Disciplinary Pathways to Service Learning
Stories Local Style:
Service-Learning and Composition
Irena Levy, Language
Kapi'olani Community College
Every time I observe my culinary arts students
at work in their labs, I'm envious. As a writing teacher, I want all of
my students to experience the connection between theory and practice, concept
and application, that I see occurring in culinary education.
Students in writing classes need real reasons to write, content and
readers that are meaningful. Through sequenced thematic assignments, I
have had some success in giving students something to write about and real
audiences for whom to write. Classmates, friends, family, experts in the
field, even the Dean of Instruction at Kapi'olani Community College, have
served as intended readers of my students' essays.
Opportunities for experiential learning were rather limited for liberal
arts students, until Fall 1994 when principal investigator Bob Franco brought
a service-learning grant to our campus. On one occasion while visiting
my students, Bob told them about service-learning: "You'll take what
you're learning and practice it, use it to help others who want and need
it. You'll connect what you're learning to serve our community." My
students were encouraged by Bob's words. Their effect on me was epiphanous:
I felt instantly that service-learning would bring my students closer to
the connected learning I observed in culinary education.
This narrative traces the successes and pitfalls my students and I have
since experienced through service-learning and discusses the relationship
between experiential learning and local pedagogy, a focus of my work as
a community college educator.
One Way of Serving
I first offered a service-learning option in Fall 1995 to students in
my introductory and transfer level composition classes. I created a one
page handout in question-answer format describing the option and its requirements.
To earn credit, students needed to (1) provide 25-30 hours of service;
(2) complete a weekly reflective log; (3) attend training and supplementary
meetings or workshops; (4) use their service-learning experiences as the
basis for their research projects due at the semester's end.
Students could select virtually any opportunity listed in the Service-Learning
Opportunities Book compiled by our service-learning coordinators. These
coordinators have created extensive links to community agencies, and in
lieu of a volunteer center at Kapi'olani, the coordinators distribute the
booklet to every participating faculty member. Students or their teachers
make the initial contact with the service agency. The coordinators are
available for consulting with faculty both individually and at meetings
held throughout the semester.
Ten students in Fall 1995 chose the service-learning option. At first
I was disappointed that only 9% of my students would select service-learning,
despite knowing that, like most community college students, Kapi'olani
students have "a lot on their plates." As it turned out, I couldn't
have adequately worked with more. I individually conferred with students
to help each choose a service site, called agencies as needed for more
information, and advised students regularly on their projects.
Most students helped elementary students learn English, provided care
to elders and respite to their families, or tutored in our learning center
or other classes (at Kapi'olani, on-campus service is a legitimate option).
Because of the diversity of students' activities, I used "literacy"
as the common theme to bring students into dialogue with one another and
to focus their written reflections. Students weekly wrote responses to
one of several generic questions, including, "How did you use your
literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) this week to assist
your clients meet their goals this week?" I also customized log prompts
throughout the semester, depending on the student's service activity and
issues or challenges raised in previous logs or conferences.
As the semester progressed, I especially liked the new context in which
students and I were talking: real people, real situations. Even mundane
operational problems offered new opportunities for talking and problem
solving. Students, of course, liked the service option; they knew they
were doing something useful and earning course credit for it.
But I also sensed that the connections students were making between
learning and serving needed more visibility. From my conferences with them
and by reading their reflective logs, I noted that students were focused
on the service but relatively unconcerned with how specific writing competencies
were developing or were enhancing service. I believe this is not unusual
for students enthusiastic about experiential learning, but for me, the
interaction between serving and learning is a critical variable in defining
a valuable service-learning experience. I consider it the instructor's
responsibility to create the conditions by which students see the connections
between learning and serving.
I also wanted to integrate the service-learning option more carefully
within the assignments, themes, and issues underpinning the transfer level
course, which explores multicultural ways of knowing: oral and written
traditions of language, home and school literacies, critical and creative
writing. These are issues important in a multicultural writing course,
critical for Hawai'i's local students, often Hawai'ian Creole speakers
who bring multiple literacies to college that "school" literacies
resist. Further, my work in our college emphasis on Asian-Pacific education
led me to question the agency-centered structure of service-learning as
opposed to other structures of service traditionally practiced in the Pacific.
