Citizen Scholarship

I’ve become involved this semester with Virginia Tech’s Citizen Scholar Program.  It’s a wonderful program with the goal of “encouraging graduate students to create a mutually beneficial partnership with the community by utilizing their research and academic skills to solve real-world problems”.

In short, it’s an outlet for students to take what they are learning in their extensive research and education and to apply it to the local community in a way that benefits everyone involved.

Thusfar, I’ve had a very positive experience with the program and its accompanying class.  It’s given me wonderful ideas and a great deal of motivation to go through with them.

Currently I am in the process of working with local preschools and daycares in an effort to help children with their executive function.

In the future, though, I’d also like to include an element of citizen scholarship/engagement in my teaching.  For example, I see a Developmental Psychology course as a prime opportunity to engage students with local nursing homes and daycares.  I fully believe that such opportunities would not only benefit the community, but would also benefit students by allowing them to think critically about what they learn as they apply their knowledge to the benefit of others.

I’ve also heard of professors setting aside $500 and asking their Developmental students to spend this money on age-appropriate toys for children.  Students write and have class discussions regarding why the toys are appropriate for various age groups, thus reinforcing course concepts in an applied setting.  Then toys are to be donated to local charities to be given to children in need.

I’m excited about setting this plan into action, and I’m curious about how I might be able to work similar ideas into other courses.

So, Blogosphere, how do you get your students engaged in citizen scholarship projects?  How do you get the projects off the ground?  With what types of projects have you had the most success?

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