Loved the garden so much Talisha put in extra hours!

Overall, the service learning assignment was truly an amazing experience. After working in the garden and completing my 10 hours, I came back an extra day because I had so much fun learning how to build an organic garden and meeting new people who attend UWF. The end result from this experience has made me a better individual by becoming more aware of nature and learning what I can do to make a difference.

Cleaning up a church yard for service learning!

One of the several lessons Jordyn related to this service learning project:

Chapter 6: Ecosystems and Nutrient Cycling relays the message that everything in an ecosystem replies on each other. The animals rely on the plant life, while the plant life relies on the animals. Ecosystems go full circle. While cleaning up the shrubbery and flora in the garden, this lesson came to mind. Although no animals other than birds and maybe rabbits inhabit this garden, this garden community relies on each other. The grassy areas were being taken over by weeds, the shrubs had overgrown, and the flowers had died. The bee community that inhabited
this garden had to move, due to the loss of flowers they were feeding off. The grass was not getting the sunlight it needed with the overgrown shrubs covering it up and the weed takeover. This prayer garden is supposed to be lively and a happy place to go, but it seemed more dead than anything else. After sprucing up the yard, things seem to be going much better. The grass is still alive and everything is clean. Again, this is a smaller scenario, but made me realize an ecosystem is not only a big grassland, prairie, or rainforest. An ecosystem can be in your own back yard. Everything relies on each other.

Service Learning at the new UWF garden by Monica

Service Learning
1.) I was given the opportunity to work with the UWF Garden Club. Their mission is, to build community at UWF and in the surrounding region. To promote food sustainability and security by creating an alternative to the industrial system of food production. To teach UWF students, faculty, staff and other how to grow food locally and organically. To encourage healthy eating by increasing access to fruits and vegetables. To increase respect and concern for the natural world. To help students develop leadership and community-building skills.
2.) Throughout the time that I was volunteering at the garden, I did various things. For example, all the volunteers took turns laying down cardboard to kill of the smaller plants. We also dug a trail where we would connect tubes to carry water throughout the garden. We raked dirt as well as mulch all throughout the garden to even everything out proportionately as well as create a god place for the fruits and vegetables to grow on.
3.) Chapter 1: Environmental Literacy relates to the work we did in many ways. For example, as previously mentioned, the volunteers laid down cardboard. The cardboard was used to kill off all the plants that were too small to be cut down. For example, weeds, grass and smaller plats of that sort. It especially relates to chapter 1 because instead of using chemicals to kill of all the plants, a more natural way was used to kill off the plants. The cardboard is biodegradable so it will do its job for a temporary time and then give the chance for other plants to be grown without damaging the soil and making it loose all it’s nutrients.
4.) Another way the volunteer work related to the lessons learned in this course is that the garden being built is going to be an all natural garden. Instead of using electricity they are using a one hundred percent natural source, the sun. So no extra electricity will be used. As well as they will not be using any other unnatural things like pesticides that are full of chemicals. The plants and fruits will be grown one hundred percent natural to make sure they do not cause nay harm to the environment.
5.) All us volunteers removed the invasive species that were in the environment. An invasive species is a species that is not native to that environment. Invasive species are harmful to the environment because they can over consume and/or throw off the natural ecosystem of that area. We did that by cutting and removing the larger plants and as mentioned previously we used cardboard to remove the rest of the smaller plants. The information of invasive species can be found in Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction.
6.) During my service learning experience I developed skills like leadership and learning to commit to the work that I was doing to get it done in the most efficient way. It also helped me work on my team skills since we did have to do many things as a group to get things accomplished as fast as possible and the best way possible. These are great skills to obtain for my profession or any profession anyone decides to pursue.

Why are snails so bad??

