July 2, 2009
Faculty, students plan service-learning trip to Panama
Faculty members and students from the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Counseling will spend several days this summer sharing their lives -- and their willingness to learn through serving others -- with the people of Panama.
Dr. Carla Edwards, Dr. Jerry Barnett, Dr. Roger Neustadter and Dr. Ryan Wessell, along with students Jera Archer, Miranda Oehler, Kristin Stewart and Michael Webster, leave for Panama City on July 6 for a week-long service learning trip.
While in the capital city of the small Central American republic, the team will hold workshops and seminars for parents and teachers at a school for underprivileged children, who range in age from kindergartners to teenagers. Dr. Carla Edwards, associate professor and chair of the department, says the trip represents a unique opportunity for students and Northwest faculty alike to learn by doing -- a cardinal tenet of service learning -- while acquiring insights that will be shared in classrooms and conference rooms after the group returns home.
"The students traveling with us will collect data for research projects," Edwards said. "They received student research grants through the College of Education and Human Services to look at culture, family structure and the activities of children in Panama. When we return, they'll be able to present their observations and data at various student conferences."
This is the first such service learning trip undertaken by the department, which has been working closely with a Panamanian organization known as the Pro-Education Foundation. The project is also being supported through a teaching/learning grant through the Office of the Provost.
"When we decided that we wanted to explore something like this, I was amazed at how many people came forward from within the University and were willing to help in various aspects," Edwards said.
While in Panama the Northwest group will be accompanied by three teenage interpreters, all of whom plan to attend the University's Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics and Computing this fall. Now entering its tenth year of operation, the academy is a residential program for gifted, highly-motivated students who live on campus during what would be their junior and senior years of high school.
Though service and research are the team's main objectives, the group also plans on taking tourist outings to the Panama Canal, El Valle de Anton and the Caribbean coast.
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