sociology, SE; Dr. Bobbi Stringer, professor of speech, NW.

Fowler’s Introduction to Sociology class will collect aluminum cans and turn them into “recycle art” with the help of Richard Parker, NE associate professor of art.

The resulting art will be sold at a private auction in April, with all monies then donated to the Alliance for Children, Fowler said.

Haglund’s South Campus environmental geology class will focus on water resources and management at Cedar Hill State Park. Students will attend a workshop and educate fifth-grade students on concepts they learned. Throughout the project, students will track their progress and document their experiences.

Schrantz’s SE sociology classes, however, do not all participate in the same project.

“I find that individual ownership of a project is preferable … students are more motivated when they are vested with choice of interest,” she said.

“It allows for more flexibility of scheduling; more agencies/organizations in our community benefit, and students do not miss other professors courses.”

Though each project stops with the end of each course, Fulkerson said, projects might take on a life of their own after the course is over, becoming an ongoing school effort.

The pilot project focuses on faculty professional development, Fulkerson said.

The group has been communicating by attending meetings on Saturdays to study service learning and to talk about implementation and assessment of the faculty projects, and they also have a blog site and communicate electronically.

“Service learning is a pedagogical strategy [in which] a faculty member chooses to assist students in achieving deep, meaningful learning of a course objective as a result of service,” she said.

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