Apple Snails at Loxahatchee
            This summer I worked with an amazing group of people on a wildlife refuge called Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1951 under the authority the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and is managed through an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge is part of the northern Everglades encompassing 145,800 acres of that land, providing water storage for floods and a habitat for numerous migratory birds and other native animals that call the refuge home.
            I worked with a biologist, Melissa Better, who is working to help the native apple snail population overcome their invasive cousins. I did various jobs inside, putting numbers into a computer, and outside, feeding apple snails and checking enclosures. I had to get into water proof fishing waders to wade around in alligator, snake, and insect infested waters searching for spatterdock to feed the snails. Along with that, I collected the native snail eggs to bring to their enclosure, and killed the invasive species eggs.
            One of the chapters that pertains to my service learning is Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction. In South Florida, we see invasive species every day from lizards to snakes, though it is not more presented than in the Everglades, and this refuge is doing its best to combat the ever-present invasive species. This chapter covers how invasive species push evolution and/or extinction, which ties in well with what I witnessed. The thing that makes the native apple snails so threatened by the invasive species is that they reproduce at a much slower rate. Where an invasive apple snail can produce as many as 200 eggs a native snail only produces less than half of that. This fact makes the native snails much more susceptible to going extinct and being taken over by the invasive ones. What impacted me the most about invasive species was just how better adapted they seem to be for their environment. There I was looking for invasive eggs along the edge of the wetland area, and just seeing their bright pink coloring larger than I expected; then contrasted next to native eggs which look so pathetic and small in number. It shocked me that the native snails managed to survive for so long, because just by the look of their seemingly feeble eggs they should not have. Which may just go to show that Mother Nature can be really surprising especially with human help. Chapter 10 is about evolution and the extinction of species which is demonstrated so successfully by what I saw, it was amazing; such a tiny, slow creature facing incredible odds. Whether the invasive apple snails overtake the native ones seems to be an ongoing battle; maybe the native snail will evolve to be able to produce more eggs the way the invasive species do, or maybe it will become extinct, but for now Better is trying to further their survival.
            Another chapter that related to my service learning was Chapter 8: Community Ecology. This chapter was essentially all about the Everglades ecosystem and its destruction, and now renewal. The Loxahatchee park is part of the extricate Everglades system of managing water, which filters water and delivers it to various areas. When humans first started developing the land we got rid of a lot of this system by building right over the water ways. Now realizing what a precious resource we had, we have been trying to restore the water ways that have been damaged. This main aspect in this chapter relates directly to what Loxahatchee helps to do, which is to restore the water ways. As I discovered by working at the refuge that each wetland serves as a mini ecosystem, connecting to the bigger wetland eventually. The water is stored through a series of pumps, canals, water control structures, and levees that push the water through, filtering it as it goes eventually into the Everglades. In this chapter, it also included the definition of a community and how it relates to an ecosystem. Loxahatchee is a wetland ecosystem that provides a habitat for many species that are native to Florida. Many of these species are birds, some of which are great egrets, white ibis, great blue herons, and wood storks. They call the refuge home and thrive there. Ecosystems are delicate things, as I learned in the chapter, and even an apple snail can change the way wetland ecosystem functions. Being that invasive apple snails and native ones are in an intraspecific competition, they compete over the same food source, which in abundant numbers could endanger the plant life. Every animal plays such an important role in an ecosystem, even nonliving things such as water, that when one dies, gets lost due to development it effects the whole ecosystem structure.

            Finally, the last chapter that related to the work I was doing was Chapter 17: Solid Waste. Surprisingly, there were a lot of instances that the refuge reuses materials from past projects. There are four R’s that scientists use when being environmentally friendly. They are, refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. The refuge defiantly makes use of at least two of these, reuse, and recycle. Since there are always many separate projects starting and ending at separate times, the refuge takes the previously used materials and puts them to use for a new project. My first day working, Better had me and another volunteer take down the former shabby enclosures that had fallen apart. We worked to take apart the PVC pipes and netting that made up the old snail enclosure, which allowed snails to escape when water rose too high. Once out of the water and disconnected, she led us to a back lot which housed thousands of pipes, netting, and other materials to be reused in new projects. The pipes that were either broken or would not come apart were put into a construction sized recycling bin, which was piled with materials that were recyclable. It was incredible to see such a large sized recycling system being used, everything that went on in the refuge seemed to have another purpose later on. Seeing that helped me to understand that point that this chapter was trying to make, that it is as much of what we do as how we do it. Buying recyclable materials or making something into something else has a greater impact for the better than condemning the plastic materials to a landfill, polluting our planet even more. 

Mad design skills!!

Joe Griffin used his excellent design skills to help Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission educate the public. Check out the pamphlet he created:

Giving back to society over Spring Break!

I had several students spend their spring break helping with the Hurricane Sandy recovery. Audrey Freeman did an excellent job relating her service to course lessons AND professional development! 

I went up to New York to perform disaster relief inside a home that was hit by hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. We were given the opportunity to serve Remi and Lilia Linauskis for an entire week. Their basement had been flooded with water during the hurricane, filling the room with nearly eight feet of water. The basement had been stripped of all dry wall and flooring. When my group came to their home, we replaced all the drywall and broke away the remainder of the tile that was still on the floor. As we moved from one portion of the room to another, we began mudding the area where drywall had already been put up. My part in all of this was to help drill ray wall in place as well as measuring and cutting out all the sections of drywall to fit. This included measuring around holes and outlets.

