Incorporating service learning into undergraduate chemistry curriculum
1. Finding a need.
I am asking you to develop a community service project that we can implement this term. This project must:
- Emphasize initiatives to combat public misconceptions of pharmaceuticals and increase overall social scientific literacy in the Birmingham area.
- Increase opportunities for low-income families in the metro and/or surrounding areas to receive necessary medical care and educational support to properly take necessary medications and monitor their health.
- Be feasibly conducted by students during this term.
I expect this proposal to be NLT 5 pages typed, include sufficient detail on how the project can be implemented and managed, provide an explanation of the broader impacts of this project and how they align with this call for proposals.
Students are given approximately 2-3 weeks to complete their proposals and then each group gives a short 10-15 minute presentation to the class summarizing their proposals. In order to help facilitate both the assessment of the proposal and guide the students, this rubric should also be provided.
During their initial research of the surrounding areas my students recognized:
1. In the areas surrounding campus, the illiteracy rate is as high as 23% (NCES) which can make reading directions on how to take mediciations difficult
2.The closest authorized drug drop off location for the city of Birmingham is almost 30 miles away which could increase the risk of illicit use of prescription drugs, as well as increase the risk of polluting our natural resources due to improper disposal.
3. While the state of Alabama has one of the highest vaccination rates, there are still rural areas in the state in which as much of 18% of children are either unvaccinated or have expired vaccination records. We believe that this isn't necessarily due to an increase in support of the anti-vaccination movement but possibly is a result of language barriers and access to cheap or free vaccinations for under-served or uninsured families.
As each group presenting their findings and their proposals of how to alleviate these challenges, they quickly recognized how each of the groups' proposals could be merged into one holistic class project and began incorporating each other's ideas and assigning roles to facilitate their project:
1. Participate in the National Drug Take Back Day with local BPD and DEA,
2. Create easy to read, graphically driven flyers in both English and Spanish describing proper drug disposal techniques, common myths concerning vaccinations, and information on how to get free or low cost vaccinations.
3. Create a magnet with a free 24/7 hotline of registered nurses that people can have on hand if they have ANY health related questions.
2. Developing an assessment strategy
The next phase of the project was for us to develop and agree on an assessment strategy in order to both measure student progress throughout the project and to assign an objective grade. Since this course does not have a wet lab component, I asked my students to think of this project as the substitute for the lab, both in the amount of work and the time commitment. No obviously, I could have came up with this assessment strategy on my own, but this way the students could again take ownership of the project and develop a way to hold themselves and each other accountable.
This activity took approximately 20 minutes to complete, and occurred immediately following the various group proposal presentations.
For this term, the students decided on the following assessment strategy:
The total project was to be 200 points ( or 20% of the total course grade):
1. The final product, which in this instance was the printed materials (flyers and magnet), would account for 75 points.
2. Each student would keep a running journal (at least 1 entry per week) to document progress, time spent on each activity, and allow for reflection for a total of 50 points (5 points per journal entry for 10 entries).
3. Each student is expected to spend 20 hours total on the project, this includes time spent planning, preparing, working on-site with the community partner, and writing in the journals. Time would account for 25 points.
4. Each student would be evaluated by 3 peers on their professionalism, creativity, teamwork and contribution for a total of 25 points
5. Each student would be evaluated by a community partner as well for 25 points.
Once we developed the strategy, I typed it up and posted it to our course management page. I also developed/tweaked/borrowed some various rubrics and created a grade sheet which you can find here.
3. Implementing the project
4. Reflecting and growing
Overall, I am so very thankful my students insisted on doing this project; because now I am no longer resistant to implementing service learning in my courses. I hope that this may also encourage you, the reader, decide to incorporate service learning in your own courses.