From Touch Tanks to Movies, UCF’s Service-Learning Delivers Science

College students in a marine conservation class created a touch tank so pre-K students could see the diversity that exists in a nearby watershed.

Another group cast fifth-graders at Carillon Elementary School in a movie that explains why it is important to recycle.

These are just two examples of how service-learning is incorporated into science courses at the University of Central Florida. These projects and others will be shared at the Eighth-Annual Service-Learning Showcase at the Student Union today, April 13. The free event runs from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Pegasus Ballroom. The public is invited.

Service-learning provides opportunities for students to enhance their academic experience by applying what they learn in the classroom to the community, promoting civic engagement and helping to address a community need.

“The children felt like movie stars and were so excited,” said Wei Sam Yuan, a master’s student in biology who participated in the Carillon project. “They all knew the material and the importance of recycling, and they wanted to help ensure our oceans stay clean.”

While service-learning has long been recognized as instrumental in achieving learning goals in the social sciences and humanities, there is a new push to bring it into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Thirteen institutions of higher learning were given grant money in 2010 to help bring the benefits of service-learning into the hard sciences, according to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. Some states have even adopted rules that require service-learning in their science programs.

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