Posted on July 5, 2015 by Christopher Thrall

Last year, Augustana students took advantage of unique experiential learning opportunities to produce some very impressive results.

By Cameron Raynor

Augustana students complete an average of 400-500 Community Service-Learning (CSL) projects each year. CSL gives students a chance to make connections between theory and practice, and to engage with the community.

Last year, Augustana students took advantage of unique experiential learning opportunities to produce some very impressive results. Partnering with local farmer Don Ruzicka, one group of students created a music video about the local food movement. Another group of chemistry students created a series of ‘experiments in a box’ that they demonstrated at local elementary schools.

During the winter term, students Daniel Christensen, Colby McFeely and Amy Wright created a music video about the local food movement as a project for instructor Dee Patriquin’s environmental studies class. For these students, the project was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Dan, the drum and bass player, said, “It was a great experience to get out of our comfort zone and learn in a different, more creative way.”

Throughout the project, the students encountered real life examples of the concepts they were studying in class. “We had prior knowledge of environmental issues,” said Colby, who plays guitar in the video. “Then we took what we learned from the video and applied it to class. It gave us a better appreciation and understanding of what was going on in the class.”

Dan adds, “During the latter half of the course, the topics we discussed in class directly applied to our project. Our professor would use the Ruzicka farm as a specific example when we discussed environmental management and sustainability.”

Natalie Marsden (L) and Cole Smith perform an experiment for an elementary school class.

Natalie Marsden (L) and Cole Smith perform an experiment for an elementary school class.

Meanwhile, students Carly Olafson, Cole Smith and Natalie Marsden were hard at work creating science ‘experiments in a box’. “We do a lot of chemistry demonstrations for community groups,” explained their instructor, Dr. Brian Rempel. “I wanted boxes that had everything I needed to do an experiment in them. If I wanted to do a demo, I could grab a box off the shelf and I could run that experiment.” The project was a great opportunity for both the students and Dr. Rempel. “I got these resources made up, and the students received a credit within their academic program for a project they enjoyed.”

Over the course of the term, the students prepared a range of experiments from exploding hydrogen balloons to ‘elephant toothpaste’. “At the beginning it was a lot of research, looking at demonstrations we could use,” said Cole. “We looked at experiments professors had done and experiments that applied to what we learned in first year chemistry. Then we went into the lab to organize and test the experiments to make sure they would work.”

Although never initially planned, the project was so successful that the students were invited to present their experiments to local elementary school classes. “It was awesome, just awesome for everyone,” says Dr. Rempel. “The Grade 2 students had a blast. All of a sudden they were saying things like ‘I want to be a scientist when I grow up’. They had these great ideas, and it was a really positive experience.”

To Dr. Rempel, these projects are a great way for students to develop valuable skills that they will need when they graduate. “The CSL students are walking out with a better way of communicating science to the general public,” he said. “They learned to work in a lab independently, manage their time and find efficient ways of doing things.”

Cole agrees. “A lot of it was applicable to what I’d learned in class and it was nice to be able to work in the lab on a project we’d designed ourselves as opposed to following a procedure from a lab manual,” he said. “I quite enjoyed it; I thought it was a great class.”

CSL is an important part of Augustana’s commitment to experiential learning. It provides opportunities for students to engage with the community of Camrose and gain practical experience related to their studies. For more information about getting involved with CSL as a student, click here. Members of the community with an idea for a CSL project can find more information here.


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