Child Development 113: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
Instructor: Lita Moore
Some people might think that being born with a developmental disability means an individual will be limited in what they can accomplish in life. In many cases, this is far from the truth and why I chose to complete my service learning with the Southern California Special Olympics Program. So many of the individuals I have worked with through this organization have exceeded the expectations that I had when I began this volunteer work. Not only have they amazed me with their athletic capabilities, they have also given me a new outlook on life and what is most important. The athletes I work with may be different from others in the way they learn or think, but they are the most kind, loving, and caring people I have ever met. In the big scheme of things, they are no different than you, me, or anybody else.
This year was my second year volunteering with the Special Olympics as a volunteer golf coach. This experience was different due to the fact that I was looking for ways to apply what I was learning in my child development class to the interactions I was having with the athletes. Throughout my work over the course of the semester, there were a few athletes I chose to focus on, but one in particular stood out to me the most. For confidentiality purposes, I will call him “Charlie.”
Charlie is an eleven-year-old boy with autism, and like many of the athletes I work with, you would not think that he has a developmental disability just by looking at him. As I spent more and more time with Charlie, I noticed that his main method of learning is through Bandura’s social learning theory (Berger, 2012). According to Berger, Bandura's social learning theory falls under the second grand theory of human development, which is behaviorism. Behaviorism studies the observable behavior that a person displays. The theory also emphasizes the influence that other people have over a person's behavior, and states that every individual learns through observation and imitation, even without reinforcement (Berger, 2012). The first time I saw Charlie exhibit this type of behavior was at the Carlsbad Driving Range. I watched as Charlie hit golf ball after golf ball, giving him little tips here and there. Next to Charlie was a man (and a very good golfer) who was working on his technique. The man had a golf club lying across his golf mat in order to keep his feet straight. The man also had one golf ball placed on the rubber tee and two other golf balls placed randomly on his golf mat. I watched as Charlie, this shy, eleven-year-old boy with a developmental disability went over to his golf bag, took out a golf club and placed it across his golf mat exactly how the man next to him had his. Then he placed a golf ball on his rubber tee, and set two golf balls down on his golf mat in the same position they were randomly placed on the man’s golf mat. Then he continued golfing. Just like that, I witnessed Bandura’s social learning theory unfold in front of me.
Another aspect of social learning that Charlie displayed not only in the example above but in other situations as well, is called “modeling.” Berger (2012) states that, “Modeling is the central process of social learning by which a person observes the actions of others and then copies them. (p.44). Often times, a child will choose a model that he or she admires. In this case, Charlie modeled behavior from me and one of our other coaches. Charlie, me, a few other athletes, and two other coaches were all over on the practice putting green playing a game that is intended to improve one's putting skills. One of the other coaches said the word "stupid” and Charlie told him that was a bad word. I turned to the other coach and semi-jokingly told him to watch his mouth. Not a second later Charlie repeated me and said, "Yeah, watch your mouth." A few minutes later as I was getting ready to putt, the other coach that was with us said, "Come on Chandler," implying that I needed to hurry up. Charlie, misinterpreting what that coach meant, repeated him saying, "Come on Chandler! Put it in the hole!" Although Charlie misread the context in which the words "come on" were being used, this is still a great example of the way in which Charlie learns through observation and imitation of others.
I saw Charlie display Bandura's social learning theory for a third time in another instance when he and I were on the putting green at the Carlsbad Driving Range. This time, he didn't imitate someone who was present; he imitated something he had most likely seen on television. As I went to putt my ball, Charlie put his hands up in the air the same way caddies do for professional golfers when they are about to putt. Yet another example of the way Charlie learns and how he is able to store what he sees in his memory and imitate those actions at later times in the appropriate contexts.
This service learning experience has reaffirmed that working with children with developmental disabilities is the field that I want to be in. Throughout the time I spent working with Charlie and the rest of the athletes, I learned so much more than just the way they learn and develop. I learned that for many of these athletes, golf is a sport that they love and the coaches are people that they admire and look up to. I strive to set an example not only for the athletes that I work with, but also for each and every person I come in contact with. I strive to make a difference in the lives of these athletes, the way they have made a difference in mine. I want to give them hope that the world, and the people living in it, is not always as cruel as it may seem. Spend one day with the athletes that I consider some of my best friends and I promise you they will change your life in a way you never thought was possible. These individuals may be different, but they are not less.
Berger, K.S. (2012). The developing person through childhood and adolescence. (9th ed.). New York, New York.
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Nursing 160: Certified Nursing Assistant
Instructor: Mary Wright
Although the name of this facility sounds like a bar or a place frequented by college aged kids, the truth is, that couldn’t be further from the truth; none of those things are happening here. Here at the Frat House, as it’s called by the residents, there is no alcohol allowed, there are no late night parties and certainly no keg stands being performed. No, this Frat House is in fact an assisted living facility that houses individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
I chose this facility as my service learning site because it was unique. It was not a typical nursing site. It varied greatly from hours I could have obtained at any other type of assisted living facility. The goal of Fraternity House is to provide low-cost permanent or transitional housing in a homelike atmosphere for people who are HIV symptomatic or who have AIDS. Currently, the home only houses male clients.
The morning I arrived for my tour and introduction, I was anxious but ready. I was greeted by Ms. Nicole Whadford, the facilities licensed vocational nurse, who is the general ‘go to’ person for all things Frat House related. She showed me the areas of the house I would be have access to. The organization takes privacy to a whole new level which I can appreciate and honor. The introduction lasted about an hour ending with an agreement for me to return the following Monday to begin my service learning hours.
