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Center for Academic Service - Learning

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Students write newsletters to promote fresh produce consumption

Posted on Oct 25, 2012
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Mark Howard (far left), principal of Lake Superior Elementary, gives Business and Professional Writing students a tour of his school and speaks about his expectations for the newsletters.

© 2012 Sandy Liang

Mark Howard (far left), principal of Lake Superior Elementary, gives Business and Professional Writing students a tour of his school and speaks about his expectations for the newsletters.

At the University of Wisconsin-Superior, faculty-community partnerships have become a successful way to help university students learn course material, while addressing a community need. This semester, Julie Gard, faculty member in the Writing and Library Science Department, is teaching a class in Business and Professional Writing. Her class will be writing newsletters to supplement the Fruit and Vegetable Program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at Lake Superior Elementary. The purpose of the newsletters is to give parents the support they need to purchase produce for their family.

Nutrition in the Schools

"Fitness and nutrition are a part of me," says Mark Howard, the principal of Lake Superior Elementary. When Lake Superior Elementary received a grant to run the program, he was excited. This program allows children to have fresh produce three times a week - two fruits and one vegetable - during snack time for the school year.

This is the second year of the grant and staff report on the success during school hours. Audrey Welsh, head cook of the school, says, "I've had kids who've only had canned peaches." When these children tasted fresh peaches for the first time, they wanted more.

Encouraging Nutrition at Home

But last year, Howard discovered that when children asked their parents if they could eat the fruits and vegetables presented at school at home, they were unable to do so. Some reasons for this were parents' unfamiliarity with the produce or uncertainty about how to cook it.

How do you address nutrition at home? How can parents be encouraged to purchase an item they rarely use? Welsh asks, "How do you get parents to buy some jicama if they have no idea what that is?"

UW-Superior Students Part of the Solution

It may seem like a challenge, but Howard knew where to turn. He sought the help of the Center for Academic Service-Learning, which connected him to Gard's class.

Gard's class of 36 students, comprised of two sections, will be working on weekly newsletters with nutrition information, recipes, and even riddles that align with produce being introduced that week. Past research has shown that when provided with convenient recipes and information about healthy food, likelihood for purchase and consumption increases.

An Experiential Learning Opportunity for Students

Students will meet course objectives by engaging in professional communication with the school, developing their research skills, and understanding the principles of professional communication through writing. Gard says an important skill is learning to identify and address the needs of their audience. She hopes that they will learn more about gearing their writing toward a particular audience. In this case, it is elementary school students and their parents. She believes this ability is an important part of being an effective professional writer.

Mutually-beneficial Relationship

Howard ends the day by bringing up one of the most well-recognized values of service-learning - the mutual beneficial relationship between university students and community sites. When asked what sparked his interest in seeking university students, he says, "I need 21st century skills." College students are able to offer the most up-to-date writing tactics.

This newsletter has the potential to improve nutrition at home for children at his school. Gard's students also benefit - she is drawn to the collaboration because it gives her students a chance to apply what they are learning and write real professional documents. It also helps connect students to the community.

"It's a two-way street," Howard says.

Academic Service-Learning is a form of experiential learning that encourages university-community partnerships. Service-learning gives students an opportunity to learn course objectives through related, meaningful community service. The Center for Academic Service-Learning works to ensure partnerships are mutually beneficial for service-learners and the community sites served.

News Contact: Sandy Liang | sliang{atuws}
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