University of Utah
Special Education 500
"Service Project for At Risk Kids"
Marshall Welch, PhD
Fall, 1995

Required Text: Edelman, M.W. (1993). _The measure of our success: A letter to my children and yours._ New York: Harper Collins.

Course Description/Overview

The service learning course is designed for non-education majors. The course will employ an ecological approach of exploring the needs of children and youth at-risk so students will gain a perspective from various disciplines (economic, sociological, health, educational, political). Students will gain insights regarding their role as citizens and professionals in meeting the needs of children and youth. The course will also explore implications of serving children and youth at-risk for society-at-large. The foundation of the course will be service projects working directly with children and youth considered to be at-risk in various community agencies for a minimum of two clock hours a week. The course will also consist of weekly class sessions to discuss various ecological perspectives, including presentations by guest speakers. Class discussions will also include a dialogue of students' personal experiences from their service projects.

Operational Definition of "At-risk"

At-risk is operationally defined as:

... any child or youth who, due to disabling, cultural, economic, or medical conditions, is (a) denied or has minimum equal opportunities and resources in a variety of settings and (b) is in jeopardy of failing to become a meaningful member of his or her community including home, school, business, and society" (Welch & Sheridan, 1995, p. 31).

Course Objectives

The over-arching goal of this course is to provide opportunities for university students that will allow them broaden their personal perspective and experience regarding what it means to be a meaningful member of his or her community. Community membership is a reciprocal process and relationship. Within this context, activities have been designed so students gain greater insights about others, and perhaps more importantly, themselves.

The course has been designed to meet the following specific objectives:

1 . Students will list and describe various factors that may make children and youth at-risk.
2. Students will list and describe various characteristics of children and youth at-risk.

3.       Students will provide a service to children and youth  at-risk.
4.       Students will reflect upon their experiences to gain a

greater understanding of their role in meeting the needs of children and youth at-risk.

Tentative Course Outline

Each class session will consist of a presentation and reflective discussion.

Session #1 - Introduction: What Do We Mean When We Say At-Risk?

         Letter Writing To Yourself
         Site/Project Selection & Assignments

Session #2 - Topic: Disabilities

         In-class simulation activities
         Out-of-class simulation activities

Session #3 - Perspective: Economic

Session #4 - Topic: Poverty

         Journal Submission/Review
         Out-of-class simulation activities

Session #5 - Perspective: Medical

Session #6 - Topic: Cultural/Ethnic/Linguistic Differences

Session #7 - Perspective: Political

Session #8 - Perspective: Social

Journal Submission/Review

Session #9 - Steps For Tomorrow: What Can We Do As Individuals?

Re-read Letters To Self

Session #10 - Summary Discussions:

         How Will/Has This Experience Make An Impact on YOU As a

         Final Report Due

         End-term Exam

Out-of-class simulation activities - Students will be asked to devote at least one full day to experience a simulated condition. One condition involves a simulated disability (walking on crutches, using a wheelchair, wearing a blind-fold, immobilizing the dominate hand, etc). Another condition will be voluntarily refraining from eating, use of money, personal transportation, etc. to simulate impoverished conditions.

Student Assessment

Pre/Post Course Exam - A brief pre and post course exam will assess students' knowledge of basic terminology and concepts related to an ecological perspective of the at-risk population and related issues. The exam items will consist of multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank formats.

Journal Entries - Students are required to maintain a journal to record their experiences and feelings throughout the project. These entries can be used by the student as the final report is developed (see below). Students will also be expected to respond in their journals to a series of brief written passages from the course text. Responses to the text passages are intended to stimulate reflection and synthesize/apply ideas to each student's own project experience. Journals will be submitted and reviewed twice during the course. The review is not an evaluation procedure. Instead, the review is designed to promote a dialogue between student and instructor.

Class Participation - Students are expected to engage in course activities such as simulations and reflection dialogue. Student interaction and participation are viewed as a critically important element to the learning and reflection process.

