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The Traditional Classroom, the Online Classroom and the Service Learning Classroom March 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 2:12 pm
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As the needs in communities continue to rise, so seem service learning courses in higher education.  Many universities now offer service learning not just as a portion of a course, but as a credit-bearing course entirely.  It is a valuable learning experience for learners as they are able to take their classroom work and apply it to real life experiences.  They not only take the classroom knowledge, but develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills as they relate to the issue that the community is faced with.  This form of learning is also beneficial to students who in a traditional classroom (whether that be face-to-face or online) faces learning challenges.  Miller points out that it provides an opportunity for all students to experience success providing students the ability to transfer academic concepts into outside world environments; and possibly motivate students who have become disengaged in the learning process.

When designed carefully, service learning has a positive affect on academic achievement.  This form of learning is typically interdisciplinary in its approach.  Experiential learning can lead to greater student achievement when skills and knowledge are integrated into the service learning experience.  This comes about because the opportunities provide students the ability for practical exploration.

Service Learning projects should be collaborative in nature, sustainable when the students complete their work, and build capacity in the communities.  Projects are meant to be developed to include the following:

  • The need the project is addressing
  • Project objectives
  • Contribution to be made by both communities (the school and the community)
  • Management and operational roles
  • Budget
  • Timetable
  • Associated involvement of local government and non-government organizations
  • Method for evaluation

Over 10 years ago, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute began offering students the opportunity to earn credit for service learning.  Our school district was able to reap the benefit of a couple students technology and design work.  Up until the point, the district did not have a website.  With the help of these two students, they met with the Superintendent and Librarian to begin the development of the site.  They worked with teachers and staff in the district to assess the needs for distributing and promoting information through a website; talked about layout and design; established a content criteria; and made the site simple enough to use (at the time) so that once they were finished with the project, someone within the district could easily take over the task of maintaining and sustaining the site.   Careful thought and planning had to go into the project.  It was a valuable experience for the students as they not only developed and created the site, but then provided training for its maintenance.  Upon completion of the project, students each wrote a reflective paper based on their experience.

Miller, K.  (2012)  Creating an Engaging and Relevant ‘Classroom’ that Ignites a Love of Learning:  Inspiring, Practical Social Education through Service Learning.  Teaching and Learning.  Ethos : V0I2O, No 1


Kindness Inspires Kindness March 10, 2013


Every once in a while, you come across an idea that has been shared that has you saying, “Wow!  I have got to do this!”  It can come in the form of a trip, an activity ~ or a day.  A day that inspires you to do things outside of your normal routine or maybe even outside your comfort zone.  Back in the beginning of January, I came across just one of those ideas.  I was reading posts on the Random Acts of Kindness Facebook Foundation page when I came across a blog post from Making Life Whimsical

As I read ~ hook, line and sinker ~ I knew this was something I wanted to do.  I contacted Amy from MLW to ask her if it would be okay to borrow her idea and the name, Kindness Inspires Kindness, because her day inspired me.  I posted on Facebook about wanting to organize and carry out the day, and I ended up with The Giving Crew.  This one shared post from Amy has generated 8 other Kindness Inspires Kindness days in my circle of friends.  Social media does have its pitfalls, for sure; but there are certainly some incredible things about it as well!

We met in January to have a planning meeting to decide what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, and to pick the date.  With a little over 6 weeks, the most amazing day was organized and carried out.  Many people contributed (the Academy Thank You list will follow at the end of the blog).  Facebook posts were shared, and donations of pet food, books, items came.  Last Sunday, we met to sort out and organize all the items for KIK.

And so, without further adieu, I bring you our day ~ Kindness Inspires Kindness in the Capital Region.

(Full gallery of photos on Facebook.)

First stop was Bob’s Diner in Watervliet. Our morning started at 8:30 am for breakfast to get the much needed energy for our day’s events.  I purchased 5 $10 gift certificates to Bob’s to be handed out.  Maddie, Amelia and Melissa handed them out to people we selected.  At first when the certificates were given, the looks on the people’s faces were a little skeptical.  But the skepticism turned into big, appreciative smiles (as well as a few thumbs up after the fact).


Next up was the Unity House/Bethany House in Troy.  We brought care bags to the shelter ~ 19 bags for men, 19 for women and 12 for children.  Beyond the sweet comments of the young woman who greeted us to accept the donations ~ was an incredibly sweet moment when Maddie handed one of the young boys his own care bag.  The smile on his face happens to be one of those that will be burned in my memory of the day.


Men’s Bags:


Women’s Bags:


Children’s Bags:


It’s Laundry Time!  We dropped off a little donation at the Green Island Laundromat – interestingly, even though machines were going, we were the only souls in the place.  Easy to share our kindness and leave!

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Our next stop was to For Your CANvenience.  Many people in the Capital Region may have been seeing posts and fundraising events for a young woman by the name of Kristy Cavanaugh Scalise.  Kristy, is a young woman from Watervliet, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer during her 2nd trimester of her pregnancy.  I saw a posting on FB that For Your CANvenience set up a fund (#DG2498) for people to bring cans and bottles there in her name.  We pooled our cans and bottles and dropped them off as a donation to Kristy.  I can’t remember if any of the Crew actually knows Kristy – but we do know cancer and the exhausting affect it has physically, emotionally and financially.  Every penny helps … or in this case every can and bottle helps.



