Michigan 4-H grant enhances service learning and environmental education

Service Learning is reflected through community service, instruction and reflection with the help of a Michigan 4-H grant in a Muskegon school.

Through Michigan 4-H, the Muskegon County branch of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension partnered with Oakridge Alternative High School to develop and implement a service learning program for the teens who attend the school. Known for engaging in service learning activities, the Muskegon, Mich. school has an afterschool program called “Oakridge Service Learning.”

A Dow Chemical 4-H Youth Conservation grant was awarded to Oakridge Service Learning through the Michigan 4-H Foundation; the funds from this grant helped enhance learning and community service activities for their program.

According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse,service learning is defined as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.” Teachers, youth educators and other youth development professionals use service learning to help students learn and meet different educational goals.

There are key words in the service-learning definition that reflect the project at Oakridge Alternative High School: community service, instruction and reflection.

Community service
Oakridge Service Learning used the funds from this grant to create a bird and butterfly habitat at their local school for their community service project. This was a process that involved the service learning coach/teacher, the students and a faculty member from the Muskegon Conservation District.

Instruction
Instruction was integrated in the service project from a syllabus that was created for classroom instruction at Oakridge Alternative High School. There was a presentation from the faculty member at the Muskegon Conservation District for the students to learn about the different conservation issues affecting their area. The students selected issues and made the decision to build the bird and butterfly habitat.

To assist them with their project, the faculty member also provided a curriculum as a resource “Earth Partnership for Schools” from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students constructed the habitat as a lasagna style garden. Students used teamwork and the lessons they learned from school in math and science to carry out this project.

Reflection
To enrich the learning experience, at its conclusion, students were asked to write a reflective essay as part of their final exam. Students also made their own bird, butterfly and plant sketchbooks, and a scale map of the garden.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development offers different types of resources to help increase learning opportunities for schools and communities. In this case, the Dow Chemical 4-H Youth Conservation Grant helped enrich a service learning experience for a school.

For more information on Oakridge Service Learning, visit their Tumblr blog roll. For more information on grants from the Michigan 4-H Foundation and the Dow Chemical 4-H Youth Conservation Grant, visit the Michigan 4-H Foundation website.

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