This relief project can most be related back to the lesson on climate change. We learned in class that the climate change can affect different areas in different ways. One example of this would be the glaciers in the north. While the glaciers is a source of more than half of the word’s fresh water, the melting of the glaciers into our oceans are causing massive disturbances in our ecosystem. In relation to my service project, climate can be seen through Hurricane Sandy. Places like New York are not used to storm as large as Hurricane Sandy, and therefore are not even close to being prepared for them. The fact that Hurricane Sandy touched down at such a location as New York only goes to demonstrate the Changes in our climates across the globe. 

Another way I can relate my New York service to our lessons is through pollution. As we know here in Florida, a natural disaster such as a hurricane causes massive amounts of pollution to enter into the environment. It was evident as we drove through the city how much trash and debris still lingered in the streets and in the houses even eighteen months after the hurricane came though. A big part of was people had to do was clean up a basement or house of the damaged debris cause by the extreme amounts of flooding. All the floors of the houses had to be taken up and replaced, as did most of the drywall and insulation. As we would travel through the city, large piles of debris could still be seen on the street sides from continuous clean-up efforts, such as that by SBDR or by individual house and business owners. All of this trash and debris is pollution to the environment. Unless it is disposed of properly, it all gets taken away and dumped into an overflowing dumping ground where it is left to sit. And the trash that has been dumped into or has fallen into the rivers pollute the water even further. The already polluted rivers have suffered significantly from Hurricane Sandy because of how little effort people have put into cleaning up the rivers of the waste. 

My final tie between our lessons and my New York trip is through clean energy. Because most rooms we worked on had been completely filled with water and had to have been stripped entirely of all thing electric, we took this opportunity to replace all light bulbs in the houses where we worked with energy efficient ones. Clean energy is a way to help lessen the amount of pollution we put back into the environment. Most of the houses we worked in did not have energy efficiency. By replacing all the light bulbs in all the houses we worked on, we have made significant progress in helping introduce the house owners into moving towards becoming environmentally friendly. Every light bulb we replaced in every house we worked on pushed the local area up onto a small step of becoming more environmentally friendly as a whole.

I did not learn the types of skills I was expecting to. Going up to New York, we had no idea what we were getting our hands into aside from the fact that it would be manual labor and could possibly be outside in thirty degree weather. What I did learn more on was how to work together with a team. In the beginning, the twelve of us had absolutely no idea how to measure, cut, or drill in drywall. By the end of the week, however, not only did we know how to do all of those things individually, but we all learned to work together as a team while doing it. We were able to put together a system where four people would measure and cut for six others who were set and ready to lift and rill the drywall in place either in the ceiling or on the walls. The remaining two people were our official “mudders”. As we moved from placing drywall in the first half of the room to the second, two of our people came behind us and began taping over the cracks between pieces of drywall and mudding over our beginners’ mistakes. As the room progressed and fewer and fewer people were needed to help with the drywall, the jobless people would move to help the mudders, coming behind them and sanding over the dry mud. Everyone had their job, and everyone’s job worked together in a system of harmony. We not only learned to work together, but also to hold our tongues when a sharp word was said or a thoughtless move would cause us to start the system over again. Harmony is a wonderful lesson to remember for later in life, no matter what the job description is. A workplace works only as well as its employees, and where dysfunction cases chaos, harmony allows for success.

Allie used her photography skills to help the Humane Society!

Could not resist, check out this photo she took, SURELY this little pup was adopted right away after this photo was published:

Would you agree to live in a simulated slum?

I am incredibly impressed with Tristan Baker's service learning project! He summizes his project like this: "I helped run a slum experience called “48”, which is where high school students stay in a moderated slum for 48 hours both to raise funds and to raise awareness. My personal job was to be the “Master Builder” where I facilitated the repair/general maintenance and construction of the entire town. The funds raised from the experience went to missionaries in Nigeria who are teaching “16 brick” stove technology to the poor, which greatly reduces the amount of fuel needed to cook, which reduces the amount of trees harvested, and smoke inhalation, the third leading cause of death." 


The connections Tristan made to our course lessons were also very well done:

1. Chapter 11 – Nigeria was one the heart of Africa’s tropical rainforest belt, but it now has lost almost 95% of its forested land. Nigeria is also home to the fastest growing population on Earth, forecasted to exceed that of the United States by 2050, in a fraction of the space. As the population increases the need for fuel increases exponentially as each new person also desires a higher standard of living. By introducing 16 brick stove technology to the country it will allow the significant proportion of Nigerians who still rely on stoves for heat and to cook to vastly reduce the amount of wood needed to support the burgeoning population. Without some significant change current trends will quickly strip the entire country of its luscious forests upon which much of the wildlife depends.

