What is a 'Service Learning Project' (SLP)?

*This post was written by Susan He, a MT student in the Intermediate/Senior stream.

Remember the 40 hours of community service you had to complete in high school?  Volunteering at soup kitchens, retirement homes, clinics, and youth organizations?  The service learning project is much more than that. You may have completely your high school hours but you did not log the experiences you gained through self-reflection and what it means to you as a student to serve your community. The SLP is an opportunity for teacher candidates to making meaning out of teaching roles outside of the classroom and contribute to the development of “socially responsible global citizens” and 21st century competent students.

Now, I had some trouble grasping what it meant to support students to become “global citizens”. I was wondering, “is my role to integrate concepts of global citizenship (whatever that meant to me at the time) into the student club I would be involved in and hope the students take with them outside of the club?” or “is my role to be an example of a global citizen and teach students the qualities I have that makes me a global citizen?”.  Sitting down with my issues professor, I figured out that I needed to determine my definition of a “socially responsible, global citizen”. That led to documents attempting to define competency…

“Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario”

“Global competency for an inclusive world”

The documents actually helped me understand my role better and how to engage my students. I noticed some parallels between the abilities and competences outlined in the documents similar to a paper I read on the evolving meaning of the term “science literacy” for my MTRP by George DeBoer at the turn of the century titled “Scientific literacy: Another look at its historical and contemporary meanings and its relationship to science education reform”. They all call for students to be able to take what they learn in the classroom and be able to use it in or make contributions to society.

UTS' Brain Bee club

I have selected the Brain Bee club and Dissection Club at UTS as my SLP. These clubs are interesting in that it challenges me as a teacher to be able to work with younger grades that my practicum and teachables class seldom offer. The intermediate/senior stream allow teachers to teach grades 7 to 12, however practicums and teachable classes mostly cover high school grades 9-12. I really wanted the opportunity to teach a diverse age group because that would challenge the way I foster critical thinking, ethical thinking and team-building skills for different developmental stages. Brain Bee is a neuroscience club that offers local, national and international competitions. I foresee the challenge of preparing two different groups of students- a competitive group to go to competitions and a group of non-competition students to enrich their interest and understanding of neuroscience for school with grades from 6-12. The dissection club is a pure interest and hands-on club for students only in grade 7 to 9. It would be an opportunity taking into account cultural perceptions, biases, and other ethical dilemmas while handling specimens.

*Disclaimer: SLP a component only required by the Issues course as part of site-based cohorts. This means not everyone in the MT program has to complete the 20 hours of service learning. As of right now, there is only one Intermediate/Senior and one Primary/Junior site-based cohort in which the students can “give back” to the school through the SLP.