I arrived the following Monday morning fully prepared. I had readied myself for the worst; assuming I'd be privy to those possibly taking their last breaths. Boy, was I wrong. Immediately upon walking through the door that morning I was greeted by the sounds of “The Price is Right” coming through the speakers on a huge flat screen television in the living room. Right away I was put at ease by the familiar voice of Drew Carey in the background. Leo was the first gentleman I met. He was sitting in his limousine like scooter with the television remote control in one hand, and the control button for his trusty ride in the other. Legs crossed, he looked up at me and said, “Well hello there.” After our introductions, there was friendly banter as to who had under or over bid on the prize being offered. Moments later, Leo zips out of the room going outside to smoke a cigarette.
After a while, a few other men wandered out of their bedrooms. The residents nap often due to their illness. They are loving, gentle, kind men who are far from taking their last breaths. While providing my assigned hours, I helped around the home and visited with the residents. Some of them opened up and shared their personal information with me, disclosing how they had become infected with the virus. For that, I am truly grateful. One afternoon I had the unfortunate opportunity of chasing a memory impaired resident down the road. His confusion was acute and the organization does not provide dementia related care. After asking Marcos where he was going, he looked at me and responded “to Mexico for a sandwich.” I smiled at him as we walked hand in hand back to the house.
These individuals amazed me each and every moment I spent with them. One that stood out the most for me had to be the almost forty-year old George, who had just graduated with a Ph.D. in Art. I too, am almost forty and not staring at a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. I can’t envision having the will to complete a doctoral program. It was on this day that I became aware that I am the only one stopping myself from becoming who and what I want to be. I became mindful that I have advantages that others do not. I don’t put those advantages to good use nearly as often as I should. Yes, all of us are limited to the amount of time we have here on earth. The residents I met at Fraternity House are sadly much more aware that their time is limited. With daily reminders of medications, little to no energy and the constant reminder that they are living with a deadly virus, they continue to live full lives. They go to college, they garden, they cook, they religiously watch The Price is Right; they make plans for the future.
As I mentioned previously, I had prepared myself for the worst. After spending time at the organization, I sadly realized that I am the one not living to my full potential. I’m the one letting silly things hold me back. The Frat House residents, without knowing it, have helped me more than they will ever know. While this service learning experience did not relate well to the textbook, the emotional impact it had on me is something I will carry for the rest of my life.
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Sociology 102: Contemporary Social Problems
Instructor: Leyenda Jacobson
My time volunteering was spent at the Community Resource Center (CRC) where they help low-income to no-income individuals and families as well as victims of domestic abuse. The CRC is primarily funded through government contracts and revenue generated from their thrift stores, which rely on donations. They are staffed both by paid employees and individuals like me who volunteer their time for a multitude of reasons free of charge. The CRC helps the poor by providing basic human necessities such as food, clothes, shelter, and toiletry items. For victims of domestic abuse, the CRC also provides counseling services and support to help them escape and heal from their abusive situations. The community needs these services to help people. They also serve as a stepping stone for individuals to rise above their struggles and become self-sufficient members of our society.
I split my time with the Community Resource Center working at their thrift store and bread line both in Encinitas. While working at the thrift store, I didn't interact very much with clients, but I still learned a lot from the staff members. They taught me that although a good number of their clients do not ever achieve their goal of self-sufficiency, they are still deserving of help and always grateful. At the thrift store, a good amount of my time was spent receiving donations from people who were cleaning out their homes and giving away things they didn't need anymore. While a lot of the people were donating items for the tax deduction they receive, almost all seemed genuinely happy knowing they were helping someone less fortunate.
At the bread line, I did a multitude of tasks from sorting out food donations, putting out free produce and passing out food items to clients. For me this was by far the most rewarding experience because I saw first-hand just how grateful everyone was. Nearly every client was extremely happy to interact with me and they would never hesitate to thank me for the "good" I was doing. The paid staff that worked at both the thrift store and bread line were also some of the kindest people I've ever met and it was easy to see they were providing their services not only for a pay check, but because they sincerely enjoyed helping people. Overall every interaction I encountered at the CRC was a pleasant one and the work, while sometimes dull, was still very personally rewarding.
While I worked at the CRC, I saw through a functionalist perspective how our society addresses the social issue of poverty and how much importance is placed on the generosity of people more fortunate. Without the poor, there would be no rich. From the functionalist perspective, the poor are a necessary part of society. Without the generosity of the middle and upper class, the Community Resource Center would not be able to function since they rely primarily on revenue from thrift store proceeds and food donations provided by local grocery stores. So those with more resources are expected to play the role of the caregiver, helping the poor to survive. This can also be seen through the conflict perspective. As different groups compete for wealth, some are on the losing end of the battle. It can be argued that people only act in their own self-interest and the only reason donations are made is because of tax incentives. It really is up to the more fortunate and those in positions of authority to decide how much help the poor receive, what services are provided, and for how long.
All in all, I would say my time spent volunteering at the CRC was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had at school. I learned a great deal about people from all walks of life, who have experienced a wide variety of personal turmoil in their lives. One of the most enduring lessons I learned from my experience was attitude is everything. I say this because I went into this experience thinking that the clients I would encounter would be the most depressing and bitter people ever. Ironically, they turned out to be some of the warmest and generous people I've ever met despite the fact that they have so very little. So I couldn't help but take away from this assignment that wealth and material possessions play very little importance in the way of happiness. Instead a positive attitude and gratitude for the things we do have are essential to being happy. Even more so, helping the less fortunate is the most rewarding experience there is.
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Nutrition 100: Introduction to Nutrition
Instructor: Gail Meinhold
I chose to complete my service learning with the Vista Unified School District (VUSD). The main reason I chose the VUSD was because I am going to school to become a teacher and this was a great way to get some hands-on experience with the kids. The service learning program was offered through my Nutrition 100 class, so the opportunities that were available through the program were nutrition based.
