Creating Meaningful Service Learning Experiences
The word bicycle forms an unusual pairing with literacy. We generally associate literacy with words, especially written words. But literacy can be applied in many different contexts, explains Professor Elise Lewis. For example, if someone does not know how to use a computer, we might say this person lacks 'computer literacy'. By seeking new ways to create learning experiences for students outside of the classroom, bicycle literacy provided a seamless fit. In this way, she created a meaningful service learning opportunity that also generated a way to help adults and children in the community to learn about bicycle skills and safety.
Supported by a Teaching Excellence Grant on Integrative Learning, co-sponsored by the Office of USC Connect and the Center for Teaching Excellence, Lewis developed "Cocky, Pedals, Literacy! Promoting Literacy through Integrative Learning" (part of the course SLIS 202) which combines the resources of undergraduate students, Cocky's Reading Express™ and a local public library to positively involve the community and provide a learning experience for the students. For the community, it helps families become more aware of bicycle safety. For the students, it takes them outside of the classroom to gives them real-world experience designing and implementing a family-friendly bike literacy program.
Exploring different contexts of literacy, the students gain a general understanding of how literacy permeates different areas. But by applying literacy to one specific area—bicycle safety—they also gain the specialization of working through a specific literacy situation with its own unique difficulties. In this way, they learn how to adapt to changes, solve real problems, and interact with the community.
The program also helped children's reading literacy by giving each child a book on bicycle safety. Each child was asked to make the Cocky Promise, which involves them reading each day. Due to the success of this program, the course SLIS 202 (Introduction to Information Literacy and Technology) will officially have an integrative learning component. Each set of students will get to apply their classroom knowledge into the real-world setting of bicycle literacy for the benefit of the community.