The quintessential college class might keep students in lectures halls and classrooms, but that is hardly the case for education majors at the Ohio State University at Mansfield. Local undergraduate students are designing their own service learning projects then taking them out of the classroom and impacting the community.
“The students choose their own service learning projects because as future educators, these students need to know how to take control of projects,” said Assistant Professor of Education and Learning at the Ohio State University-Mansfield, Dr. Christian Winterbottom.
Students in Dr. Winterbottom’s Early Childhood Pedagogy course are embarking on service learning projects within the community. Service learning projects are used in a way to connect students with the curriculum of the course, while developing a service project that will assist the needs within a community. The students in Winterbottom’s course choose the project on their own and this year the students decided to focus on literacy.
Winterbottom’s class split into two separate groups. Both groups, however, share the same goal: to help children obtain books in order to develop strong literacy skills.
“I brought Bridget McDaniel and Bob Maxey in to speak with the students because they have great contacts throughout the community. I want the students to choose their own projects. I don’t really have a say in what the project will be because it is very student led. We get together for five or ten minutes at the beginning of every class and they let me know what they are doing with their projects,” said Winterbottom.
“This project helps the students get their names out to the public as young professionals. We want these students to stay here in this community and teach. They also have that connection with the community,” said Winterbottom.
One group in the class is working with Mayor Marilyn John in Shelby. “We have started a book drive to benefit the elementary schools of Shelby. We started the book drive on October 5. We have put bins in different businesses for people to bring in new or used books for donation. We will be doing the book drive until November 24,” said student, Jillian Shuler.
“We will divide the books up between the three elementary schools and donate the books to them to use however they want. That could be by putting them in the library or giving them to students, it is up to them to choose what they wish to do,” said Shuler. Books that can be donated are picture books or short novels, but chapter books are accepted.
The group has been collecting books every Tuesday and the bins are in a number of local businesses throughout Shelby
The group members are assigned certain locations to go to pick up the bins and so far, the project has seen a positive response. “The bins at Cornell’s IGA and Marvin Memorial Library are always full when I go and pick up the bins,” said student, Janna Trittschuh.
“The Shelby Thrift Store is planning on donating a bunch of books and we have a few hundred books that we have received so far,” added student, Heather Snow.
Mayor John shared her thoughts on the service learning project that is taking place in Shelby. “Reading is a passion of mine and I find it encouraging that a college class is performing community work for such a critical subject for our young children. I think it is great to see these young women giving back to their community,” said John.
John helped the students develop contacts, but she wanted the students to develop relationships with business owners on their own. “I helped them get contacts, but I wanted them to take control of this project. I think it is important to get students developing leadership skills within the community. I wanted their ideas to come out and they did tremendously,” said John.
“Mayor John has been wonderful to work with. She provided us with so many contacts,” said Shuler. John also helped the students receive a table at the Farmer’s Market to help them get the awareness of the project to the public. “We will end the book drive at the Festival of Lights. We are hoping this will help kids be able to have books and we want to help the libraries as much as we can,” said Shuler.
The second group has collaborated with United Way. “We decided that we wanted to do a book drive. We got in contact with United Way because they do The Big Red Bookshelf Project and that is where there are three big red book shelves around Richland County. Right now they are working on trying to put more shelves out there in the public. Books are put on the shelves and families that are in need of books are encouraged to take them. We decided that we were going to collect books for that project,” said student, Nella Blackford.
The students have set up red bins in seven locations around the OSU-M campus. “In addition to the red bins, we made red boxes to be placed in Discovery School. Several of us have student taught at Discovery and we thought it would be a good idea to implement it into that school,” said Blackford. Discovery School holds six red boxes and one collective bin in the main office. The collective bin can be used for donations from parents, staff, and students.
“We call ourselves “The Book Bunch” and we have a Facebook page. We have collected at least 100 books. We also had a donor, Kathy Blackford; donate $25 towards our book drive. We will use that money to purchase books,” said Blackford. “The Book Bunch” has a budget of $250 and the amount that is remaining at the end of the book drive will go towards purchasing books.
April Hedrick of United Way has been helpful for the “The Book Bunch”. “April Hedrick is in charge of The Big Red Bookshelf Project and she has provided us with all of the information that we need. She has given us the red bins and she has been very involved with us. She shares our progress with her committee. She has been a tremendous help,” said Blackford.
“The Book Bunch” is hoping to impact the community by working with United Way. “We are hoping to be able to provide more books so they can build more book shelves for the project,” said student, Kim Agler. The book shelves are located throughout Richland County.
“We are collecting any books that are new or gently used. We have a wide variety of books that have been donated,” said Agler. The book drive will end on November 22.