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Education majors develop real-world teaching skills through service-learning outside the classroom

Service-learning classes offer the education students an opportunity to apply their classroom skills to the real world. 

Mary Knight-McKenna, associate professor of education, was motivated to submit her class for service learning approval through the Kernodle Center Faculty Advisory Committee for Service-Learning because of the “It Takes a Village” project. Elon students are paired with K-12 kids from Alamance County to help improve their basic skills in reading, science, math, and writing.

“I wanted to incorporate service-learning into the ‘Early Childhood Language and Literacy’ class to give my students the chance to apply their knowledge from lectures to the classroom environment,” Knight-McKenna said. 

Mary Knight-McKenna and fellow coordinator, Heidi Hollingsworth, initiated the supplemental program, “Little Village.” Originally, they assessed the younger siblings from the “It Takes a Village” and found that they could start tutoring the pre-elementary students as well.

The purpose of the program is to encourage early language development. “I love seeing the growth of the two to five-year-olds that attend and the interest level and interactivity of families in the program,” Professor Knight-McKenna said. “My students’ development as a future teaching professional is supplemented by this integration of knowledge.”

The younger students learn the importance of creativity and imagination as they role play and build real-life scenes and scenarios, such as playing a doctor, astronaut, or dentist. Service-learning requires more preparation and reflection than just volunteering. It is beneficial to review what is not working in the classroom curriculum and figuring out ways to change it, Knight McKenna said.

The future of service-learning for education majors is likely to expand as families create a dependence on the curriculum and knowledge the Elon students share with the children. Those who were involved in the “Little Village” program will come back and visit the students who helped them develop their skills.

Elon students believe service-learning is “worth every bit of extra time, effort, and dedication because they gain more from it than they first expected. The takeaways are positive and at the end, students walk away saying it was worth it. It brings the curriculum to life,” Knight-McKenna said.

Students with this service-learning experience learn to cope and take things in stride. They progress as teachers and gain patience and self-confidence while learning about human growth and development. It sets them apart from the average student graduating with an Education degree.

For more information about academic service-learning courses at Elon, visit the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement website.

Emily Hill,
12/8/2017 9:35 AM