Using oral histories as a departure point, I began to design a service-learning
project foregrounding these issues.
Another Way of Serving
While I was designing the project late in the fall semester, a friend
passed away suddenly. He was the father of a family who many years earlier
had "adopted" me. One of the first memories I recalled, after
learning of his death, was a trip to the island of Hawai'i to visit his
childhood home. I remembered the specific spots in Wood Valley he pointed
out: the family's first house, the path to school, the mountain apple tree.
And from that remembrance came a flood of stories he had told me, usually
late at night at the kitchen table: his bitter experiences of early schooling,
his encounters with obake (ghosts), work in the cane fields, the
early years of his marriage. Although I didn't record enough, some of his
stories I did write down as fictions, reading them aloud to friends and
students. I think I was privileged to his stories because I was a good
listener; I wanted to know his past, and we already had an established
connection. His story telling helped us to know one another better, I think,
because it was also his way of teaching me, an outsider to Hawai'i, something
of second generation Japanese life on Hawai'i's plantations. His storytelling
was a powerful way of knowing.
Surrounded by these memories, I developed a multigenerational story
telling project for service-learning. As designed, students make regular
visits with elders in transition who want company and enjoy conversation.
In the course of their acquaintance, students "capture" detailed
stories from the elders. Students then re-create in writing one of the
stories, as if it were fiction. They also add formal research to establish
the historical context and in a narrative frame acknowledge the elder as
the source of the story. The resulting stories are subsequently available
to service-learning students opting to perform or read aloud for a younger
The project, first offered in Spring 1996, meets the following course
competencies in expository writing:
- make accurate and insightful observations;
- discover, gather, and select information;
- organize ideas and evidence according to purpose and audience.
It also promotes the connections to language issues raised in the course:
the use of local voices and dialects, the shifts from oral to written to
oral retellings, and the conscious blurring of fact/fiction and critical/creative
modes. Through narratives are passed on the stories of Hawai'i's elders
to younger generations who, because of changes in families and social structure,
may not otherwise hear such stories or learn the history behind them.
One of the first pitfalls was budgetary: The agency providing me contacts
with elders closed without notice, and I had to establish new connections.
The delay reduced the number of participating students during the first
To date, the project's outcomes reveal themselves best in the experiences
of Crystale Engle, one of five students who participated during Spring
1996. A second semester freshman with a career interest in teaching, Crystale
has a strong service ethic. She had completed service-learning projects
the previous semester in my introductory composition class and in one of
Bob Franco's anthropology courses. Previous assignments in narrative and
observation provided some basics for Crystale's work.
Crystale was paired with Mrs. G., a resident of an elder care home in
Palolo Valley, a target district of Kapi'olani's service-learning project.
Crystale visited Mrs. G. two or three times weekly for several weeks. As
their acquaintance grew, Crystale learned that Mrs. G. had been born and
raised in Haleiwa, a former plantation town on Oahu's north shore where
Mrs. G.'s family ran a small vegetable store. Interested in this history,
Crystale focused on Mrs. G.'s early years to collect her stories.
An early and constant challenge for Crystale was the lack of detail
and specific stories Mrs. G. offered about her childhood in Haleiwa. Despite
her planned follow up questions, Crystale continually noted this problem
in her reflective log and in our conferences. I had not anticipated this
pitfall; in my experience, elders have a rich repertoire of stories to
share. Although we had carefully articulated our project to our agency
contacts, we concluded that the care home may have had other motivations
for pairing Crystale with Mrs. G.
