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 Service and Learning

Study in England student volunteers outside the Alan Geale House, the home of the SIE programme.

Study in England Programme:
Students and Service Learning

In fall 2008 UMD Study in England Programme faculty member, Brenda Butterfield, taught two psychology courses: Developmental Psychology and Marriages and Families Worldwide. She not only taught the coursework, she also challenged her students to conduct service learning in their adopted community of Birmingham, England. That volunteer effort had many benefits. It encouraged greater social responsibility among students and helped them make a strong connection with the community.Collectively the students conducted 700 hours of service learning at various sites in Birmingham. Approximately six students will continue with their service learning in spring 2009.

The students did service learning projects at the following locations: South West Birmingham Family Project, Raddlebarn Primary School, Wychall Children and Family Centre, Colmore Infant School, Colmore Junior School, David Gretton Nursery, Oxfam Charity Shops, and Keystone Nursery. They tutored children, worked with the elderly, and volunteered their time doing various activities at the Oxfam charity shops. They also participated in special events at the organizations.

For example, one service learning project supported the development of at-risk children as the students worked in agencies which support children and families. A student, Robbie Denway, worked at the Oxfam Charity Shop in Harborne to learn more about poverty. At another location, the Raddlebarn Primary School, Misti Jewell helped children with their reading.She said her work taught her much about language development and race/ethnicity. A number of students helped put on the Wychall Family Centre “Freaky Friday Fun Day”event on Halloween Day. Students worked on the playground improvement project at Raddlebarn Primary School and students also volunteered to present a Christmas Party at the Yew Tree Nursing Home.

The UMD students considered the endeavor a success. Michelle Skarp, a sophomore criminology major from Big Lake, Minn. said, "There were times when I’d be playing with the children and I'd have to stop to watch what they were doing because it was so relevant to what we were learning." Nicole Cartier, junior, an international studies major from Apple Valley, Minn. said, "It helped me become more comfortable in England by getting me out of my comfort zone. I worked in a place I wouldn't normally go, took a bus further than I would normally take it, and met people I would never had met otherwise."

Butterfield, who established a Reality Psychology Service Learning Program at UMD several years ago, brought the concept with her during her stint as a faculty member in the Study in England Programme. She said, "The goal of the Reality Psychology Service Learning Project both here in Duluth and in Birmingham is to deepen students' academic learning by 'connecting the dots' between their course work and the real world. We want them to be able to transfer what they were learning in class to their service labs and also make a positive difference in the community.

Psychology is a field that lends itself readily to service learning. Both areas are about people. "College students are in a unique position to meet real needs by tutoring, working in preschools and schools, with the elderly, and with at-risk youth," said Butterfield. Through service, students better understand human development, personality, social psychology, motivation, and the ability to learn.

"The students last fall were an amazing group of young people," Butterfield said. "They surpassed my wildest expectations for the project." The student work was noticed by the Birmingham community. A staff member from the Oxfam charity shop said, "Your gifts of time have been greatly appreciated . . . Your contribution has made a real difference in overcoming poverty and suffering." It was high praise, but obviously well deserved.

There are 43 UMD students on the 2008-2009 Study in England Programme. The 2008 director is Greg Fox. The associate director is Amy Emm, Fall 2008 Faculty include: Brenda Butterfield, Psychology and Bilin Tsai, Chemistry/Biochemistry. Spring 2009 Faculty include: Pat Borchert, Management Studies and Tim Larson, Writing Studies.

UMD Study in England Programme

UMD International Education Office Study Abroad Opportunities


Written by Cheryl Reitan

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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