PS 1-25 - From eyesore to outreach:  Using service learning and writing models to link students, communities, and the land

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Becky Barlow, Forestry and Wildlife Science, Auburn University, Auburn University, AL

There is little doubt that demonstration areas are an important part of forestry and wildlife continuing education.  At the same time, service learning projects that give hands-on experience in the application of classroom activities while giving back to the community can benefit undergraduate students.  Projects of this type show promise in the area of natural resource education, allowing students to interact with the public on a professional level.  During the spring of 2010, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences students participated in a service learning project that included the restoration of a native longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mil.) ecosystem on a 20-acre forested site on the Auburn University campus wildland urban interface (WUI).  Using a “writing across communities” education model this project will restore a native ecosystem, provide outreach education opportunities, promote the use of an underutilized forested area, and provide an opportunity for students to hone written and verbal communication skills in a professional setting.  Upon completion of the project students were surveyed regarding their evaluation of the course when compared to other learning experiences.


Thirty junior level students participated in this service learning project that re-enforced classroom activities, while developing a management plan for the site in which the existing loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) overstory will be gradually removed and replaced with a native longleaf pine forest.  In addition, the forestry students organized and lead a forestry field day for 100 youth and adult participants for which they developed posters and brochures on topics such as longleaf pine management and forest measurements techniques.  Upon completion of the project students were asked to rate their experience as “inferior”, “same”, “improved”, or “much improved” when compared to other assignments.  Ninety-seven percent of the students surveyed stated that their understanding of concepts was “improved” to “much improved” when compared to traditional classroom techniques, and 90 percent were more confident in their abilities because of the project.  Those students who did not find the project beneficial, stated that it was, “too much for an already busy schedule”.  However, 90 percent of the students stated that this type of project should continue to be included in future classes.  

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