Working with these givens, Crystale began bringing her young daughter
along on the visits to stimulate Mrs. G.'s interest. The presence of a
young child indeed increased Mrs. G.'s active involvement in the visits
but did not elicit fuller stories. At one point however Mrs. G. mentioned
the Haleiwa Hotel where she had played as a child. Unaware of the hotel's
existence and curious, Crystale decided to build a story around Mrs. G.'s
family store and the hotel, using the elder's narrative fragments as plot
incidents and clues to Mrs. G.'s childhood character. To learn more about
Haleiwa Hotel, Crystale conducted research at college libraries and the
Several weeks later Crystale read a draft of her story, "Running
in Haleiwa," to several of my students attending a supplementary writing
studio. Significantly, students responded that her story sounded like the
stories in The Speed of Darkness, a local collection by Rodney Morales,
assigned for the course. Crystale confirmed that she had used the Morales
stories as models for her own writing. To the enjoyment of her class, Crystale
performed this story at semester's end. I encouraged her also to read the
story to Mrs. G. and her family. Crystale planned to revise the story again
and to continue her visits with Mrs. G. "Running in Haleiwa"
is one of several stories now available to my students who choose performing
and reading with elementary school children as their service-learning projects.
Crystale succeeded in many of the project goals, both intended and unexpected.
First in her reflective logs and our discussions, Crystale wrestles with
several issues of language as she shaped and revised her story. Among these
was the correct use of written Hawai'ian Creole English and words from
other languages in the story. She also explored narrative points of view
and plot structures to weave accurately what she had learned about Mrs.
G. and Haleiwa. For example, Crystale had recorded this autobiographical
fragment in her reflective log:
"She said that her father was strict and they used to sneak out
of the house when
their father wasn't there to go to the movies. Then they would sneak back
asked her where she got the money from and she said her mother gave it
This made her remember that she used to steal money from the register to
In "Running in Haleiwa," Crystale transformed this fragment
into first-person fiction:
"... I snuck behind the counter, keeping an eye on Mama. My fingers
to the cash register, felt some change, grabbed it, and quickly retreated.
out the door like nothing had happened. Both my fists were squeezed tightly
holding the money. As soon as I was out of sight, I ran towards the...
Through the library research Crystale also learned more about plantation
life, a critical period in Hawai'i's history, now less and less accessible
to our younger generations. In the narrative frame acknowledging Mrs. G.
as the story's inspiration, Crystale provides a brief history of Haleiwa:
"... a very popular Haleiwa Hotel where Seaview Inn now stands. The
hotel was built in 1899 and with it came a special railroad extension..."
In reflecting on Crystale's experience, I am most impressed by the interaction
between learning and serving in a culturally appropriate way. Crystale
uses her observing skills to "follow" the elder instead of insisting
on capturing complete stories, an original stipulation of the project.
Exemplifying local ways of relating across generations, Crystale brings
her own culture to service-learning when deciding to include her daughter
in visits with Mrs. G. People of Mrs. G.'s generation are especially at
ease around very young children. In changing the social structure of those
visits, Crystale enhanced the experience for Mrs. G. and others at the
In her logs, Crystale writes about the present and future conditions
of elders in Hawai'i. In one of the most poignant moments she reflects
on the relationship she is forming with Mrs. G.
"On my next visit to Mrs. G., she asked me where my daughter was.
I told her I
was sorry and I didn't bring her because I was going straight to school
said that she made cookies for her. I thought that was so sweet, and I
felt bad because it was like she was waiting to see my daughter more than
she was waiting
to see me."
What Crystale and I first thought was a serious weakness in the project--the
lack of complete stories to record--actually became a strength. It challenged
Crystale to work deeply with important issues of writing. She used her
resourcefulness to make Mrs. G. more comfortable and active. In that sense
Crystale's project achieved a local style of serving I could not have anticipated.
Crystale's experiences with Mrs. G. have helped me to revise my service-learning
project. It is a demanding activity which may attract only the most confident
students. Some stipulations of the original project are relaxed to accommodate
the range of elders students may encounter. In addition to agency contacts,
students can connect with elders through friends or extended families.
Other extensions of the project include collecting stories from different
populations; with Kapi'olani's increased focus on HIV/AIDS, people residing
in hospice may be another source of stories. With an increased number of
students and elders participating, an ongoing opportunity to reflect in
community, also a feature of local style, will be available to students.
As a form of experiential education, service-learning offers a balanced
interaction; ideally, students and elders in this project benefit equally.
