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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
812-856-8027

Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Students bag service learning experience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 22, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- For the third consecutive year, a group of students from the Indiana University School of Education have prepared bags of books and games to send to an elementary school in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica bags

IU students in the School of Education decorate canvas bags to match the theme of the books placed inside. The bags will be shipped to an elementary school in Costa Rica.

Print-Quality Photo

Students in an elementary social studies course decorated 24 canvas bags with paint pens and sewn-on materials to match the theme of the books placed inside. The IU students also designed activities to go with the books. The School of Education will ship the bags in the next two weeks.

"We talk about service learning, we talk about community service projects, and this is a chance for them to actually experience a service learning project," said Leana McClain, senior clinical lecturer in curriculum and instruction and language education. The bags go to a school in Atenas, Costa Rica, a rural community located in the middle of the country. The IU School of Education places student teachers in the school as a part of the "Cultural Immersions" project.

While Costa Rica is relatively well-off economically compared to other Central American countries, the Atenas school struggles to supply students with books.

"I had the opportunity to visit this school about two years ago, and what struck me as I was in the classrooms and walking around -- I didn't see any children's books," McClain said. "When I asked about the library, I was shown two shelves that were pretty empty of books. That was the children's library."

McClain developed the idea of book and game bags with the school director. Children check out the bags and can take them home from school, then bring them back and check out others. McClain showed her students photos of children enjoying the bags from the two previous projects as inspiration for the latest effort.

"Just being able to see that helps make it more real," said senior Adam Ahlfeld. "Just to see the looks on their faces, just to see them enjoying and just kind of looking forward to reading, because that's what the ultimate objective would be -- to make kids want to read. Knowing that we're helping in making it fun and enjoyable, something they can look forward to, is definitely gratifying."

The activities the students designed are intended to assist in literacy for two languages.

"There are going to be instructions for the games on the inside that are going to be in English and Spanish, so that kids can help learn their English as well as read the book in Spanish," said IU senior Ann Pechnyo.

Costa Rica kids

Children at an elementary school in Costa Rica will receive bags of books and games from the IU School of Education.

Aside from helping the Costa Rican elementary students, McClain hopes that this international outreach will help these future teachers in efforts to assist in their own schools.

"They will find some place or some organization where there is a need, and they could do a project like this with their own students," she said. "Hopefully we're modeling what they're going to be doing when they're teachers in their own classrooms."

Media outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

McClain says the project is a way to bring a real example of outreach projects to her students:

"We talk about service learning, we talk about community service projects, and this is a chance for them to actually experience a service learning project. Service meaning they're doing a service for a particular organization that needs something, and the learning part comes in, they are learning to create activities to go with children's books and create book bags that children may take home with them."

McClain describes the need in the Costa Rican School:

"I had the opportunity of visiting this school about two years ago, and what struck me as I was in the classrooms and walking around -- I didn't see any children's books. And when I asked about the library, I was shown two shelves that were pretty empty of books, and that was the children's library. So I talked to the director and said we would like to do some type of service for the school, and we came up with this idea of having children's books in bags that the children could take back and forth from school to home."

Besides helping the Costa Rican school, McClain hopes students will have a better idea of how to help their future students:

"Hopefully this model is something that they will do in their own schools. They will find some place or some organization where there is a need, and they could do a project like this with their own students. And like I said, hopefully we're modeling what they're going to be doing when they're teachers in their own classrooms."

Senior education student Adam Ahlfeld speaks about the meaning of working on the project:

"We know where the books and the bags are going, but Leana showed us some pictures of the kids from previous projects opening up their bags and looking at their books. Just being able to see that helps make it more real, just to see the looks on their faces, just to see them enjoying and just kind of looking forward to reading, because that's what the ultimate objective would be, is to make kids want to read. Knowing that we're helping in making it fun and enjoyable, something they can look forward to, is definitely gratifying."

Senior education student Ann Pechnyo describes how the bags will help student literacy:

"There are going to be instructions for the games on the inside that are going to be in English and Spanish, so that kids can help learn their English as well as read the book in Spanish."