Final Report - Students will complete and submit a final written report of their experience. The final report must address each of the following components:

  1. What did you learn about children and youth at-risk? Additionally, address your initial thoughts, ideas, concerns that were recorded during the first class session. Indicate to what extent have those comments changed (if at all).
  2. What did you learn about yourself, both in personal and professional terms?
  3. What did you learn about the reciprocal relationship between society and children/youth atrisk?

    Include any theoretical perspectives in your discussion.

  4. What can/will you do later in your personal and/or professional life differently that was a direct result of this experience?

Each of the four sections of final written report will be assessed using the following 5 point criteria:

5 = These responses fully address all components and present a thorough exploration of the topic. They show depth and complexity of thought and focused and coherent organization. The ideas are expressed with superior clarity, and precision.

4 = The essay responses address all components and present a substantial treatment of the topic, although they are not as coherent or as effectively organized as the 5-level papers. These essays show some depth of thought and coherent organization. The ideas are expressed with clarity and precision.

3 = These essay responses address all components but present only a moderate treatment of the topic. Like the 4-level papers, they show clarity of thought, but may lack complexity. The essays demonstrate coherent organization although some digressions may be evident. The ideas are generally expressed with clarity and precision.

2 = These essay responses may neglect or distort one or more of the components or present only a minimal treatment of the topic. They may show some clarity of thought but may be simplistic. Problems in organization may be evident. The essay demonstrates a basic fluency, but the language does not effectively communicate the writer's ideas.

1 = These essay responses seriously neglect or distort one or more of the report components. They demonstrate problems with organization and analysis of the topic. They may contain recurrent mechanical errors resulting in language that is occasionally difficuft to follow.

0 = These essay responses demonstrate marked problems with organization and mechanics that make the language very difficuft to follow. Alternatively, the essays may entirely fall to address the topic.

Criteria for Designation of Service Learning Course

  1. NEEDED SERVICE: Through coordination with the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center (Guadalupe School Partnership, Head Start, Youth Mentoring Project) and various school districts, students Will select a service project site where they will interact with a child/youth considered to be atrisk. Specific service projects may include: tutoring, mentoring, and recreation.
  2. SERVICE-SUBJECT MATTER RELATIONSHIP: Students will gain first-hand experience and insight of the needs of children and youth considered to be at-risk due to economic, disabling, cultural/linguistic/ethnic conditions. An ecological approach using various disciplines will provide students various perspectives of at-risk issues for children/youth and society-at-large.
  3. REFLECTION COMPONENT: Students will be required to maintain a journal and write a final report that will be submitted to the instructor and the sponsoring agency. Class sessions will include dialogue and reflection sessions for students to discuss their experiences and newly acquired insights.
  4. ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES: A pre and post course exam will be administered to assess student growth. The post-course exam will be worth 20% of the final grade. The final report will be worth 40% of the final grade. Journals will be submitted twice a quarter. Journal entries will document volunteer service activities as well as respond to assigned passages from the required textbook. The response to textbook passages will include a synthesis/application to students' own experiences from their volunteer activities. Maintaining journal entries will be worth 10% of the final grade. Participation in class activities/discussions will be worth 30% of the final grade.
  5. SERVICE RECIPIENTS' EVALUATION: Representatives from cooperating/sponsoring agencies will be asked to provide a ~bi-weekly report of students' activities. Children/youth will be asked to provide either a brief written or oral summation of their experience with the university student.
  6. DEVELOPMENT OF CIVIC EDUCATION: Journal entries will include a passage in which students reflect on their experiences from the various disciplines used to examine various at-risk issues. This reflection will include a personal perspective as well as application to society-at-large and/or how the experience will apply to their career in the future. The final report will include a philosophical position statement regarding the role of society-at-large in serving students at-risk.
  7. MULTI-DISCIPLINARY KNOWLEDGE BASE: Guest speakers from various agencies/disciplines will provide perspectives of issues related to the needs of children/youth at risk at to society-at-large.
  8. STUDENTS' INTERACTIVE LEARNING: Students will engage in large group discussion/dialogue of the experiences. Students' will also be paired-up with another student to maintain on-going discussion of their experiences.
                                        Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 11:03:48 MST
                                        From: Renee Buchanan <>