BHSU begins service learning program in Philippines

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, January 21, 2016/Categories: 2016

Gina Gibson (third from left), associate professor of digital communication and chair of arts and humanities at BHSU, met with teachers in the Philippines recently to plan a service learning course for BHSU students.

BHSU students will mentor young adults at Sudlon Secondary School in the Philippines over spring break as part of a new international service learning program at the University.

Students at Sudlon Secondary School in the Philippines welcome BHSU faculty and staff arriving to partner on a new service learning program for BHSU students.

When Gina Gibson returns to the Philippines in March with students from Black Hills State University, she'll be ready to mentor her students in a learning experience that will change them forever.

Gibson, associate professor of digital communication and chair of arts and humanities at BHSU, traveled to Cebu City, Philippines, recently to meet with the principal, teachers and students at Sudlon Secondary School. She will return to the school in March for 10 days with a contingent of students enrolled in a new Experiential Learning course at BHSU.

"As I go into the classroom this semester, I'm thinking about real people that I met in the Philippines, not some theoretical experience," said Gibson. "The trip gave me a sense of place and real people on the ground there that we'll be working with during spring break."

Students in Gibson's course will develop and implement lesson plans and activities focusing on the needs of students at Sudlon School. Initial discussions with the Sudlon teachers included a topic focus on wellness, study skills, and physical activity. BHSU worked with the Philippines' education division to identify a local school where BHSU students could have great impact.  

Dr. Lois Flagstad, vice president for Enrollment and Student Affairs at BHSU who was with Gibson recently in the Philippines, said the new International Service Learning Program at BHSU provides experiential education opportunities for students to address human and community needs worldwide.

"As a developing country, the Philippines has recently redesigned their educational system to include two additional years of high school. Partnering with Sudlon Secondary School will provide the opportunity for our students to deliver new learning opportunities and subject matter for students in the Philippines who are preparing themselves for their future," said Flagstad.

Service learning, an approach to education connecting classroom instruction with real-world service, is more than a volunteer project, according to Dr. Katherine Wildman, director of the office of international relations and global engagement at BHSU.

"This program offers the student a structured environment where they can process the work they're doing and be mindful of their learning along the way," said Wildman.

BHSU will offer the Experiential Learning course each semester. Wildman said the course provides an alternative for students traveling abroad for the first time, non-traditional students, or for those who can't travel for a whole semester. The tuition and travel fees associated with the course are financial aid eligible.

Gibson says she looks forward to witnessing her students' "aha" moments throughout the course and during the trip.

"For some students this will be their first time on a plane or seeing the ocean. The planet is small and travel teaches empathy," said Gibson. "I've very excited about bringing students to the Philippines to experience what I experienced- beautiful, kind, and generous people."
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