The first thing I did was set up a meeting with Amy Haessly, the nutrition education & training supervisor for the district. She was very nice and informed me of a couple of different volunteer options. Before making my decision on which program to serve, I was able to volunteer in a new farmers market program with kids at Maryland Elementary
I arrived at Maryland Elementary in the morning and had the program and my duties explained to me by a couple of other volunteers who were in the graduate nutrition program at San Diego State University. The children then arrived, grouped by their grade level. For grades three and up, the kids were given two dollars to purchase fruit and vegetables. The volunteers were there to make sure the children did their math correctly and provide assistance. Most of the kids had never been to a farmers market so it was a lot of fun to participate in the event.
When I first spoke with Ms. Haessly about the opportunities available, one of them was teaching nutrition to fourth and fifth graders. Since I plan on becoming a teacher, this was exactly what I wanted to do. So, after the farmers market, I started to prepare for the program. The program was called Power Play and tries to convey the importance of nutrition and physical fitness to kids. I was partnered with two teachers at the same elementary school where I helped with the farmers market.
For each class, I taught the kids the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diet as well as physical activity. We explored the type of foods that they usually eat and how they could exchange some of the unhealthy foods for more healthy fruits and vegetables. We also explored ways of becoming more physically active. I taught the children about macro and micronutrients and the roles they play in healthy bodies, as well as how to read nutrition labels in order to make more informed choices. For the final class, Ms. Haessly helped me as we gave the kids a chance to try some new fruits and vegetables that most hadn’t tried before.
Overall, I really enjoyed volunteering for the VUSD Nutrition Education Program and working with the students. I hope that my contribution helped the children gain some awareness of the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. I feel that nutrition is one of the most important things we can ever learn since we are what we eat. The lack of nutritional and physical education often found in schools is very sad. Most of the kids don’t get the necessary fruits and vegetables in their diets and many don’t get the required physical activity in order to be healthy. This seems to be the way it is across the nation as we have rapidly increasing rates of childhood obesity. With programs like this one, we can have a positive effect on the food choices kids make and help increase their level of physical activity which hopefully will lead to better overall health.
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Psychology 211: Learning and Behavior Modification
Instructor: Judith Phillips
I did my service learning hours at REINS (Riding Emphasizing Individual Needs and Strengths) Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program. I started volunteering before this class and really fell in love with the people and grew a strong appreciation for all they are doing in their program. REINS is a horse ranch where both children and adults with disabilities or special needs take horseback riding lessons as well as use the horses as part of their therapy. For the average lesson there is one volunteer leading the horse, one instructor and one volunteer walking beside the horse for safety and additional interaction. I love children and animals so I was eager to learn as much as I could about all aspects of both the lesson as well as caring for the horses. I am considering occupational therapy for a career so I paid special attention to the aspects of the lesson that showed equestrian assisted occupational therapy.
It was interesting because each and every person really is so different, in their attitudes, disabilities and even their learning styles. The program’s ability to run is dependent on the labor of volunteers so they are accustomed to training anyone willing to learn. Anytime I had a question there was always someone there to help me in whatever I may need. Spending a day there each week was surprisingly very humbling and was very therapeutic for me. I think everyone needs to have at least one day surrounded by such beautiful animals where they can get a little dirt on their hands. Aside from the animals and environment, there are of course, the people. Whether seeing the smile stretched across the face of a curly haired two year old with downs syndrome or hearing kind words from an older gentleman, these moments can completely turn your day around. I talked to an older gentlemen whom I had been assisting in lessons for several weeks and his positive outlook really inspired me. He had been in a terrible accident leaving him with severe brain damage. He had very little memory of past events and when he encountered things he didn’t remember, he saw it as a blessing to be able to experience something as though it was “new” and for the first time. Instead of being bitter, he found a way to make his hardships into a blessing, a quality very little of us have. I tried to provide a helping hand and encouraging words whenever I can, but in the end, I’m really the one benefiting from them. The joy in their smiles, the love radiating from their hearts and the undying faith and drive they owned despite the hand they were dealt in life continuously inspired me.
There are a lot of ways that I could draw connections between my involvement at REINS and what I learned in class. Surprisingly, not only did I see learning and behavioral methods with people but also with the horses as well. The most frequent method to spot was operant conditioning. As far as the horses go, they were able to receive both positive and negative punishment and reinforcement. With the students, punishment (especially positive punishment) was harder to get away with and still have the student wanting to return. The biggest reinforcer for everyone seemed to be the carrots. If the instructor thought that the student did an overall good job listening and following directions during the lesson, they could give the horses carrots at the end of the lesson (positive reinforcement). This was a secondary reinforcer for the students because they enjoyed being able to participate and treat their horse. For the horses on the other hand, if the instructor believed that the horse followed directions and didn’t act out during the lesson, the horse was able to be given a bucket of carrots to eat. This is also considered positive reinforcement although it is considered a primary reinforcer for the horse. The carrots are a primary reinforcer since the carrots are food and the drive to eat is biological and not learned.
Although they are not Pavlov’s dogs, the horses served as an effective example of classical conditioning at lunchtime. When the horses began to see the others getting hay for lunch they started to do things like pacing, clanking their hooves on the bars or even grunting in anticipation. We began to use a wheelbarrow to help carry the hay to the horses. The horses then viewed the wheelbarrow coming towards them as time for hay. It didn’t take long before the anticipatory behaviors were shown just at the sight of the wheelbarrows. In this situation the neutral stimulus is the wheelbarrow, the unconditioned stimulus is the hay and the unconditioned response is the anticipatory behaviors. With the pairing of the neutral and unconditioned stimulus, the wheelbarrow became the conditioned stimulus which elicits the response of the anticipatory behaviors. In this example the horses are displaying classical conditioning (more specifically first order and trace conditioning).