2. Chapter 21 – Furthermore, the 16 brick stove technology provides a significant reduction in the carbon emissions produced by the population, which is beneficial in two ways. As the population of Nigeria continues to expand, even a small carbon footprint by a billion and a half people will have a significant both the health of the populace and the overall health of the planet. By reducing the carbon footprint of each individual one can significantly reduce the air pollution present in every part of the country. In addition, it will increase the quality of life for everyone as pollution related diseases fall. It should be noted that the current third leading cause of death in Nigeria is smoke inhalation due to prolonged exposure to smoke to fires which cook and heat the home every hour of every day.

3. Chapter 22 – In addition, one of the single greatest threats to Nigeria as a nation is long term environmental degradation. As time passes the livability (already tenuous in parts) will only decline as forests disappear and the air is increasingly unbreathable. By reducing the short term pollution one can hope reduce the effects of, or even stave off, the worst of climate change as a result of the over burning of wood and coal. By providing cheaper, more efficient technology one allows the people to take a personal initiative in the struggle to save one’s own country. One of the most influential tools in the arsenal of one struggling against climate change is personal involvement and dedication by the individual, because only then will the nation change in any palpable manner. By giving the individual a means to change and better themselves in addition to the environment one provides a catalyst in the development of an environmentally responsible and knowledgeable culture, the true and only key to staving off global warming.

recycled materials bicycle!

Check out the bike made by Grace Goepfert from materials found at the landfill:

Now THAT is taking recycling to a whole new level!

Best professional devlopment skills submission thus far!

Check out the professional skill development Charles Watson received while contributing to his community and earning a grade for service learning: 

 The professional skills I used for this assignment were time management, organization, leadership.
        •       Time Management- Scheduled times and days that didn’t interfere with school, and had to request off of work to make sure I got the hours for this assignment done in a timely fashion.
        •       Organization- As one of the older members of this project I was given also given leadership role where I organized small groups of kids that ranged from sizes 4-8 based on age and work ethic in order to make sure an ample amount cigarette butts and trash would get cleaned up.
        •       Leadership- I was one of the older participants in this volunteer event mainly because is meant to target High School students and educate them, I was chosen to be more of a leader and help direct kids along with helping out in my own group.
        •       Maturity-While having a leadership role I had to act my age and be responsible. Because I was older than all the kids and a college student they kind of viewed me as a "Cool college kid" and looked up to me so I act mature, responsible and serious about work in order to set a good example for the younger kids so that they know that you have to act professional and get work done first before you can have fun.

Excellent service learning submission from Alea Kittell

I volunteered at Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park. The Park was started by a man named Sandy who was born and raised on an island where macaws were wild and free. He developed a love for these birds, and started adopting macaws. Unfortunately April 30th of last year Sandy passed away. The mission is to educate the public about these birds and to take in unwanted macaws and other birds.

I did many different jobs at the bird park. My primary job was feeding all of the birds giving them treats or giving them their main meal. I also trimmed plants, fixed & improved aviaries, cleaned out a storage building, shoveled bird poop, chopped up an old garden border and removed the nails from it for re-use, and just spent time with the birds which is also important since many of them like attention.

One of the chapters that pertains to my service learning is Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction. I first-handedly got to experience the power of a macaw’s beak, which has evolved for cracking open even the toughest of jungle nuts and fruits. One large male macaw decided he wanted my finger instead of the treat. He bit down hard and cut my finger. My finger was numb for almost half the day and after he bit me I felt woozy. Sure I knew that parrots and macaws beaks are so specialized for eating tough foods, but it wasn’t until I experienced this that I realized just how well suited they are to this task. Another issue mentioned in this chapter is habitat destruction and overharvesting. While macaws and many of the other bird species at the park have destruction of habitat in their native lands, some of them are wild caught birds. There is a large issue with birds being caught in the wild and sold as pets. Since macaws normally mate for life, this can be devastating to wild macaws. Some of the birds at the park were wild caught or are closely related to wild caught birds. Chapter 10 mainly talks about the issue of the wild birds of Guam being killed by snakes. Even in captivity you can have problems with predators so at the bird park there are animal traps set out to catch predators, each aviary is secure to keep the birds in and the predators out.

