During the first year of ILS in 2011, our students made it clear that service is an important component of their lives and something they wanted as a part of their college experience. Therefore, to meet their goals and expectations, ILS made a commitment to develop service-learning opportunities as an integral component of the program. Service-learning allows ILS students to combine academic content, experiential education, and reflection as they work with community partners to advance the mission and objectives of each unique partner. Through the development of a service-learning program, ILS hopes to provide students with the opportunities needed to become life science professionals capable of tackling a variety of local, national, and global challenges.
ILS has been partnering with Terp Farm since fall 2013. Terp Farm is a designated five acre plot of land located on a 200-acre property purchased by the university in the 1940s, which was originally used to produce tobacco for research. Students work with the farm manager and UMD Dining Services to assist with farm chores including scrubbing butternut squash, making compost, harvesting crops such as cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and spaghetti squash, and assisting with the annual Terp Farm Fall Fest. In October 2016, PGCTV reporters traveled to the farm to investigate local farm to table partnerships and spoke with some ILSers in the video to the left. Everything grown at Terp Farm goes to the campus dining halls, and they also make a donation to Campus Pantry, another ILS service partner, with every harvest. Those searching for more information on Terp Farm can view their Facebook page.
Service-learning in ils
First, in the introductory course HLSC 100: Developing Life Scientists for the Global Good, students begin the process of becoming reflective professionals in the Life Sciences. Class dialogue focuses on the numerous resources available to students at UMD as well as three important facets of the life sciences: the social determinants of health, sustainability, and STEM education. The class experience is enhanced by the opportunity for students to work with community partners that strive to meet the needs of the surrounding community.
Each fall semester since 2011, ILS first-year students have worked with a dozen community partners to provide an approximately 800 hours of service. After 5 years, that is about 4,000 of hours of service! Students assisted with a variety of programs including maintaining a food forest, assisting with a mobile food pantry in Washington, DC, and mentoring school children interested in science. These experiences provided students the opportunity to put course content into context as they developed numerous skills related to their specific service experience, fostered friendships with other ILS students, and were inspired by dedicated individuals who are making a difference in their communities everyday.
Second, ILS has developed a spring break immersion experience Terps Helping Turtles. Students spend a week providing service at a sea turtle rehabilitation center in North Carolina where they assist with grounds keeping, bathing, feeding, and medicating turtles, and general cleaning of the turtle facility. During this experience they also learn more about the human factors that are impacting both sea turtles and the coastal areas they use for nesting.
Third, component of the service-learning experience is periodic ILS Service Days where students are encouraged to spend a day working with local community partners. Recent service days included working with participants at KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now), organizing donations at a local food pantry, and serving meals at a soup kitchen in Washington, DC.