There were so many examples of behavior modification that occurred while observing lessons as long as I was looking out for them. One common observation I made throughout several lessons was the presence of stimulus generalization among the children, We had several types of balls out in the arena that were used for play, putting in the mail box, and throwing through the basketball hoop. Although we only used this sequence with the balls, the students would follow the same pattern even when given a different type of toy. This behavior demonstrated that the students generalized patterns of behavior from not only other balls but other toys as well. I saw this pattern of stimulus generalization several times when observing the play time of young children in the arena.
There were many occasions where I could draw connections between my observations while volunteering and the lessons learned in class. I really enjoyed both seeing the applications of the lessons in real life as well as having fun and helping people in the process. Overall, I loved my experience at REINS and will continue to volunteer my time there.
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English 100: Composition and Reading
Instructor: Syndee Wood
This semester for our English 100 class, we were given three choices for our service learning opportunity. I chose the pen pal letter option. We were to write bi-monthly letters corresponding with children who are involved with North County Lifeline. This program is a non-profit organization in North San Diego County that helps children and their families during difficult times. I had never heard of the program before and read through their website to find out more about who we would be writing to. In our English 100 class, we learn the correct ways of formatting, correct grammar, and critical thinking. All of these concepts contribute to the class as a whole and I feel that the main idea of English 100 is to be able to communicate effectively. One of the reasons I chose to write a pen pal for my service learning project was to connect through the long lost art of letter writing. Thinking back I couldn’t remember the last time I wrote a letter to someone, usually I talk through text messages or quick emails. I thought that it would be a great way to connect to someone younger then I am.
The first letter we had to write was a getting to know you kind of letter. This letter was one of the hardest things for me to do. I’m not used to writing about myself. We had to talk about our interests and our school experiences. At this point, we weren’t sure which child we would be corresponding with so I tried my best to describe my likes to someone hopefully with the same interests. Writing the first letter really made me reflect on all that I have learned in my English classes throughout the years and how hard I thought writing was back in elementary school. This thought process helped me write the first letter because if I felt that way as a child, my pen pal might feel the same way. I knew I wanted to make it fun and light and especially understandable. I had to write two drafts of my first letter because I realized the first one was a little too formal for someone in elementary or middle school.
The other hardest part of our pen pal service learning project was waiting for letters to arrive from North County Lifeline, especially the first one. I felt anxious to hear back from my pen pal. After we sent the first letter to them, it took a couple of weeks to receive one back. I was so excited to receive a letter. My pen pal was an eleven year-old girl named Annabelle. She answered some of the questions I asked her in my letter. Her sentences were short and to the point of what she liked and what she was interested in. Some of her interests surprised me when I thought about my own interest at her age. It proved to me how much things change over time and how fast that time goes by. I had to look up an artist and the song that she liked, having never heard it before. I was surprised; it was a very mature song for an eleven year old. Her favorite television show was “Walking Dead.” It surprised me how mature the content was, but then I realized that times have changed and children are exposed to more now than ever before.
The second letter I wrote was easier because I knew who I was writing to and some of her general interests. The one thing that we knew we had in common was school. It was the best subject for us to talk about. I told her all about my college experience and how much I enjoy the classes I take and she told me about her favorite subjects. The second letter I received was different from the first. My pen pal mainly answered all my questions and didn’t ask me anything in return. I thought about her learning processes and the writing skills acquired at this age and wondered if critical thinking had been part of the instruction.
Overall, we sent four letters to our pen pals. The final letter was the time to say goodbye and tell the children that the semester is ending and so are the letters. I felt a little sad while writing this letter. I wish that we could have had more of a back and forth conversation between the letters, but most of all I hoped that at least my letters made her smile or made her day a little better. During the time in between receiving letters from Annabelle, I really started to think about what the children go through and it made me feel so sad. I have never been in some of the challenging situations they have experienced and it made me reflect on how important it is to have people who care. In all of the letters I sent, I painted little pictures for her. I love art and I wanted to share that with her by showing her with more than words on paper so, I painted little pictures of animals. I wanted my letters to stand out to her. I wanted to do something special because I always think about the time when someone did something extra for me. I hope I made her feel special and that she felt like I was truly interested and invested in getting to know her. In the last letter she sent, she drew a picture of a pineapple. It made me feel happy and I really felt a connection with her because she was trying to make me feel how I made her feel.
One of the course learning objectives from our class that I noticed while I was writing my first letter was the use of rhetorical situations including audience, purpose, and context. In class, we discussed how important it is to know your audience and the purpose of the text. This was obviously difficult at first because I didn’t know who I was writing to whether they were male or female, or younger or older. This made me aware of how important it is to know the audience when writing essays and papers and how it affects the overall tone. In my letters, I knew that I wanted to have an upbeat and positive tone; I thought that this would work best, especially with someone younger and going through some hard times. Word choice was another thing I struggled with at first. Writing a letter to children has many differences compared to academic writing. Using informal English actually fit better in this case, instead of using concise language. I felt that using everyday speech wouldn’t intimidate my pen pal. I also noticed that the context in which I wrote my letters greatly influenced the content that I put into them. One of the main purposes of our letters were to encourage and praise the children and be positive about the good things that they wanted to share and to make a connection with them.
Other course objectives I noticed while writing letters was the use of our interpersonal skills, sentence structure, and grammar. Even though we never met our pen pals, we had to listen to what they were saying in their letters and be able to communicate effectively back to them. In class, we worked in group or in one-on-one settings a lot. This environment helped us interact with one another in asking questions and responding in a non-biased way. Our classroom group workshops helped us formulate sentences and paragraphs to communicate better on paper. I used some of these skills in writing my letters. While we were in groups we looked at sentence structure as well as making a paragraph flow properly. In my pen pal’s first letter, I noticed she used short choppy sentences to write about herself and that each of the sentences started the same way and had the same structure. In our English class, we were advised to use variation in sentences that help form ideas and help our texts flow from one idea to the next. My pen pal’s second letter was quite different and I could already see changes in her sentence structure. Her sentences were no longer choppy and they flowed together nicely. I could see how she was improving in her writing and it made me feel happy.
