By including service learning in his curriculum, an Ohio State Mansfield professor has created some unique local opportunities for his students.
Christian Winterbottom, assistant professor of Education (Teaching and Learning), received a grant from the Ohio State Service Learning Initiative last year to restructure a class in early childhood pedagogy to collaborate with local agencies. The idea was to teach Education students to incorporate service learning components into their curriculum. Students collaborated with the Richland County Development Group and United Way to identify potential community partners.
Ohio State Mansfield students paired up and completed several projects at area schools, including coordinating a clean-up day of a river near Lexington’s Eastern Elementary School.
“They were designing a science-themed module collecting fish and wildlife in the river, when they realized it was full of tires and cans and bottles,” Winterbottom said. “They pulled a lot of trash out of the river. It was a huge success.”
Some students partnered with the United Way Big Red Bookshelf project. In conducting research for the project, they found that some children in Richland County didn’t have access to books. They put bins around the Mansfield campus and in the community to collect books. They constructed a red bookshelf to give to United Way to house the books.
“They received so many books, just thousands of books,” Winterbottom said.
Another group partnered with Shelby Mayor Marilyn John on a similar project and donated the books to elementary schools.
At Madison, one group focused on collecting canned food to be distributed for Thanksgiving.
“A lot of children in that area are underprivileged, so it was interesting to see them give back something to other children who are also in a similar position,” Winterbottom said.
Another group at Lexington wrote letters to troops in Afghanistan.
“It is hard to get middle school students to write, in general, but when it’s something that’s really important to them, they write pages and pages,” he said. “And they write about things that are personal to them that you wouldn’t normally get to see.”
Winterbottom will teach a pure service learning class this fall, open to all students, where students learn to plan and implement a service learning project themselves.
“I’m really looking forward to starting that on this campus,” he said.