Meaningful reflection on at least ten hours of community service each year as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, and a minimum of 40 hours by the time you submit your senior portfolio. If you perform more than ten hours of service in a year prior to your senior year, you may "bank" these hours and thereby reduce the hours of service required during the fall of your senior year. By doing this, it is possible that you need perform no public service during your senior year.
Why am I being "forced" to "volunteer"?
It is important to understand the distinction between "service learning" and "volunteering." As part of the Personal Development Portfolio Program, Service Learning is an academic requirement at Bridgewater College, and should be treated as such. While service learning might at first glance seem synonymous with other types of volunteer work, the reflection that you are required to perform makes this a unique and distinctively intellectual as well as personal learning experience.
What "counts" as service learning?
As part of the personal development program, service learning is most easily conceived under the dimension of citizenship and community responsibility. While your service learning experience may relate to the other dimensions as well, taking time to consider the nature of citizenship and the scope of your community can help you determine the quality of service you provide. Service learning should take you out of your private sphere and into the public realm. In other words, the service you offer should extend beyond your primary networks of friends and family and impact individuals well beyond those with whom you interact on a daily basis. The assistance you provide an individual or agency should transcend self-interest and should contribute to the greater good of your community and represent public outreach. At the most basic level, your service learning should impact individuals beyond the immediate college community, although service in some cases may take place on campus grounds.
What does this mean exactly?
Below are some examples that may help to clarify the above points.
Working with Area 4 Special Olympics at the Nininger Pool~~~"This counts":
Working with young children who are physically or mentally handicapped meets a real human need and contributes needed services to the broader community. Even if you are working with these same children during a Special Olympics event on the Bridgewater College campus, it is a service learning opportunity that has moved you out of your immediate community. If I'm planning to go into special education, doesn't that make my choice pretty self-interested? On one level, sure. But finding a service opportunity that relates to your educational and/or career goals is strongly encouraged. In the process of doing the service, you'll be meeting more than your own interests. You'll be providing sports training, athletic experiences, and relational support to individuals who otherwise might not receive these services.
Academic Tutoring for Bridgewater Students: "This doesn't count":
Tutoring a fellow Bridgewater College student who is struggling in Calculus (while being a real human need) does not extend your contributions beyond the campus community and therefore does not meet the criteria for service learning. In addition, if at any time you are being paid for your services, you are not meeting the service learning criteria. Let's face it, working for a paycheck is pretty self-interested.
Tutoring at the local elementary school, working with Skyline Literacy, getting involved in migrant education, or teaching computer skills at the local retirement community immediately moves your tutoring service into the public realm.
Here's a more challenging case:
Providing supervision in the nursery during Sunday church services and/or providing yard work or maintenance at your local church. Volunteering at your local church is a marvelous service. But is it service learning? It's definitely off campus and extends you beyond the immediate needs of the college community. It probably also fulfills many needs of your local church -- the need of parents for childcare, the need for usable and attractive church grounds. But is it "public"? Your church is certainly a component of your town or neighborhood, but in many ways it's a part of your primary network and therefore a part of your "private sphere." Granted, you are doing more than mowing your parent's backyard, but you haven't pushed your service fully into the public realm.
Let's say you help your church with a food drive for the local food pantry; or you help cook at a pancake supper whose proceeds go to provide relief for victims of a natural disaster; or you work in the local Soup Kitchen served out of your church's basement. All of these forms of service, even while they take place at your church, push your contributions into the public realm because you are serving individuals well beyond your immediate church family.
Not quite clear yet?
Here's a quick chart to clarify some common misconceptions of what constitutes service learning:
|Serving as a host/hostess for an Eagles Club event.
Touring prospective students/athletes around campus.
Helping an immediate family member.
If you take time to consider the nature of citizenship and the scope of your community, you'll be in a better position to assess the quality of service you hope to provide.
What do you mean by reflection?
Remember that the act of reflection is what distinguishes service learning from community service or other types of volunteer work. Reflection is the conscious review and critical analysis of the service performed. In addition, reflection develops and gives meaning to the service. Ideally, your reflection will enhance your understanding of classroom concepts as they are seen in real world settings. In the process, you should be able to articulate how your service learning experience has broadened your world view, changed your thinking about a particular social problem, and enhanced your personal value system.
Service Learning Reflection Steps (from BC Service Learning Center)
Reflection is a critical component in service-learning. It is what distinguishes service-learning from community service. Reflection is the conscious review and critical analysisof the service performed. In addition, reflection develops and gives meaning to the service. Ideally, reflection will enhance the understanding of classroom concepts as they are seen in real world settings. It motivates the learner to move beyond the task they did, enables them to broaden their worldview, and enhances their personal value system. The following is a suggested process for reflection. It assists the learner to analyze what was done and motivates them to consider what the effects of their service are to themselves, to those served, and to the larger society.
Step 1 pertains to the substance of the experience and what happened to you. It deals with facts and leads naturally into interpretation. The What? is used to start the reflection process by asking, "What happened in the service experience?"
- What did I do at the agency?
- What did I like/dislike about the agency?
- What skills do I bring to the agency?
- What issue does the agency engage?
THE SO WHAT?
Step 2 pertains to the difference the experience made to you. It looks at the consequences of the service experience and gives meaning to it. Abstract and generalize what you are learning and shift from the descriptive to the interpretive. The So What? asks, "What did your experience mean to you?" and/or "What did you learn from your experience?"
- Why do I serve?
- Why did I choose this agency?
- What have I learned about this issue?
- What have I learned about myself?
- How is this service related to my studies?
- How is this service related to my career objectives?
THE NOW WHAT?
Step 3 involves the process of taking lessons learned from the experience and reapplying them to other situations and the larger picture. It is a time for goal setting and long range planning. The Now What? asks, "Where do you go from here?"
- What will I do differently next time?
- What should society do about this issue?
- What am I going to do about this issue?