At the end of the semester, the volunteer coordinator from North County Lifeline visited our class to speak with us about their organization. I was shocked at the number of services they provided to the children and their families. She made a point during her presentation about starting micro and ending macro. This really affected my method of thinking. She discussed how the services provided didn’t stop at helping the children. It was important to serve the families, the neighborhoods, and the community in order to make a real difference. It reminded me of our English classroom and how we help each other by working on our own and then together in groups. I thought about how our letters were the macro part of this system. We didn’t know any of these children personally, but we were there for them as part of the community pushing them to continue on with their education. I saw how this all came together and how important it was to volunteer. I’m glad that I only knew a little bit about the children we were writing to. I knew that they were in high risk situations, but not anything in depth. I think it was better to find out afterwards all that this organization does for the community because my letters just focused on Annabelle and what she was saying to me and not about what was going on around her.
During the presentation given by the Lifeline staff member, she talked about the process the children went through writing the letters to us. She told us that many of the children had never written letters or emails before and that they didn’t know where to start. Many of the children had only communicated by phone or text when they wanted to talk to someone. Volunteers for the program helped the children with their writing process. They helped them formulate thoughts and answer our questions. Many of the children only speak English in the classroom and when they go to the afterschool programs, they have the freedom to use whatever language they are most comfortable with. When writing our letters, they had to use the English language longer than they normally do for the day. The children used translating dictionaries and thesauruses to respond to our letters and they asked the volunteers a lot of questions about how and what to respond to. I really liked hearing about the process the children went through to write these letters. They tried very hard and it meant a lot to me because I know how I struggle sometimes when writing an essay or a paper. The most interesting part of her presentation was the fact that the children volunteered to write pen pal letters to us on top of the homework that they already had. She said that the children chose our letters based on our demographics and interests. I wrote about reading in my first letter and I noticed that Annabelle likes to read as well so, I wonder if that is why she picked my letter.
This was a great opportunity to learn about volunteering in our community and to learn about ourselves through the writing process. I have learned so much through this experience. I have gained a new respect for the people who work at non-profit organizations because of the time and caring that goes into each child. After learning about what North County Lifeline does on a day to day basis, I am glad that I volunteered to do these letters. I hope that I made my pen pal, Anabelle, smile with my words and pictures. I know that after learning how the volunteers helped the children write letters back to us, it inspired me to never give up and continue my learning as well. As hard as things may seem, it’s important to be grateful for all that I have accomplished and all that I will. I also hope I helped Annabelle see that she is capable of so much in her life. By sharing my college experience with her, I hope that she is inspired to go all the way with her own education. Her letters brought a smile to my face and made my day when I received them. During the writing process, I thought about how hard it was to write when I was her age and how far she will go when she reaches college. We shared our hopes and dreams for the future and even though we come from different backgrounds and I have never had to go through what she has, we still found something important to talk about.
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Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology
Instructor: Karen Baum
It’s a Saturday morning and I'm waiting for the Oceanside Public library to open. There's a small crowd of people, some with children, a few have skateboards, some with backpacks, duffle bags, and even suitcase with rollers. A few individuals are waiting off to the side by themselves, some are exchanging stories. There is a beautiful fountain with palm trees in concrete pots and water cascading over steps, which attracts seagulls to bask in the sun, almost domesticated. I observe people periodically checking their watches, 9:53 am, almost time for the glass sliding doors to open. You can see the staff gathered by the information deck, prepping for the day, chatting, building their motivation for the day. One of the employees walks toward the doors to unlock them. The crowd is at attention, huddled tight by the door almost as if it was Black Friday. The door slides open and the employee steps aside to let the mass rush in. Most of the patrons walk quickly past the front desk and up the stairs. I had to follow to see what the big deal was upstairs; there is a computer lab upstairs.
My service began in April of 2013 when I wandered into a small bookstore inside the Oceanside Public Library.
I was down in the dumps about my worker’s compensation and personal finances; I needed a distraction from the things out of my control. I was startled by a booming voice, “Hi! Welcome to the library bookstore! How can I help you?” I had a wonderful conversation with this enthusiastic individual who didn’t know she did me a huge favor that day. She even sold me on volunteering in the bookstore, which would do me some good to get out of the house since I lived so close anyway. Up to that point, I had never volunteered before in my entire life. I couldn’t resist sitting amongst the books and conversing with patrons. The desk faces a small wall, and the wheeled chair allows me to look straight down the hall and observe people coming and going. It was one of the best decisions that I have followed through on. This past April, I celebrated one year as a volunteer there and continue to do so.
The manifest function of the library is to make information and resources accessible to the community. The library card is free, and one only needs to provide picture identification. A library collection can include books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, maps, prints, documents, cassettes, videotapes, e-books, audiobooks, databases, and other formats. Over the years, the library has expanded services to the public including printing, faxing, private study and meeting rooms, and access to special collections containing local and State history, and world languages. Programs are available for all ages and include author talks, concerts, cultural celebrations and much more.
This social institution provides additional resources that tie in with schools and employment agencies. Some of the services include homework assistance for grades kindergarten through eighth grade, and baby, toddler and preschool story time. Anime and Manga clubs are available for children ages six to twelve years. Teen video games are available as well as arts and crafts activities and movies. There are book clubs for all ages, drop-in computer help for adults, veterans resume building, and job skills workshops. Every month the library promotes a theme attached to a global calendar event with activities to support that theme. There are computers with internet access at all locations and Wi-Fi available throughout the building. Free. It's all free. Where can you get anything for free in our capitalistic economy? The library even supports self-care by offering free vision and hearing screenings, yoga, and martial arts self-defense classes. Even though we are an individualist culture, we all need help at some point in time to improve ourselves and our quality of life.
