Service Learning in the Biology Curriculum

Nazar, Rami, James Montante, and Mary Tracy-Bee

           Service Learning in the Biology Curriculum


Rami Nazar, James Montante, and Mary Tracy-Bee


University of Detroit Mercy


Detroit, MI, 48221


INTRODUCTION:  Service learning is a form of project based experiential learning that enhances the student’s assimilation and integration of the course material in a way that is not possible in the traditional classroom.  In service learning, the motivation for taking ownership of the project is the act of helping other people. This is particularly relevant to students in health care fields. 


METHODS:  University students presented material from their lecture course to at-risk high and middle school students in the urban environment.  Effectiveness of the program for the client institutions was assessed by pre and post tests and feedback from the instructors and students at those institutions.  Effectiveness of the program for presenters was assessed by comparing exam scores within the class, as well as pre and post reflections.


RESULTS:  Preliminary results indicate that this was a positive experience for everyone involved.  Students presenting their course material gained experience in presentation skills, an appreciation for the difficulties of those living and teaching in the urban environment, and the depth of knowledge that can only come from teaching a subject.  Students in the client institutions were able to see that the material taught in their course was relevant and valued outside of their classroom, that people from different ethnic and social economic groups could work together to accomplish something worthwhile, and that many of the presenters were similar to themselves in age and ethnicity. Together, these lessons make the idea of attending an institution of higher learning a very real and concrete option.


DISCUSSION:  We were pleased to find that the incorporation of this service-learning project was a beneficial experience for almost everyone involved.