As a pedagogy, hopefully suggested in this narrative, service-learning
benefits instructors by its compatibility with specific issues they wish
to emphasize in their courses. Like writing, service-learning presents
the opportunity to reflect recursively on the whole course and its effects
on students' learning. And that is a powerful way of knowing.
"The desire to write grows with writing."
Irena M. Levy
Welcome to English 100. This course offers opportunities for developing
critical reading skills, analyzing expository essays, and practicing writing
for various expository purposes. The course emphasis is on critical thinking,
principles of effective organization, and elements of effective written
General Course Philosophy and Expectations
This course assumes that, regardless of topic or purpose, all meaningful
writing is a creative act involving exploration and insight through language
and imagination. Therefore, real writing happens when a writer discovers
what to say and how to say it; there are no rigid formulas. Sometimes,
confusion and difficulty are normal feelings in the process of creation.
In this course it is expected that writers will continuously shape and
revise their writing, using their uniqueness to meet each writing situation.
When writing to communicate, good writing is an appropriate response to
the specific writing situation. Creativity and communication are nurtured
when writers write for themselves and for real readers. This English 100
course is structured as a workshop, not a lecture course, so success is
based on every writer's commitment and effort. As a writer, your work is
to actively participate in your learning by conscientiously practicing
writing, completing reading assignments, being prepared for class, working
actively with others, and submitting all formal assignments and homework
Because peer responding is a regular feature of this course, students
come to rely on their writing groups for important feedback throughout
the writing process. Responding to another's writing is a generous act
which helps readers and writers. I will show you ways of giving and getting
meaningful, constructive, and non-threatening responses. To create a positive
writing environment, we will practice the values of our host culture: kuleana,
lokahi, and malama. I will explain these terms early this semester.
As your writing instructor, my work is to facilitate the development
of your writing. In English 100 I like to serve as a coach, responding
in ways that move you forward toward each graded draft. Forms of assistance
include: responding to your writing in progress, conferencing, giving specific
suggestions where relevant for improvement, informing you of your grade
in progress, and praising your strengths.
Course Goals and Competencies
The purpose of this course is to assist you to write informatively and
persuasively for academic and professional purposes. My goals for you as
writers include: increased confidence in your writing; increased ability
to assess a new writing task; discovery of a successful writing process
reflecting your uniqueness.
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to demonstrate
your ability to write clear, correct, and concise university-level papers,
including the competency to:
1. Make accurate and insightful observations (from experience, conversation,
2. Discover, gather, and select information.
3. Use the library to find source material when appropriate.
4. Limit and develop a subject.
5. Make valid generalizations and inferences to generate and support
6. Abstract ideas from and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of
professional and/or peer.
7. Use the writing process to clarify ideas and develop new perspectives.
8. Organize ideas and evidence according to purpose and audience.
9. Evaluate one's own writing, considering purpose, audience, and tone.
10. Revise as necessary to improve unity, support, and organization.
11. Edit and proofread your own writing for Standard American English.
12. Work successfully in groups to build your skills in language and
In this course you may substitute formal assignment #4 (the research
paper) for a service-learning option. A national movement, service-learning
encouraged students to serve their community by using what they are learning
in their college courses. I hope you will participate in the service-learning
project; details are coming to you in a separate handout.
The Service-Learning Option in English 100
What is it? In Service-Learning, you use what you are learning
in a course to serve the nearby community in some way. For our course you
will collect stories form someone, and you will re-create one of those
stories in writing. This activity connects to language and literacy in
oral and written forms.
Who is involved? You may be paired with an elderly resident of
Honolulu, a medical patient, or someone else who has valuable stories to
Where and when? Once you have been paired, you will arrange hours
and days. You should expect to put in 10-30 hours during the semester meeting
with the storyteller and writing up at least one collected story. Campus
meetings and workshops related to the Service-Learning Project will require
How does Service-Learning give me credit in my English class? To
complete a service-learning project, you will
1) Meet regularly with your partners between 10-30 hours this semester,
and write down the stories s/he shares with you; complete weekly a reflective
learning log about your visit. If you complete this part with quality,
you receive 25 bonus points for this activity.
