Service learning an important part of social psychology

by Kelly Drobac

Sal Myers gave her students a choice: do a service learning project for two hours a week or read the newspaper for two hours a week.

Most of the students chose the service learning.

“You’re not just learning about it, you’re experiencing it,” sophomore Kim Opatz said.

Opatz, a student in Myers’ social pyschology class, does her service learning at Good Samaritan in Indianola.

“I come at a time they do activities,” Opatz said. “We play games and make crafts. It’s sometimes good to just talk with people and find out more about them.”

Myers said the community service helps her students learn in two ways.

“The goals of service learning are to help [students] learn more about psychology,” Myers said. “A second thing is that they learn more about service in general. They learn more about the world they live in and the people they encounter.”

Students have to reflect on their experiences in a journal that is submitted online to Myers weekly.

“Stereotypes and prejudices are something we talk about in social psychology,” Myers said. “Some students experience these feelings with their service learning.”

Myers comments in the student’s journals after submission. She also uses the journals as a way to help students learn through their experiences.

“One student was really feeling uncomfortable about [the] service learning project,” Myers said. “I just had to get [the student] to think about those stereotypes, why [the student] had them and then simply reflect on them.”

Most students see the project as a positive experience.

“A number of students wrote in their journals they had a much better experience then they anticipated,” Myers said. “They want to continue to engage more in the service for that place. The service will then turn into volunteering.”

Sophomore Katie Peterson goes to The Village, a retirement community in Indianola to complete her service learning.

“I like it when I can actually sit down and talk to them,” Peterson said.

Service learning has been going on at Simpson in different classes for a long time.

The Lilly Initiative, a program at Simpson thet encourages volunteer work, helped Myers set up places where her students could complete their service learning.