Just up the road was our next stop, Starbucks to share some Kindness.  We were given a gift card to Starbucks.  We went through the drive through to give the card and watched as the surprised faces were told it’s already been paid for.  The first car pulled up to let us for a quick chat.

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On our way to our next stop we saw two people to share a little kindness with – Mr. Liberty and just a random woman crossing the street.  We gave them a gift certificate to Stewarts for coffee and a lottery ticket – hope they were both winners!

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Next on the agenda was a stop at at the Hudson Mohawk Humane Society.  Here we met some soft and furry new friends who are waiting for someone to make them a part of their family (my personal favorite was Scottie – if my heart didn’t belong to Coco, and if she wasn’t part of our family … Scottie would have been coming home with us).  Aside from food donations, the shelters can always use empty shoe boxes, bleach, newspapers, pillows, towels, blankets, hand sanitizer – check out their needs page or contact them to see what you can contribute.  When you go, you may find yourself a new member of the family!

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Not done yet!  We headed to D7 at Albany Medical Center to the Children’s unit.  This stop included bringing bucket and box loads of books, magazines, coloring books, crayons, reading books, sketch pads, crossword puzzle books, word search books and Sodoku books for patients and their families.  We couldn’t forget the wonderful nurses station who provide care to the patients!  They got a delectable tray of my mother’s home baked cookies (those who have had them know, this is an awesome treat!), along with baked goods from Freihofer, hand lotions, hand sanitizer, candy and chocolate.  A special thanks to Ms. Trawinski, Art Teacher at Blue Creek Elementary for having the kids make cards that we could distribute at Albany Med and at the VA to bring a little get well cheer!

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Time to re-energize ~ we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at the Recovery Room Sports Grill across the street from Albany Med before we were off to our next stop …


The Albany Stratton VA Hospital around the corner.  We walked into the building and weren’t quite sure where to go, and we had not planned on a particular unit or floor to visit.  As we were looking around for a directory, enter Henry into our day.  Henry was a maintenance man at the VA and asked if we needed help.  We told him we just wanted to bring a few things to an area of the hospital and asked him where his favorite floor/unit was.  He directed us to 9C.  When we got in the elevator we saw the directory and it was mentioned to maybe go to the oncology wing … but we decided there was a reason we ran into Henry, and why he sent us to 9C.  9C has an official name, Hero’s Way, appropriate, don’t you think?  Our hearts were a bit overwhelmed, to say the least. We delivered crossword puzzle books, word search books and more cards.  We walked around and delivered them to the veterans sitting in the common room and gave the nurses their goodies as well.

One of the nurses mentioned we needed to goto see Tiny, who was still in his room.  From the appearance, Tiny was a WWII veteran, a gentle giant from the greatest generation.  He literally lit up when all 12 of us walked in, “What are you girls doing here?”  We told him that we just wanted to stop down to see him, say hello and thank him for his service ~ there were hugs, there were some tears ~ including some from Tiny.  We were brought to 9C for a reason.

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We were able to pull our emotions together, to head off to the next stop … the Marjorie Doyle Alzheimer’s Center in Cohoes to play Bingo with the residents.  We had a great time playing bingo (I was able to be the caller with some wonderful help and guidance from Julia.)  Here we brought prizes for the bingo game – plus replenishment of prizes they could use for the future ~ and yes, more nursing station treats!

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Not tired yet ~ Still a few more things on the agenda!  We headed off to Carol’s Pizza in Wynantskill to pick up some of her delicious pizzas.  We delivered the pizzas and some Freihofer treats to the Watervliet Fire Department and the Green Island Fire Department.  A little thank you to the firefighters.

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Thanks to a donation of a Gift Certificate to Red Lobster, we were off to see who was going to be the lucky recipient of the gift card.  As we pulled into the lot, I could see the lucky recipient.  Sandy and Amelia delivered for us.  The woman did not want to accept it ~ but then graciously accepted with smiles.


And a few more notables for the day.  A couple weeks ago we adopted a soldier from the Adopt a US Soldier site.  The soldier we adopted (who is currently serving in Afghanistan) enjoys soccer.  Coincidence???  Not sure … but as my dear friend keeps reminding me, we have no control over these things – it’s all part of something greater.  Our soldier had his care package mailed yesterday, soccer ball, socks, shin guards ~ and a couple treats.  Hopefully, he and others will find their way back to the states soon!


A donation to alma maters ~ because the money is used toward programs and scholarships ~ that aids those who are in need.  SUNY Empire State College and Hudson Valley Community College.


