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HISTORY OF SERVICE LEARNING AT STFX

Service Learning  began at StFX in 1996 and is considered Canada’s pioneering service learning program. Dr. Ann Bigelow, of the StFX Psychology department introduced this innovative pedagogy to the university and continues to champion its growth. In 2009, Dr. Bigelow was recognized for this contribution to higher education in Atlantic Canada with the Anne Marie MacKinnon Instructional Leadership Award and the 3M Teaching Excellance Award.

Immersion Service Learning was introduced at StFX first. In Immersion experiences, students travel to diverse communities to provide service and to learn. Over the past years, Immersion experiences have taken place in Europe, the Caribbean, China, Mexico and Central America.

Course-based Service Learning, was introduced a few years after ISL, and has grown to become the largest part of Service Learning Program at StFX. In course-based service learning, academic assignments place students in service settings in the local community as a way to enrich their classroom learning.

Through the years, the StFX Service Learning program benefitted from two large, five-year grants from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. The first one, in 1999, provided an opportunity to develop and expand both the Course-based and Immersion Service Learning. In 2005, StFX received a second grant from the Foundation aimed at supporting the course-based branch of service learning. For more information on these grants, click here.

By the time this second McConnell grant ended in 2010, the StFX Service Learning Program had grown tremendously. Course-based Service Learning now works with over 100 community groups annually, providing almost 850 service experiences to approximately 900 students. Service learning courses are offered in almost every department at StFX. Immersion service learning has also continued to grow. Each year, over 60 students are able to travel and benefit from these experiences. Currently, Immersion Service Learning experiences take place in six diverse locations: Beliza, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Halifax Inner City, L’Arche Ottawa and Peru.

In 2010, The McConnell Foundation featured the StFX Service Learning program in its publication Getting Wisdom The Transformative Power of Community Service-Learning. The following explanation of the book is offered on the McConnell Foundation website:

“In 2004, there was a call for proposals for the Community Service-Learning program which received an overwhelming response. A dozen universities were funded by the Foundation, and many universities that did not receive grants also went on to launch programs using their own resources. Silver Donald Cameron, with his characteristic verve and immediacy, here tells the stories of several of these collaborations.
The best examples of the community service-learning initiatives taking place across Canada demonstrate how that engagement can mobilize knowledge, help solve problems, and create responsible citizens.”

The book is available for download