learning" classes combine academics, volunteerism
ADAM URENECK, STAFF WRITER
Erin Giggey, a senior here at Bowdoin, took on a new
project last semester. Having packed up her rubber boots and grungy pants,
she headed with a small group to the New Meadows River.
With proper digging tools and sterile containers, Giggey,
along with her fellow students, collected mud samples from the bottom
of the brackish river. The mud, filled with biological organisms, was
then taken back to a lab and analyzed in order to gauge the health of
Normally, such a complicated geological study would
be reserved for career scientists, but due to small budgets and a lack
of qualified workers, small research organizations have begun to bring
in college students like Erin.
The New Meadows Watershed Steering Committee, the organization
teamed with Giggey's group, wasn't the only benefactor from this partnership.
Bowdoin students, often foreign to Maine and daunted
by its vastness, have little opportunity to interact with its interesting
culture and non-tourist sites. Rarely would an entire class of college
students, be assigned to interact with the community and make a helpful
For seniors such as Giggey, who are majoring in biology,
time in the traditional Bowdoin labs practicing predictable experiments
has become stagnant. When asked what she thought about working on the
New Meadows River, Giggey simply replied, "Refreshing."
Service Learning, the title for this strategy of class
dynamic of involvement, was introduced to Bowdoin this year.
Already in practice at Bates and Colby, service learning
inevitably was brought to Bowdoin by several determined and eager geology
and biology professors.
After rigorous planning and much effort, thirteen partnerships
were created with local scientific research organizations for three geology
classes-Marine Environmental Geology, Intro Environmental Geology, and
Geology Field Methods. Containing 63 students, the three courses were
partnered to such organizations as the Friends of Casco Bay and the Brunswick
Bowdoin wearily took on the idea, skeptical of its overall
effectiveness in teaching students.
Cathryn Fields, the coordinator for the service learning
program, identified the two goals of the program as "community involvement
The American Association for Higher Education released
a book in 1999 entitled "Acting Locally: Concepts and Models for Service
Learning in Environmental Studies" which analyzed service learning.
It commented on the college bubble, not unknown to Bowdoin,
by stating, "Many of these students [involved in service learning] see
no reason to become acquainted with their host communities. Service Learning
can take such students out of their academic shelter."
Another project, The Effects of Tidal Restrictions at
the Eastern Road on Scarborough Marsh, involved eight students who traveled
45 miles south of Brunswick to take peat core samples to determine the
health and makeup of the biologically vital marsh.
Teamed with the Maine Audubon Society, the students
assembled facts to help them plan future strategies for protection of
Elliot Jacobs '04, along with seven other Bowdoin students,
worked on the Juvenile Lobster Substrate Survey to the help the Lobster
Conservancy evaluate habitat.
By gridding a given area and looking for specific lobster
habitat, the student research team also compliled data that could be useful
to the Conservancy.
Jacobs commented on the project by saying, "We never
really concluded anything." Both Giggey and Jacobs light-heartedly referred
to themselves as "brunt laborers."
Once the service learning groups compiled their findings,
they were required to construct an informative poster for their class
and the community.
"They were more impressed than I thought they would
be," said Giggey when asked about the community's reaction to their work.
Another poster session will be held for the public on May 9.
Service learning has continued this semester in Hydrogeology,
Tectonics, Marine Geology, and Aquatic Ecosystems.
The future of the program is undetermined, though. The
success of these two semesters determines the program's continuation and
growth into other departments.
Erin stated, "In my opinion, it is important for service
learning courses to be a part of the liberal arts experience."
new service learning classes incorporate not only classroom study, but
also field work in the Brunswick area. (David Fentin/Bowdoin Orient)