2) Using the collected stories, and a little library research, you will
re-create in writing one of the stories your partner shared with you. You
will write up this story for a new audience--perhaps elementary school
children, the family of your partner, or perhaps your classmates. The written
story will be printed in a booklet for future use by other Service-Learning
students. This story substitutes for the I-Search research project required
in our course.
Why should you participate in service-learning? By volunteering
in service to the community, you will be applying the skills you are building
in English 100 to real life contexts, on behalf of people who need those
services; you will make more connections to your learning, and it will
be more meaningful to you. You may discover new skills and talents in yourself
formerly unsuspected. You also will learn something more about the community.
You will be healthier than people who don't volunteer (there's research
on this). You will feel good about yourself.
How do I find out more about Service-Learning? Meet with me soon
in my office. I can offer only 5 students this Service-Learning option.
I look forward to discussing this learning option with you!
Service-Learning Component of English 100
Robert Coles, noted professor, psychiatrist, and writer, defined
Service-Learning at an April 1995 meeting of the American Association for
Higher Education, as learning which transforms "ideas in the head
to actions of the heart."
KCC's Mission statement for its year-old Service-Learning emphasis
is to use Service-Learning to build on the unique cultural capabilities
of the diverse student population and create stronger support systems for
individuals confronting multiple risks. We need to recast Śrisks
to be feared into challenges to be faced' and see that no one has
face them alone. Through community service and thoughtful
reflection students will help develop communities in central and east Honolulu,
and empower themselves.
In English 100 I am offering a Service-Learning component of the course
for the third time. While I strongly believe in the value of Service-Learning
and would like to require it of every 100 students, this component is optional
for very practical reasons. I am aware that not every student will be able
to incorporate Service-Learning into his or her schedule. Nonetheless,
I would like to ask students who might be interested in participating in
this exciting, innovative, rewarding, and valuable project. Many KCC students
found their Service-Learning Project option a satisfying and meaningful
Service-Learning options might include tutoring, working with the elderly,
helping youth at risk in after-school activities, working with teachers
in classes, collecting oral histories, tutoring at the LAC, or working
at the Waikiki Health Center.
A booklet describing many nonprofit organizations which welcome KCC's
service-learning students is available for you to make your selection.
Connections between Service-Learning and Course Content
-make accurate and insightful observations
-discover, gather, and select information
-use the writing process to clarify ideas and develop new perspectives
Specifically, you will need to:
(1) commit yourself to a minimum of 20 hours (or 2 hours a week) per
semester to a
community agency of your choice (there is no maximum)
(2) select an organization or site
(3) obtain my approval prior to contacting the organization
(4) attend campus-wide meetings conducted by the Service-Learning coordinators
(5) contact the agency regarding training, your responsibilities, your
(6) complete a Service-Learning Application; a University of Hawai'i
Assumption of Risk, Release, and Waiver form; and a Service Agreement with
Site Supervisor form
(7) keep regular and detailed journal entries that include your reflections
relationship between your experiences and the course content, your observations,
and your thoughts and feelings about the experience (I will give you more
information on reflective journal writing.)
(8) agree to attend orientation/training sessions of your agency requires
(9) share your project experiences in class
(10) write a final evaluation of the community service experience
Your grade will depend upon your consistent participation in all aspects
of the Service-Learning project, as listed above, and on the quality of
your reflective journal. Your participation in this project may serve as
the basis of all four papers, or any one of the four required papers. If
you opt to use your service-learning as the basis for your research paper,
you will be required to use fewer library resources. You will receive
an additional 10% for participating in this project.
(1) Beginning of second week of class--your application is due
(2) End of second week--select an agency or site and make contact with
(3) End of third week--confirmation of placement in an agency or at
(4) Weeks 4 -14--training and term of service
(5) Week 8--first portion of Reflective Journal due
(6) Week 15--agency evaluation due
(7) Week 16--Reflective journal due
You should choose Service-Learning as an option only if you are certain
of your interest and certain that you have the time.
Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested in this