Community Connections

Service-learning and Stewardship

by Michelle Kelly, Aquatic Education Specialist

April 2008

students testing water quality at lake

Students test water quality at a lake by looking for macroinvertabrates.

Service-learning is a form of experiential learning whereby students apply content knowledge, critical thinking and good judgment to address genuine community needs.
-Minnesota Department of Education

One of our important intentions for the creation of Fishing: Get in the Habitat! was that it would be a tool for providing teachers and students with the background and the essential information they need for initiating self-sustaining stewardship projects and programs in their communities. An effective way of doing this is by leading teachers and students to engage in service-learning projects on completion of a set or a unit of lessons. To this end, we‘ve included in the back of the guide, a Service-learning Appendix. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at it, yet, we invite you to check it out!

The service-learning appendix section includes useful information, such as a description of what service-learning is, and what it is not, a list of resources for guiding and supporting service-learning efforts, and various service-learning project ideas specifically related to the content of the lessons from Chapters 3-6. These service-learning project ideas are intended to provide students with meaningful, real-world opportunities for taking action, getting involved, and applying the skills and knowledge acquired from Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons.

Through service-learning, students can develop decision-making skills and citizenship skills as they plan, design, and carry out stewardship projects and programs in their communities. They will come to understand through integrative hands-on learning how to apply their knowledge about aquatic habitats and Minnesota fish, about water stewardship, about fisheries management, and, lastly, about fishing so as to then be able to identify and address real problems and/or issues in their local environments and communities.

The lessons from Fishing: Get in the Habitat! encourage and support the use of Minnesota’s local aquatic places as the “classroom” for learning, and serve as a connector of science and environmental literacy for students.

An important benefit of a service-learning project is that it can be done as a capstone to any unit or strand of lessons developed from the curriculum guide, which will consequently empower students and develop their stewardship and citizenship skills. An empowered and environmentally literate citizenry will help to support the Minnesota DNR mission of “…working with the citizens of Minnesota to not only conserve and manage…but also to use our state’s natural resources heritage in a sustainable way.”

Service-learning and stewardship education empower students to create positive change as well as to take personal or individual responsibility for the environment and quality of life in their communities.

Environmental stewardship involves informed, responsible behaviors and actions undertaken by people on behalf of the environment and future generations.

Perhaps the greatest benefit resulting from service-learning happens when students reflect on their progress and celebrate a valiant effort or a job well done. They realize that they’re not “just” kids, but responsible, informed participants in their schools, communities, and local environments. They also realize from experience that learning and doing things that have an important positive purpose in their community can be very fulfilling and fun.

Put your students’ learning into action! Write yourself a reminder note to take a look at the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Service-learning Appendix to learn more about how you can create a unit using MinnAqua lessons to engage your students in service-learning and set them on a path towards life-long environmental stewardship!

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