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Service-Learning in an Environmental Engineering Classroom: Examples, Evaluation, and Recommendations

Chapter 14: Service-Learning in an Environmental Engineering Classroom: Examples, Evaluation, and Recommendations

Tara Kulkarni, University of Vermont and Kimberly ColemanUniversity of Vermont

Engineering classrooms have started to create active learning spaces by offering students opportunities to engage and learn outside the classroom. Group projects, project-based learning, internships, learning communities, active and cooperative learning as well as service learning are being introduced as pedagogical tools in many educational institutions. Many models exist for implementing such tools; however, most of these examples take place at large and/or well-funded institutions. This chapter examines one framework for implementing service learning in an environmental engineering classroom at a small collegiate institution. The primary objectives of using the service-learning pedagogy were to deepen learning about classroom concepts and have students apply these concepts in design and/or research and presentations to address a community need. The examples provided here focus on bringing the engineering lessons into K–12 classrooms. The chapter outlines the structure of the course, describes the service-learning projects, presents outputs, and describes our assessment methods. Results show that although service learning proved challenging for students, it also provided an opportunity for them to work on important skills, namely communication and leadership. Finally, we make recommendations based on lessons learned for educators in all disciplines seeking to advance civic engagement learning goals through service-learning pedagogy.

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About the Authors

Tara Kulkarni is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Construction Management and the director of the Center for Global Resilience and Security at University of Vermont. Her research interests are in green infrastructure, sustainable water resources management, and building community resilience through engineering innovation.  She has used grants through NSF’s EPSCoR program and from the US Environmental Protection Agency to research, design, and model green stormwater infrastructure and innovative treatment of nutrients in stormwater and agricultural runoff. She is also heavily involved in K–12 STEM outreach and community engagement. Kulkarni’s terminal degree is from Florida State University. Her previous professional experience is in state government and management consulting.

Kim Coleman is a postdoctoral associate at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.  She is broadly trained in the study of human dimensions of natural resources with particular interest in the intersection of civic engagement and natural resources.  Her research ranges from examinations of community involvement in public land management to evaluations of environmentally-focused service-learning.  She holds a MS in natural resources and a BS in environmental studies, both from the University of Vermont, and a PhD in forest resources and environmental conservation from Virginia Tech.

Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association / pp: 195-208