The latent function of the library includes serving those with low income levels, the homeless, the lonely, retired, even vacationers. We shouldn't judge people by their appearance, however, every week when I volunteer at the book store, I see the same individuals in the same clothes, dragging the same bags, and I assume they are homeless. This naturalistic observation really opened my eyes to my community. The homeless have to constantly carry their lives around them, even in baby carriages. At the library, they can put down their baggage and rest. They can freshen up in the huge bathrooms, wash their faces or brush their teeth. I've seen women take sponge baths in the sink and change clothes. One day I watched a guy eat half of a marked down pie from a nearby food pantry, and clip his toenails. The general norms for personal hygiene are to tend to our needs in privacy and not in public places. Conformity to these norms is not a priority for the homeless.
Over the last ten years, I've lived in different places, and living here, in Southern California, I see more homeless people. I feel almost desensitized because they appear in almost all facets of my life. There are any number of reasons these individuals have experienced a downward spiral in social mobility. Lack of education to qualify for a job, unemployment, large debt, the high cost of living, poor health habits and mental illness can all lead to homelessness. In our sociology class, we talked about Robert Merton's strain theory of social deviance. Merton suggests that when people try to conform, but their opportunities for achieving their goals are blocked, they experience anomie. Anomie is the experience of frustration, confusion, and even anger about which norms to follow when one's world is falling apart. Merton tells us that socially deviant adaptive response, like using the library bathroom as if it's one's own private bathroom, is a response to filling in the missing social norms. How does one keep clean when life is spent on the streets? I wonder if the homeless who frequent the library believe they could live the American dream of owning things that would make their daily tasks easier and more pleasant - the material comfort of a home, a car, and a smart phone. Instead, I see salvaged suitcases and discarded baby carriages to hold meager belongings. I also see them taking advantage of the library's free services in ways that can mean a call to the police for loitering, illegal drug usage, drinking, sexual intercourse, and fighting in public. The most shocking fact I learned from one security officers is that harassment of library employees is a serious problem.
I love the library. The library brought solace to my life. In a time of uncertainty, the environment was soothing, quiet, and most of all, safe. I can relate to the individuals who walk through the entrance looking for some sort of sanctuary. The library is a safe haven for those living on the streets. This interior of the library is like a cocoon that holds nothing but faith and knowledge, bringing warmth to our souls and allowing us to breathe for a moment, so that our inner voice can relax. This free public service offers resources and opportunities to improve one's status. There is freedom of speech and equality because in the library everyone is equal.
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English 100: Composition and Reading
Instructor: Syndee Wood
I did my service learning project at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Oceanside. I worked with my old fifth grade teacher and her classroom of students every Tuesday. At first, I did not know what to expect. All I knew was that I was going to help in a classroom. I did a variety of things: arts and crafts, English workbook, vocabulary list, consonants, vowels, syllables, print and copy papers, and a little bit of tutoring.
Every time I walked into the classroom, the students always greeted me with a “Hello” or “Good Morning Ms. Gomez.” I absolutely loved hearing them say my name and give me a warm smile. When I left for the day, the children would say goodbye and give me a facial expression that indicated thanks for helping them, or sadness because they wanted to me come back and see them again. This made me extremely happy because it reaffirmed that my attendance in this classroom mattered.
My job was to help the students and teacher. I learned that I have to explain things to the fifth graders at their level. I would simplify my language in order to explain how to do their work or find the answer. Most of the time, I worked with the boys. I had not noticed that the boys in the classroom where the ones who needed the most assistance until I had completed my service learning and remembered only helping one girl. I believe this has to do with the girls maturing a little more quickly.
The only girl I helped was named Sunny. I tutored her in vowels and consonants. I first helped her find the syllable to divide each word. Then one by one, I went over each word with her. When we finished splitting each word by syllable, I told her to name the letters as vowels and consonants. It took me a few minutes to help her figure out the difference. Towards the middle of the work sheet, she understood the concept of the assignment. I was proud and learned that I can teach a young student what I was once taught. In my English 100 class, there was an in-class activity where we had to teach our college peers something out of the grammar book and this was very beneficial when it came to teaching my fifth graders. This teaching lesson connected my learning processes with English 100 and my service learning experience by understanding who my audience is and the vocabulary terms I use to speak, write and explain to my students, classmates and my professor.
I learned that kids have different learning styles. Some are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. I do not know these kids on a personal level so I need to use all three methods of teaching to figure out the best way they learn. This actually helps me because I better understand what kind of learner I am and the kind of teacher I am as well.
One student I worked with was a boy named Pete. The first thing we did was a worksheet where he was supposed to rhyme the words to the first syllable in his word box. It was a challenge to explain to him what a syllable is and how he can find it. I taught him an old trick I learned when I was younger. I had him say the words out loud and clap when he heard a split or pause, as if there were two words in one word, and then on paper cut the word in half. I told him this is a syllable when we split words in half. We went over present and past terms as well, like know and knew. When I went over these terms, I noticed a connection between the smaller levels of writing rules towards the writing I use in class. To this day, I still see errors in using wrong present and past terms in my writing. This experience helped me relearn the beginning steps of using proper language terms in my own writing.
Twice I was present when the children were doing an art project. There was a time when I had to show the students in small groups how to make a penguin and a snowman. Since the students had different ways of learning, I needed to provide different options of doing things. Some students liked me to verbally tell them directions while showing them how to do it. Other kids liked reading the directions on their own and doing it themselves. This was evident when we were doing a Mother’s Day present in class and I walked around to see if any of the children needed my assistance with their project. Some children were great at following directions and others just needed a little more help. When I helped those who needed it, I gave them two different ways to approach the project and let them choose how they would like continue. This made them happy and of course always made me happy to help. This reminded me of the group activities in our college class when we have the option of choosing how to discuss things and answer the prompt.
