Out of the classroom and into the community

Campus - CSL - Steph
(Graphic by Stephanie Truong)

Two years ago, Wilfrid Laurier University began offering courses that have a volunteering component to the its content with the goal to supplement class material with real-world experiences.

Multiple disciplines make use of community outreach programs and require volunteer hours, but most of them are within the arts department.

The classes not only give students the opportunity to gain real-world experience, but they also give them an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to dynamic situations.

Julia Saric, an English professor, is currently teaching a children’s literature course which requires volunteer hours to be completed.

“Students are offered placements in a wide variety of settings working with a range of ages,” she said. “Some students are working in preschools, others in after-school programs; some are working as assistants in elementary classrooms, while others are working in established reading programs, like Kitchener-Waterloo’s Strong Start program.”

The classes are organized through the CSL department, which helps to connect parts of the community with Laurier to allow for these volunteer opportunities for students. It also works to further help enrich the education which students receive with real world experiences.

Megan Conway, the director of CSL, could not be reached for an interview.

Saric, however, explained more about how these courses are benefitting students, specifically in regards to her course.

“The CSL program gives students an opportunity to test and apply the ideas about children’s literature that we discuss in the classroom, something that is very rare in university children’s literature courses,” she said.

Saric placed importance on the volunteering aspects of her course, as students receive a portion of their grade based off of reflective journals, which are a required component.

“In these journals I expect to see how students have incorporated or at least watched for the concepts we have discussed in class,” she explained.
The class is also a valuable experience for students who wish to go into teaching.

“Many of the students are planning on becoming teachers, so any chance they have to be in an educational setting working with children will be great experience for them,” Saric said.

“For those who are planning on becoming elementary teachers, they will generally have to handle language arts instruction and encourage reading.”

HI346J — a public history course — also requires a volunteer component to the class.

Dan Graziotto, a third-year history major who is currently enroled in the class, spoke positively about his experience with the class.

“I really enjoy it, it gives a whole hands on approach to the idea of public history,” he told The Cord. “Everyone is assigned 20 hours overall and it is suggested that one does two hours a week.”

In total, Laurier has offered nine classes which have included a CSL component to help supplement classroom experiences.

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