As my alarm went of a 6oclock AM on September 26, 2015, I was all but excited to spend 10 hours on Gulf Islands National Seashore. However, as I look back on the day, it feels great to know that I personally was able to make an environmental impact on the place that I love and have grown up in. Gulf Islands National Seashores mission is to preserve the pristine beaches, wildlife, and the culture so that many people after us are able to learn and enjoy the same things that we did. The organizations mission was a huge reason why I chose to volunteer with them. It is inspiring to me that people have so much passion to preserve something for not themselves to enjoy, but the future generations to come. They are participating in something bigger then themselves, and for myself to have the opportunity to do the same, felt awesome.
Vabrice spent time at the beach to satisfy her service, not too shabby!!
I took my service learning to the beach. Here I aided my fellow peers in cleaning up the beach. While doing it not only did it give me a great indescribable feeling, I helped save my environment one small step here I collected blocks of wood that were chilling shore side, broken chairs that people left, and wrappers that people had neglected to throw away in the trash. AND I HELD A STARFISH FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT WAS REALLY ACTIVE!!!! This service project has taught me that we as a people have to love our environment more, because if we don’t no one else will. With well over millions of people on the face of the planet it is our sole responsibility to take care of the place, that takes care of us. Litter can lead one to think that an area is unkempt and unsafe and that disorder and littering are tolerated. (Which it is not) Litter attracts more litter. If we can clean our physical environment to make it look better, we as a people will feel better and isn’t that what life is all about? So the next time you walk across some trash on the floor wherever you shall be, even if it wasn’t you’re doing pick it up! It’s really all a domino effect and you never know what animal, ecosystem, wetland, and/or environment is thanking you.
|Getting a raised bed ready to plant!!|
|Fall/winter crops in the ground!|
Here is what Halle had to say about her experience at the UWF Garden:
The UWF Garden Project is a valuable asset to both the University and its students. It allows the students here a chance to get in touch with nature and give back to earth. The students are able to get hands on with planting, place mulch, weeding, and the other tasks necessary to grow an organic garden. However, this comes with some drawbacks. So much hands-on work can be difficult to manage, but at the same time, it is such a rewarding experience to see the transformation of an overgrown area of campus into a beautiful corner friendly to both animals and the community. As a college student, it can be overwhelming to deal with the struggles of maintaining a good GPA and everyday tasks, but the gardens offer as a piece of serenity and calmness that is hard to find in one’s everyday bustling life. That is why this project is so important to continue. Plus, not only is it a beautiful place to visit, it also offers as a teaching tool for valuable life lessons on growing an organic garden, growing food, and the importance of the environment as a whole. These lessons often take a back seat to the typical academia that is taught in colleges, so the UWF Gardens is essential to teaching the community about the environment and how to live an eco-friendly life.
|Halle even made a new friend one day!|
Tiffany worked with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance improving water quality one restoration project at a time!
Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, an organization based in Santa Rosa Beach "committed to sustaining and providing optimum utilization of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed while presenting opportunities for citizens, educators, and technical experts to promote the health of the Choctawhatchee watershed." CBA recognizes that the health of water resources is vitally important to our local economy considering fishing, tourism, and our quality of life rely upon a healthy watershed. An important aspect the CBA focuses on is citizen education and involvement. It is necessary for locals to become active in the conservation of these valued resources.
Many skills were used and developed during the process of getting Service Learning hours. Firstly, I had to find and organization to work with! This led me to do some research about my area and what agencies are doing environmental work here. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of opportunities I came across as well as the sheer enthusiasm of such places to bring on volunteers. I got to use computer skills for checking and entering water quality data into the CBA's database. I hate to say I have not worked much with Excel, but my supervisor was more than happy to walk me through each step and I am glad I got some more practice on it. I feel as though knowing the program will certainly help me out with future jobs. I also tend to do things on my own. I had to go out of my comfort zone and work with a group for the oyster bagging and reef building. These activities could not be done by one person and the camaraderie was actually nice, especially since everyone working shared a common passion for a healthy environment. Becoming more adapted to group work will be advantageous for job opportunities. Not only did I get more relaxed in group settings, but I also spoke up and asked questions. Like I said before, I'm a bit of an introvert and stay pretty quiet. However, doing work I really enjoyed and am enthusiastic about made me want to learn more about why, how, what was being done. All in all, the experience was one I would never take back and I look forward to continuing volunteer work with both agencies.
Service Learning is not simply a way for students to earn a grade! It is also not simply a way for them to experience, hands on, some lessons we discuss in a classroom. Nor is it solely a way for UWF students to give back to either hometown or UWF community. Service learning is also a way to hone in on some professional development skills which are and will be needed in every aspect of life. Melissa recognized excellent professional development practice during her service learning:
Throughout my service learning I developed better teamwork skills, my leadership skills and my creativity. Becoming an Elementary education Major hoping to teach Kindergarten, these are all super important skills to have and to keep working on. I used to be afraid to talk in front of people, but teaching the kids about how photosynthesis works and coming up with the “today I ate a rainbow” project, I realized it wasn't so bad.
I have just begun reading through the projects my students submitted for Spring 2015 Service Learning and I am giddy with happiness at this submission! THIS is why we work so many hours teaching people through the UWF Student Community Garden!! Check out this blurb from Jasmine:
I had a great learning experience working with the UWF Garden Club. UWF’s garden club’s 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”. While volunteering at the garden, my main objective was extermination and preservation. Weeds and invasive grasses were attempting to invade the garden once again. To stop that process we were to move the mulch (where there were green shrubs poking through), pull up the cardboard underneath, pull the weeds and its roots completely from the soil, place new cardboard down (to block the sun from promoting the weeds to grow) and place new mulch on top of that. The entire job that I was involved with revolves around Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction. The chapter talks about invasive species which are species not native to the environment and will cause harm to the environment it is introduced to or invading. The purpose of my job is to remove the invasive species of grass that is in the garden before it takes over. Remove the species from the root and block the sunlight from nurturing it to grow again. The garden experience is a lesson right from the book. The garden is an organic garden and does not use any harmful chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers that enhance growth using chemicals. The vegetables are grown all naturally which will not harm the environment or get into the food which will be consumed and the chemicals being digested. Keeping the garden 100 percent natural the garden has to use the cardboard to kill off weeds instead of chemicals. I definitely developed and strengthened my skills such as communication and problem solving. Professionally the experienced helped with my people skills and helped me become slightly more comfortable with starting conversations with people. During my experience at the garden I learned so much valuable information about gardening I became motivated to finally create my own garden. The next week I bought all my supplies from Home Depot and got down and dirty to start clean eating.
Volunteering for the Emerald Coast Animal Allies was a great experience for me to be a part of. After I earned my ten hours of service learning, I continued to volunteer because I enjoyed it so much. I was able to meet new people who shared the same interest in animals as I do. Taking care of the health of animals and being included in the adoption process has been an extraordinary experience. Throughout this entire experience, it has made me understand the struggle that many animals have to go through. Interacting with animals in our environment relates to several of our lessons that we discuss in class. One of the lessons related to my volunteering experience is learning about the habitats of species. In Chapter 8, Community Ecology, the lesson explains about the human causes of habitats and species within a community. By being involved with animals, I realize that all animals can be disrupted by human engagement. Many of these animals are taken from home to home. This causes them to change environments, which is very hard to adapt. Finding a stable home for these animals will potentially fix this issue. The lesson also discusses the relationships of symbiosis. For example, when a kitten gets fleas, which is very common from changing its environment constantly, the kitten is harmed. When a kitten gets a tick, the tick is able to get its nourishment. This is an example of parasitism.