Overall I discovered that I am a very patient learner and teacher. I learned as a writer that I must be aware of the audience that I am writing to. I also found that it is a good thing to relearn past lessons because the process helps with new learning. I feel like I am a better person for being in this classroom and telling the kids that I am here for them. Letting them know that I am student and I care about their education can inspire them to do well with their schooling. As a student, I appreciate how hard my professors work behind the scenes to prepare lessons and assignments to teach a classroom full of students. I learned a lot throughout my service learning project and will continue to volunteer and help others because one person truly can make a difference in lives of others.
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Child Development 113: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
Instructor: Lita Moore
For my child development class we were assigned to perform a service learning project. I was excited to hear about this opportunity but the only problem was fitting it into my busy schedule. My preference was to work with children between the ages of four and six years in a bilingual program. At first I had trouble finding a placement so I had to ask for assistance. I walked into the Service Learning Office and the secretary took her time to help me find an organization to serve. She asked me about my preferences and then suggested three places that worked with my schedule. None of these programs provided care for preschool aged children. Because of my busy schedule, I was only able to volunteer in an after school program. I picked the Boys and Girls Club and arranged an appointment with the coordinator. I was a little scared about what to expect because they were older kids, but I have been around children all my life and was up for the challenge.
On my first day, I fell in love with the environment, the activities and the children. I was able to relate to the kids because I participated in afterschool programs when I was young where I waited for my parents to pick me up after their long day at work. I usually arrived at the club around four o’clock when the children were done with their homework and ready to play or choose an activity. I enjoyed helping the kids with their homework as I consider myself very patient and creative, and can help with challenging assignments. I also love to play, and I’m full of energy when it comes to tag, hide and seek, freeze and capture the flag. Every day is a new experience and I’m learning from all the children. I noticed they get attached very quickly as there are only a few staff members and new incoming volunteers every day. They see different faces and they don’t know who will stay and who will leave.
Each day when I’m done helping, I write in my journal about all the amazing things that happened to me. There are times when I’m laughing with myself and sometimes I’m sad because I wonder what the children are doing at home. I have found them to be responsible when they help me clean after an activity and I wonder if they help their parents at home. There are other times when we play games and use Spanglish because I don’t want them to forget their native tongue. I teach them the proper Spanish, not the Spanish they use with their friends. My favorite thing is teaching them how to share; I showed them the meaning of “sharing is caring.” I told them the same thing my dad once told me, “When you share your food it makes it tastes better.” It might just be a lie for others but for me and the children it is true. It is challenging to talk to the older kids but I don’t give up and I try to brighten their day.
I might sound like a little kid bragging about my day at school but what can I say? I truly love these kids. I received positive comments every day that I was doing a good thing. I also received some negative ones and the problem with the negative ones is that they don’t fade but they do make you stronger. I encountered one negative comment when I first began to volunteer. A good friend of mine told me that I was wasting my time donating my time to the children because at the end of the day, their futures are already set. She said, “They are going to end up in the streets and become young single mothers, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Why don’t you volunteer in a better neighborhood?” I will never forget those words but something that I have forgotten is our friendship because I don’t need negative people like that in my life. This comment really upset me because I had been judged the same way my friend judged these kids. I was told by many people I was going to end up pregnant at 16, dropping out of high school and becoming a single mother. Society has labeled everyone in different categories depending on their community and ethnicity. Statistics inform us that Latino and African-American children are more likely to end up in the streets, joining a gang, dropping out of school, becoming single mothers and committing crimes (Berger, 2009). If this is a fact, then why don’t we do something to change this?
Have you heard the story of the little boy picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean? Well this man asked the boy what he was doing and he replied, "I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean so they won’t die.” The man discouraged him by saying, "You can't possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy looked down, frowning for a moment. Then he bent down to pick up another starfish and smiled as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, "I made a huge difference to that one!” I tell myself that every day; I might not make a difference for all the children but maybe with one or two and that’s okay with me. I want to return the favor to that adult who I saw as my mentor when I was eight years old. She told me that one day I would graduate from high school, go to college and make a difference in someone’s life.
This service learning helped me discover what I want to do with my future. I will be honest; I enjoy working with children more than making money. I’m a business major and my minor is child development. I want to open a day care or become a preschool teacher one day, but for now, I will continue attending the program because I feel these children need me. Maybe with my help they can be guided to a better future and they can do the same for others. At the end of the day, throwing back all those starfish might make a difference for at least one of them.
Berger, K. S. (2012). The developing person through childhood and adolescence. (9th ed.). New York, New York: Worth Publishing.
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Child Development 113: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
Instructor: Lita Moore
I spent my time for this service learning project volunteering at Foussat Elementary School in a wonderful kindergarten class with a magnificent woman by the name of Linda Adelman, aka Mrs. A. This is Mrs. A's final year as a teacher, as she will be retiring. I am so glad to have gotten to learn from and observe such an amazing teacher and woman in her final year of teaching. I consider myself very lucky to have ended up selecting such a great place to spend my time, especially because I chose it almost randomly. I just moved here in August 2013 from an itty bitty town in Iowa, so unlike many of my classmates, I am not from the area and therefore had no reference point as far as selecting a particular school. I spent quite a bit of time studying the list of possible service learning locations provided by the Service Learning Office, and Foussat Elementary wasn't even my first choice, but rather the one I contacted after my initial choice ignored my attempts at communication. I'd like to think it was destiny or something of that nature that I lucked out on my second attempt. Fortunately for me, Mrs. Adelman got back in touch with me almost immediately, and based on the use of exclamation points in her email, and the fact that she signed off with "Mrs. A" (reminding me of my own days of being a little kid), I knew I had made a good decision.
