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Oct 5, 2004

Service-Learning Database

A new online database will make service-learning opportunities even more accessible to the Calvin College students who participate in them.

The database, which is funded by a $1,750 Venture Grant from Michigan Campus Compact, will list the between 200 and 300 organizations (social service agencies, schools, clinics, churches and other non-profits) where Calvin students already serve and learn.

"It will make it easier for them to connect with service opportunities that fit who they are and what they want to do," says Jeff Bouman (above), director of Calvin's Service-Learning Center.

The grant will pay for student workers to create the database, which will be accessible through KnightVision, Calvin's online community. The online resource will be available to Calvin's students, faculty and staff and alumni.

The idea for the database grew out of a Campus Compact training session where students mapped Calvin's service-learning resources. Calvin graduate Greg Veltman, who was Bouman's research coordinator last year, helped write the grant to put Calvin's service learning online.

"It's characteristic of the kind of thing service-learning engenders in students," says Bouman. "Initiative, civic participation and thinking beyond themselves."

Calvin's longstanding tradition of service-learning includes such annual events as StreetFest, which annually puts 900-1,000 first-year students to work stocking food pantries, painting, cleaning alleys and serving in variety of other ways in the Grand Rapids area. Calvin students also tutor, serve as Big Brothers and Big Sisters and perform stream cleanup, among other service activities. Calvin even offers several service-learning spring break trips, through which students may serve on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico or work at a home for at-risk girls in Tennessee.

Calvin is especially impressive in the area of academically based service learning - incorporating service learning into the classroom. The college's nursing students perform blood pressure and blood sugar screenings, do inoculations and teach nutrition at local clinics and neighborhoods. Education students serve as reading buddies and tutors in area schools. And the list goes on.

"Almost every department has at some time incorporated academically based service learning," Bouman says. "Philosophy, economics English- you name it. There isn't a discipline where it doesn't apply."

In fact, Calvin students are more likely to participate in academically based service-learning than students at private, four-year colleges nationwide. A recent survey of graduating seniors showed that 79 percent of Calvin students had taken one or more courses that incorporated community service and service-learning, compared with 51 percent of those at peer institutions.

~words by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)