Engaging History through Service: Approaches to Learning beyond the Undergraduate Classroom
Extra-classroom service-learning experiences are a standard component of many fields of study (social work, engineering, psychology, etc.). While not yet the norm for history, service-learning offers an exciting and emerging way to increase learning and to bridge the apparent gap between classroom and “real world.” This session offers reflections on a variety of approaches for incorporating service-learning with historical study. It explores the value of such experiential work and addresses the impact on both academic and personal development for undergraduate students. One approach presented here is founded in a course required for all history majors at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth which assigns 15 hours of community service work. Another model is in a core general education course at Gwynedd-Mercy College which connects students with senior citizens and uses this direct human engagement to develop historical understanding and analysis. A third approach is a University of California, San Diego service project abroad conducted over spring break which is preceded by a required 2-credit preparatory course and followed by a 2- credit research course. The last approach grew out of a non-academic service project and was designed to bolster the experience for students by adding an academic dimension to the service experience.