The first week I went, I had just been dealing with some troubling circumstances in my personal life and was feeling very depressed, and honestly wasn't looking forward to the prospect of having to go "put on a smile" for kids, as I so negatively saw it at the time. But then something truly amazing happened. Within minutes of stepping into the classroom and spending time with the children, my entire outlook and mood did a 180. Suddenly my so called "problems" didn't seem all that dramatic; in fact they became almost meaningless and more important things became clear. It was like some kind of therapy or something. I acquired a purpose that was actually fulfilling, rather than just going to school or work or other mundane activities that, while necessary, provided no true and immediate sense of fulfillment. After just my first day in the classroom, I was hooked. It was an opportunity to do something that was fun but also had a purpose and benefited others as well as even myself. I had never done anything like that before and now understand why people volunteer and why I want to do more. I went from dreading the project (and what I originally considered the "work" it involved) to it being the highlight of my week. I came to love Mondays as that was the day I dedicated to volunteering, and even continued going after I'd completed the minimum commitment.
Each day I would arrive at one o’clock in the afternoon just as the students were starting recess, then I would hear, "Miss Sophie is here!" which was often followed by hugs from some of the more affectionate students. The students who weren't busy playing on the playground would try to pack themselves onto whichever picnic table I sat down at, proudly showing me their snack of the day or describing their weekend activities. Some of the more mischievous boys loved to try to sneak up and scare me. Then they would run around laughing hysterically. It was always a fun start to my time spent with the students. Of course kindergarten isn't just all fun and games. Recess was always followed by quiet sitting and reading a story or two, followed by questions about each story. Finally, the rest of the day was spent on homework. I was always given the role of watching over the children during their six minutes of quiet sitting before the story. One might think this was an easy task but that wasn’t always the case. I had to be vigilant for giggling, whispering, and silly noises. Being able to sit still quietly for certain amounts of time is a skill necessary for any student who wishes to move up to first grade. Next came a story or two, and after each story the students were given the opportunity to raise their hand and share with the class their favorite part. The more difficult work followed as the students were dismissed to their respective tables to work on in-class homework for the remainder of the class. This could include math, writing, or a combination of both. Even though I went the same time each day, every day was very different and exciting. I was fortunate enough to observe a wide variety of behaviors and situations in the short two hours I spent there. I'll be sharing some of my favorite scenarios from the class that came from my field notes relating them to what I’ve learned in Child Development 113.
One memorable experience for me occurred while helping some students with an addition worksheet. The worksheet covered addition between numbers 0 through 5 (example, 0+3, 5+1, 2+2). They had to write the answer, then next to it draw however many circles represented what the answer was, as a visual. They had no problem drawing the circles once they knew the answer, but actually finding the answer was proving to be difficult. The students at my table were having a hard time with their worksheet and were only able to solve the equation when assistance and hints were provided with every step. After a few minutes of this, I tried something new to help them find the answer. It was clear that translating numbers into visuals (circles) was easy for them, so I instead had them draw circles above each number in the equation, then count those (by touching each circle) to find the answer which they would then write. For example, if the problem was 3 + 2 they would draw three circles above the three then draw two above the two, then count the circles to find the answer. This was a complete breakthrough. They were able to easily do the problems if they used this method of drawing first and then counting. This was an amazing example of one-to-one correspondence which is a part of cognitive development. Rather than thinking about the numbers they were supposed to be adding up in the abstract, they had a visual item to represent each individual "part" of the whole number and could then add up those one at a time. It was great to get to see something click like this, and I felt a sense of pride in the fact that I was the one who had helped them tap into their ability regarding one-to-one correspondence. It would be too easy to just dismiss their difficulties as a lack of understanding, but I learned in the classroom that every child is gifted; you just have to help them access that. Yes they had difficulties solving the problems one way, but they were experts in another method.
Another scenario that had an impact on me involved a particular student who had always stood out to me as very polite and well-mannered. We were working on coloring some illustrations on a calendar. He decided that we were going to make ours match (I of course had my own calendar to color, as to partake in the fun), so each time he switched colors he made sure that I did the same, and would ask which color I wanted to use next and what part I thought we should color. When picking out crayons of the same color, he always made sure to give me a bigger and nicer crayon if one existed. If he finished coloring a particular spot faster than I did, he would wait patiently before moving on. On the surface it's easy to classify this behavior as "sweet" or "cute.” While it is both of these things, it goes deeper than that. He clearly had a very developed sense of empathy and was displaying prosocial behavior, behavior that was helpful and kind but of no obvious benefit to him. Such developments are psychosocial developments. He made sure not to "leave me behind" when we were coloring and let me pick which color to use just as often as he chose. His kindness was impressive as many children around that age still haven't developed beyond egocentrism.
In no time at all, I knew that my decision to become a teacher (hence me taking the child development class in the first place) was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my 19 years on this earth. It's very easy to slack off or let your priorities slip in college, but my passion for the career I've chosen as a teacher is what continually motivates me to stay on track and work my absolute hardest. Now after this amazing experience, my motivation is even stronger. I'm so thankful for the opportunity presented to me by my instructor Lita Moore, the Service Learning and Volunteer Center, and MiraCosta College as a whole. In fall 2014, I will be taking the next step on my journey and applying for transfer to San Diego State University. I can't wait. It just seems like such a fulfilling career and I cannot wait until I have my own class that I can guide to their full potential. I remember many of my teachers; some were passionate and some were not. Sometimes people and even parents forget how much potential lies in every single child, no matter the differences in their strengths and weaknesses or pace of learning. Mrs. Adelman taught me that every child is gifted, some in ways that might not be as obvious as others. As parents and teachers, we can’t be blind to these gifts because if they are not nurtured, they will go to waste. Students may or may not have a great home life, but in the classroom, there should be a level playing field, a safe environment and positive role models. I am so eagerly looking forward to someday becoming one of those role models.
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