Another chapter that relates to my experience is Chapter 17: Solid Waste. At Uncle Sandy’s Bird Park I noticed that many things were re-used or re-purposed. They make use of at least two of the four R’s mentioned in chapter 17. I noticed that when they gave visitors a plastic cup full of peanuts to feed the birds, after the visitors ran out of peanuts the park workers would take back the cups and re-use them again. Also, when I was breaking apart that wooden border, I was told to take out the nails because they could be re-used. It was hard getting the nails out, but it felt good knowing they could be used again for something else. When fixing the aviaries we would use scrap pieces of wire fencing to patch areas we cut out for placing a perch and we would also use scrap wood to make a food dish holder for the birds to perch on. In one of the large flight aviaries, old truck bed covers (toppers) and things were placed for macaws to perch on and play with. The sleeping boxes for the macaws were old metal barrels or plastic barrels with a cut out opening for the birds. Even the food that fell from the off ground aviaries did not go to waste. The free-range turkey, named Tom, enjoyed walking under these aviaries and eating up the food that fell.

Finally, the last chapter that I can associate with my volunteer work at Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park is Chapter 18: Agriculture. While chapter 10 is mainly about agriculture, it also mentions the symbiotic relationship between the ducklings and the rice field. It is this symbiotic relationship that was a great solution in chapter 18 and something I want to focus on. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I noticed that not even the food went to waste because the free-range birds would eat the food that fell out of the aviaries. Not only was this a great benefit for the park, but also the poop from the free-range birds can even be beneficial for the plants. I personally use my peafowl’s poop on my plants and it really helps them grow. Bill’s dog helps scare away any predators or pests (like how I witnessed his dog chase away a mouse) but the dog is friendly to the birds and keeps them safe. The peacocks can also make an alarm call and alert people and birds of any predators or people coming. Sure there isn’t much agriculture going on here, but there are a lot of beneficial relationships going on which reminds me of the ducks and the rice.

I breed and raise peafowl ( so I already have experience with caring for them and was able to relate to many of the chores, but I did learn that peafowl are much easier to care for than parrots and macaws. I made sure to listen carefully about what food to feed the birds and how much, because parrots eat a different food mix than macaws. If I was uncertain about my instructions I would ask again because it is better to do something the right way the first time than mess up and have to do it over. I made sure I worked hard no matter what the task, although it was hard to clean out some of the aviaries when the bird wanted to bite you or crawl all over you! When I finished something I would ask for something else to do instead of standing around. Doing what I was told to do and working hard will certainly help me with whatever job I end up having. I was able to see how the aviaries were constructed and how things were run and these things can help me care for my own birds.

Service Learning doing what you love!

Check out the journal submission from one of my online students involving teaching kids science! 

For my ten hours of service learning, I decided to volunteer with a home school group. My group of choice was Community Christian Homeschoolers in Gainesville, Florida, and I was a volunteer as part of the science lessons. I am an education major at UWF and plan to home school my children, so I thought what better way to serve my hours than teaching home school kids about the environment and how to save our planet. To complete my hours, each day I was to provide an activity; my activities were environmentally geared and lasted 3-4 hours. The first day, Monday, February 10th, we made paper roses for Valentine’s Day, but the lesson I taught was on how flowers are beneficial to our environment. I taught the kids that flowers breathe in the “bad” carbon dioxide, and release the “good” oxygen for us to breathe. There was an understanding at the end of the lesson about how we need plants to survive; we need them to be able to breathe.
            On Tuesday, February 11th, I planned an activity on resource scarcity. The finished product would be a collage of mixed fabrics. There were ten areas to glue in on each child’s paper, but I only put enough fabric on the table for three pieces per student. I explained that I would only put one more piece of fabric on the table every two minutes, and to use their materials wisely. Knowing some kids would finish, some would have a couple pieces glued, and some might not have any, once the fabric ran out they started racing for each new piece. This is when I explained how there are some things on Earth that we don’t always have enough of. For example, water, food, and the reproduction of plants in ecosystems are very scarce. If we keep using things up before we can get more there will be a problem. I taught if there is not enough for everyone to finish then we have to take our time and learn how to conserve.
            My last day, Wednesday, February 12th, I planned an activity based on water pollution. I set up a bucket of water, and gave each student something to put in the bucket. For example, I used items such as dirt, sand, sticks, pieces of colored plastic, soda. After each student placed their item in the water, I used a screen like structure to act as a filter and taped it to the top of the bucket. I began to pour the water from one bucket into another. Although some things were stopped by the screen there was still dirty water. The lesson I taught was on how even though the water might look clean, sometimes it is still dirty. I also showed that when we litter it makes it to the filters and comes through our main sources for water (sink, shower, etc.).

            This experience has definitely made me become an expert in the lessons I was teaching because at the elementary age, those students have a curiosity and nonstop questions. It also gave me practice in my field of study, as well as being able to spread the word about our environment and how valuable it is to us as humans living on this planet.