Engaging Freshman Biology Majors through Collaborative Community Service

Deborah Fox
Department of Biology, Spring Hill College

Spring Hill College’s collaboration with an underserved community middle school provided an opportunity to engage academic ‘at risk’ biology majors through service learning.  The first semester biology course at SHC has a history of 27% of the students not succeeding (W/D/F).  Analysis of the data since 2007 showed that more than 60% of the freshman biology majors with ACT scores of 21-23 did not succeed in this course.  The SHC freshman with ACT scores between 21-24 taking Principles of Biology adopted a 7th grade middle school class providing one on one tutoring and group lab activities to the 12 year olds.  This service learning project provided freshman biology majors an opportunity to become engaged in biology at the beginning of their academic career rather than later.  The academic ‘at risk’ biology students enriched their understanding of biology by teaching biology concepts to younger students.  Improving the freshman science major’s experience in science courses increases success and retention of these students at SHC.  The primary objectives for the service participation are to increase our students’ awareness of local community needs and their ability to assist with these needs, to develop the students’ abilities to communicate across cultural, ethnic, and age boundaries, to increase our students’ understanding of foundational topics in biology, and to increase identity with their chosen major.  These outcomes will be assessed using end of semester course evaluations, reflection papers, and surveys.  Preliminary results and outcomes will be presented at the conference.