Health Sciences students encourage healthy living in Port Coquitlam schoolchildren through service learning
On 2 December, students in “Community and Health Service” and teaching staff at Central Community Elementary School in Port Coquitlam celebrated the end of the first service learning course offered in the Faculty of Health Sciences with a party and poster session. Professor Kitty Corbett and Principal Nadine Tambellini opened the event by thanking the eighteen students and school staff for their efforts and reflecting on the positive impact that the SFU students have had on the school. Tambellini stressed the positive impact that the students have had at Central both through their volunteer work and as role models for children at the school.
The students volunteered for 32 hours during their semester at Central. Most worked in the classroom directly with children and organized learning activities designed to answer a question related to health education and promotion and keep young students engaged. Students’ project topics included:
- promoting nutrition by introducing unusual or exotic fruit and vegetables
- practicing basic first aid and safety skills
- helping children to answer questions about health and wellness
- developing literacy through peer tutoring
- using a therapy dog to encourage children to practice reading
- promoting mental health through mindfulness training
These examples demonstrate the range of creative projects that individual students undertook to experiment with health promotion topics outside of the classroom. Watch the videos below to hear more from the students, Professor Kitty Corbett, and Principal Nadine Tambellini about the course.
Watch Principal Nadine Tambellini, SFU students, and Professor Kitty Corbett talk about what they have learned:
Watch SFU students describe the benefits of learning through volunteering:
Watch SFU students offer advice to future students taking the course:
Benefits of the service learning experience
As these videos demonstrate, the course was a rewarding and productive experience for all the project partners.
Central Elementary was able to:
- bring the community into the school
- promote health and wellness in classes ranging from kindergarten to grade five
- offer children positive educational role models who reinforce the value of higher education
- offer marginalized and struggling students opportunities to practice skills and to experience success
The health sciences students were able to:
- take their energy and knowledge into a real world setting and make a difference in the lives of others
- become more competent as citizens
- better understand what Health Sciences concepts like public health,’ ‘healthy communities,’ and ‘community-based health promotion’ look like on the ground
- tailor their work in the course to their own interests
- practice being agents of change at the local level
- explore next steps in their lives and their education regarding professional opportunities, leadership, and citizen engagement
- learn from the professionalism and enthusiasm of the school’s teachers
As the instructor, Kitty Corbett was able to:
- work with incredibly positive, energetic staff and stimulating children at Central Elementary
- participate in the students’ learning in a very direct, meaningful, and personal way
- undertake considerable creative thinking around problem-solving
- explore alternative teaching approaches, such as sharing reflective observations and preparing a PhotoVoice project
- learn from the students’ creative work
- witness the weekly growth of the students out in the community
Seven suggestions for planning a Service Learning course
If you are planning a service learning course, Kitty Corbett offers the following suggestions for designing positive and powerful experience for yourself and your students:
- Keep the class small. We had 18 students.
- Collaborate fully and equally with a partner in the community. We partnered with Central Elementary, and, in practice, I worked very closely with the Principal Nadine Tambellini and the teachers. The phenomenal success of the course was in large part due to Nadine’s inspiring leadership.
- Require that the students design useful service activities. If the students’ work is responsive to and useful for specific persons and projects in the organization, the arrangement will be a win-win.
- Work in one location. Rather than having the students spread out all over Metro Vancouver in different organizations, I decided to work in one school. That turned out to be a good decision because the students formed a cohesive group, committed to the course, and worked together. As the instructor, I clearly understood the setting where the students were working and could advise them appropriately.
- Build in plenty of opportunities for students to reflect. We met once a week in class, with about half the sessions held at the school sitting in little chairs in the library. During these sessions the students spent time reflecting on particular experiences, academic themes, and specific course topics.
- Select readings carefully. Have required readings that are unusually interesting or personal, that will inspire vision and greater involvement, and that address key relevant concepts. I assigned readings for fewer than half the class sessions. I knew the students were already putting in lots of hours at the school, so I was very careful about what I required them to read and write about.
- Celebrate the students’ learning and create products that the community partner can use. Conclude with a community event that is designed to celebrate the students’ learning and the partnership in the community. We structured the final assignment – preparation and presentation of a poster – so that it would be useful to the teachers, parents, and elementary school students.
Central Community Elementary School Health Blog (Conceived by Blake Stitilis, a student in the course)
Nadine Tambellini email@example.com | 604-941-0355