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Service-learning takes classroom to the community

It began as a classroom assignment. It ended up being so much more.

students making balloon animals

College students in a communications class at UW-Fond du Lac were learning how to improve their public speaking skills. A group of local children were meeting at Sacred Heart as part of the Young Dreamers group.

Connecting the two groups resulted in a service-learning experience for the college students and opportunities for mentorship for the younger children.

Professor Kristi Wilkum in the communications department at UW-Fond du Lac feels that both groups of students benefitted from the experience. “The students learned how to put together stronger presentations, respond to feedback and meet with professionals. Teaching about audience is so much richer when the students have the experience of working with an audience that is different from their peers.”

Young Dreamers was formed in the 4-H model to provide programming for children who accompanied their parents to a Bible study group according to Araceli (Shelly) Oswald, 4-H Youth Development Assistant with Fond du Lac County UW Extension. “The group provides learning activities, develops citizenship, leadership and life skills.”

students working on project

Spending time with the UW-Fond du Lac students helped some of the kids think about being a college student someday. “The college students were role models, but they made it fun,” said Oswald. “The students in the Young Dreamers group looked forward to seeing them each time.”

Service-learning is the application of knowledge combined with community service.

“It was cool to teach the kids something and see them have fun,” said UW-Fond du Lac student Chalsey Jenkins.

The experience also helped the college students realize the importance of relating to an audience. “We learned to think about questions you would ask kids vs. adults,” said Jenkins. “And, to think about relating to small children – getting them to pay attention.”

Much more than just a public speaking class exercise, the experience was an opportunity for the Young Dreamers to have positive interactions with caring adults said Oswald.

“Certainly the impact of positive interactions helps the learning stick,” added Wilkum.

Photos: Kristi Wilkum


Laurie Krasin