And the addendum to the day happens bright and early this morning (Monday).  My first stop of the morning was to  New York Oncology Hematology Latham Cancer Center to deliver Chemo Care bags for patients, treat trays and a care basket for the nurses and staff.  I should have had reinforcements with me here ~ my heart was heavy going in … and heavier coming out.  The appreciation from the women at the desk who helped me bring everything in was wonderful, but the heart certainly hurts after this stop.  Then I delivered treat trays and baskets to The Hope Club/American Cancer Society and to the Seton Health/St. Mary’s Radiology and ER Departments.   A hug from my wonderful friend Margaret (and part of the Giving Crew) was what I needed to kick start my day into work. 

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It has been debated and said that when one posts what they did, it somewhat defeats the purpose.  As with many things, there are two sides to this view.  I saw the posting from Amy a couple months ago, and it inspired me and others to do this day and others like it.  The results of this day were just too great, not to share.  

Now – the Academy thank you list – those who helped prepare, those who donated – what you did was a part of something that was one of the best days I have ever spent – and was blessed to have spent it with some amazing people!

Thank you to:  My parents, Freihofer/Bimbo Bakeries, Joe, Mark, Joseph, Lynn, Telma, Michelle, Patty, Gloria, Gaylen, Nikki, Mary, Beth, Google, Carol, Ms. Trawinski and students at Blue Creek Elementary ~ and if I missed anyone, I will continue to add.

Stay tuned ~ The Giving Crew and kindness will be coming around again.

The Giving Crew

Anita, Victoria, Adriana, Melissa, Katie, Carol, Margaret, Kim, Jenn, Sandy, Amelia, Kristin and Maddie


What is Service Lerning March 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 7:03 pm
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Service Learning is the same as Community Service, right?  Well, not exactly.  Community Service is helping in the community to fulfill a need or a project.  You go, you help – and if you are lucky, you may walk away with a lesson learned.  Service Learning is a little more in-depth.  It is a method of learning that moves outside the classroom.  One has the ability to investigate needs and issues within a community or organization, use problem solving skills to find ways to solve or aid these needs/issues, apply one’s current experiences and knowledge to carry out the project and take time to reflect on accomplishments.  Also different from community service, service learning requires the learners to reflect on their project.

When involved in Service Learning, individuals find the need, integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection in order to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen our communities.  National Service Learning Clearinghouse. (2013)  Learning is interdisciplinary as it typically includes at least two areas disciplines.  Students have the opportunity to explore learning, use their expertise and past experiences to aid organizations.  It also links coursework with real life experience.  Service Learning enhances critical thinking, provides learners with a better understanding of social issues that exist in their communities/surroundings.  Art-based service learning experiences can create understanding and empathy for individuals of different backgrounds, allow students to examine the boundary between self and others and promote social responsibility.  Boulay & Lynch (2012)

An effective service-learning experience will introduce learners to issues facing a community or organization and prompt them to ask questions, consider the role of service and civic responsibility and reflect on the experience.  They should feel a sense of achievement, but Service Learning is not intended to have students believing they have to solve a problem that the community or organization could not solve on their own.   Only when students appreciate the larger context of the issues that communities face will they understand how they can have a personal role in making change.  Beran & Lubin (2011)


Beran, J. & Luhin, A.  (2011) Shifting Service-Learning From Transactional to Relational Best Practices in Working With Community Partners.  Journal of Jewish Communal Service  (88 – 92)

Boulay, M. & Lynch, K. (2012) Fostering Environmental Stewardship through Creative Expression:  Incorporating Art into Service-Learning.  Interdisciplinary Humanities (102-114)

What is Service Learning.  National Service Learning Clearinghouse.  http://www.servicelearning.org/what-service-learning


An Example of Service Learning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 3:59 pm
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I selected outlining a Service Learning course or components within a course for my course project in Strategies for Adult Learning course, in the Masters in Adult Learning program, I am taking at Empire State College (ESC).  I have always had an interest in community service, and for the longest time thought the two were pretty much the same thing.  I came to realize it was close, but they are not the same.  In 2010, while pursuing my Bachelor’s degree, I took Community and Social Informatics through ESC.  It was a course I accidentally came across while taking Digital Storytelling.  As an avid volunteer in the community, I thought this was a perfect class to take.  Each year, I already participated in my community’s food drive.  My community service was distribute flyers announcing the drive, go door to door to pick up donations, sort items and then deliver baskets at the holidays.  Lesson learned?  More of a heartwarming one than an educational one (not that I would ever underestimate value of community service!).

When I took this course, I had a larger lesson not in the planning, but in what the needs actually were … and it was staggering.  I conducted interviews with the Director of the Northeast Regional Food Bank and the Volunteer Director of the Green Island Food Pantry.  I learned about how to volunteer with the organizations, how they raise funds/where the funds come from, this history of both, and how the contribution of time and money from the community goes a long way in making a difference in a family’s life.  At the Food Bank level was that from 2007 to 2010 the need placed on the bank rose over 24% from 18 million pounds of food to over 24 million pounds of food.  At Green Island’s food pantry, I saw a need to use technology to promote the food drive.  I started a Facebook page, which was used to let people know about and remind them the day of the food drive to put donations out.

I also created a video to promote and encourage others to do their own food drive: