During the spring semester, a Waynesburg University education student designed and implemented a hands-on, educational program for a local preschool class as a service project, providing students with an out-of-the-box learning experience.
Abigail Standley, sophomore early childhood education major from Gahanna, Ohio, combined a former graduate student’s memorial and the support of the Department of Education to create a sustainable program for children in the Community Action Southwest preschool program at Jefferson-Morgan Elementary School.
Standley designed and presented a supplemental gardening unit for her preschool classroom, during which the students planted flower seeds and took a field trip to a nearby greenhouse, where they learned about gardening and growing plants.
The project began with a conversation between Standley and Pam Abbe, tutor coordinator and director of the Knox Learning Center at Waynesburg. Abbe’s daughter, Leah Abbe Zwerver, passed away June 14, 2008, after completing graduate studies at the University. Abbe developed a fund in her daughter’s memory with the goal of providing support to Waynesburg University Student Services for one-on-one cultural and environmental experiences between University students and public school students.
Standley decided to honor the goals of this memorial fund with her service learning project at the preschool. She worked closely with Debra Clarke, chair of the Department of Education and assistant professor of education, to develop and carry out the idea. Clarke attests that the process, in addition to working toward an admirable cause, helped Standley grow immensely as a student and servant.
All education majors at the University receive field placements each semester in a local classroom, where they are expected to assist the classroom teacher and complete tasks assigned by the teacher.
“The project was intended to provide a special experience for the children at the field placement and to honor the memory of a former Waynesburg University student and local community member,” said Clarke. “Many, many hours of service were dedicated to the project planning and implementation. Standley learned a lot as she worked on the special service project.”
While field placements for sophomore level education students only require 12 weeks of twice a week, two-hour sessions in their assigned classroom, Standley plans to continue her service project for the duration of her time at the University.
“My entire goal of this project for this semester was to start out small and grow big by the time I graduate in 2017,” said Standley. “My ultimate goal is to have this be a permanent service project on campus in which all University students can participate. This would consist of University students going into local school districts to give them out-of-the-box opportunities within their educational experience.”
According to Clarke, Standley has exemplified the goals of the Department of Education, which aims to reflect the University’s mission of faith, learning and service in all activities.
“The Department of Education’s mission is to prepare teachers who embrace learning and dedicate themselves to service and leadership in the profession,” said Clarke. “Standley certainly embraced learning and developed quality leadership skills as she dedicated her efforts to the service activity."
As Standley continues to strengthen the relationship between the University and local schools, Clarke foresees the benefits of the initiative both for Standley’s future and for the future of the Department of Education.
“Standley learned to persevere, to be flexible, and to be open to the ideas of others. Overall, she acquired numerous planning and preparation skills that she will use as she completes her final two years of study in the Department of Education and prepares to move into her own classroom,” said Clarke. “Her project will serve as a role model for future students as they work to maximize the learning and service opportunities provided through the Department of Education's field experience requirements.”
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Ashley Wise, Senior Writer/Editor
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