For me, the activity that The Living Lab Fellows participated in with volunteers of the Bay Improvement Group (BIG) in Sheepshead Bay on March 15, 2013 created a long lasting impact on my experience and understanding of the people who live on the water front of New York City and on creating an academic service learning project.
Like many of us, I too survived the direct impact of Sandy. Living in a waterfront community myself that will be forever changed but was thankfully not devastated, many memories were brought to life again on this day. I, like so many people in the rest of the City, have move on to other poignant issues ranging from gun control to soda consumption, However, this day reminded me that our attention must remain with rebuilding what makes our diverse city so appealing to so many people from around the world.
Surveying members of the the community provided significant importance to the experience of the community and how we as faculty members can help support communities in need with the added benefit of supporting our course learning objectives as well. Our students are too at a point in their lives that service can help develop a meaning of importance and empathy to those around us and help build greater purpose in what we have to offer our communities.
What I learned about academic service learning on this day and through the process of planning the activity was that the needs of the community must come first and that there must be well defined learning objectives and communication with all the people involved in the project. It also became important to me to make sure that even if there is a long term goal set for the project that immediate action can make a huge impact as well. May it be
that food is donated to a local food bank or that local businesses are patronized. The immediate “give back” helps in as many ways as the long term project will.