Quality versus Quantity

Amanda Cavallaro
Child Development 113: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
Instructor: Penny Skemp

This semester while service learning at the on-site preschool at Buena Vista Elementary School, I was afforded many amazing learning opportunities. While many of these experiences helped me connect my child development course to tangible, everyday occurrences; others helped me to discover hidden traits and strengths about myself. From my time spent service learning, one theme remained constant: when it comes to educating children, the quality of mentors is much more powerful than the quantity.

When I began my service learning in Mrs. Stacie's class I was extremely nervous and didn't know what to expect. Being a preschool that practices inclusion, I was anxious and excited to meet the typically and non-typically developing students. When I first arrived to the classroom, I was pleasantly greeted by a room of smiling and excited faces. The energy of the room was motivating and positive, erasing all feelings of nervousness and doubt. As I watched Mrs. Stacie and her aides, Mrs. Lynn and Mrs. Laura, sitting in miniature chairs among their students, conversing with the children about daily events, I couldn't help but notice the quality of interactions. I immediately could sense their dedication to each child's individual need, and the patience and love they afforded every student.

I was given many learning opportunities in Mrs. Stacie's class, all of which helped me to connect with my child development textbook readings. From this experience, I feel the technique of scaffolding is extremely beneficial to the development of children. Being in an inclusion classroom, I was able to work one-on-one with an occupational therapist that would come and assist the children during activity time. The occupational therapist would show me various techniques designed to help the students develop their fine motor skills. Utilizing Vygotsky's sociocultural theory, we would scaffold the children within each child's zone of proximal development. We often engaged in activities like cutting with scissors, drawing and tracing lines, coloring, painting, and writing letters. I was taught to show the students how to properly "pinch" objects like crayons, paint brushes, and pencils. On one occasion we sprayed shaving cream all over a table and showed the students how to use tools to draw pictures and write their names in the shaving cream. I think learning should be fun and stimulating and I think this was a great way to incorporate messy fun and education into one activity. From Mrs. Stacie's teaching methods, I've recognized that scaffolding plays a pivotal role in encouraging intrinsic motivation and allows the students an opportunity to develop a healthy self-concept.

The teachers at Buena Vista utilize an eclectic approach when educating their students, recognizing and respecting that each child has a special way of learning. Whether it is through methods derived from behaviorism or cognitive theories, Mrs. Stacie and her aides have taught me that recognizing the complexity of the developing person is essential to the learning process. I really like that she included both child-centered and teacher-directed methods within her classroom, allowing time for free play and exploration, while also having designated times for more structure and focus. Circle time and center time were mostly teacher-directed, a time when the students needed to focus, follow directions, and complete projects in a sequential manner.

During free time, the students could choose to look at books, color, play with puzzles, build with Legos and blocks, or play dress up. I feel it is extremely beneficial for children to have this type of balance in an educational setting. Children are complex and need an equally multifaceted method of learning. Through service learning, I've learned that it's important for children to have the chance to explore and engage in various activities through child-centered methods.  I also feel it's beneficial to provide students with direction through scaffolding and listening.

This experience provided the chance to connect everything I had learned in class to the real world. It has helped me to understand and appreciate the different theories that seek to explain a child's development. The opportunity also allowed me to reflect on what method of teaching I will adopt when I become a preschool teacher, a balance of child-centered and teacher-directed approaches. I have also recognized how crucial it is to have quality mentors that love their jobs and incorporate various learning methods so that each child has positive learning experiences. Whether learning occurs through the repetition involved in behaviorism, the scaffolding techniques of the sociocultural theory, or through the self-discovery praised by Piaget, I feel a child's development grows from a holistic approach to education. My service learning experience has solidified my decision to become a special needs preschool teacher, and introduced me to great mentors who scaffold my own learning experience. I feel like I have found my true calling in life; to be a quality educator for children with special needs.

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Fiber Fun

Rachel Byer
Nutrition 100: Nutrition Today
Instructor:  Gail Meinhold

Instilling good health and nutrition habits in children at a young age can positively affect them for the rest of their lives. I have been blessed to have a mother who has taught me about healthy eating patterns ever since I can remember. When I was only a few years old, she would let me help her cook, sitting me on the counter with a spoon, measuring cups and whatever type of food, smiling, despite the fact that I was probably making a big mess. It is because of her that I have a growing interest for learning more about nutrition and how it impacts the body, whether for the better or for the worse. When my Nutrition 100 professor, Gail Meinhold, offered the opportunity to take part in the MiraCosta Community Science Fair, I thought of it as a great chance for me to learn more about what I consume, and in turn, teach children about an aspect of nutritious eating.

The hardest part of the project was brainstorming ideas with my group. We went back and forth with activity ideas such as exploring sugar consumption in soft drinks, examining the amount of fat in common foods, and why wheat is good for you. Our main goal was that we wanted the children to be able to interact in an activity that related to food in their everyday lives, as well as be able to learn something new. We also wanted them to be able to leave our booth with an application of their learning, such as a recipe. Our final consensus was to do our project on fiber. The common stereotype about fiber is that it is for people who are constipated, need to lower their cholesterol, or are at risk for colon cancer; which are all typically adult problems. After doing more research on fiber, we realized that it is an important part of everyone's diet, not just adults.

As kids walked up to our booth at the Science Fair, we asked them if they had ever heard of fiber; surprisingly, some of them had not. Most had heard of fiber, but did not know exactly what it was. Fiber is found only plant products, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  It is not found in refined foods like white bread, starchy cakes, or white rice; all of which have hardly any nutritional value. Fiber keeps the digestive system regular, adding bulk to stools, and making them easier to pass.

  After sharing these small facts with the children, we designed a game for them to play which involved guessing how much fiber was in each food product. We had seven products lined up on our table including whole wheat bread, white bread, high fiber cereal, split peas, an apple, yogurt, and soda. In front of the food products, we prepared clear boxes with fiber (wheat germ) in them, with the amount of fiber grams on the top. The kids matched up the amount of fiber with each product, and had so much fun doing it! Both the kids and the parents were shocked to find out that one serving of split peas had the most fiber out of all the foods displayed.

Photo of Science Fair

                            Rachel Byer and group members at the Community Science Fair

In addition, we also educated the kids about the anatomy of the wheat kernel, showing them the importance of the germ and the bran. These two parts of the kernel are what gives the nutritious, fiber rich aspect to whole grains. We also explained that the endosperm is the starchy part of the kernel that all refined grains are made out of, containing close to no nutrients or fiber. On our board, we placed a visual to help them understand this concept. We showed that one piece of whole wheat bread is nutritionally equal to eight pieces of white bread. This is a shocking visual and showed just how empty refined grains are. When the kids finished with our booth, we passed out a little sheet with a fiber rich recipe on one side, and a picture of a whole grain kernel on the other. Our hope was that it would be a little token that would act as a reminder of how important fiber is in the everyday diet.

The Community Science Fair increased my understanding of both community issues, as well as the course concepts in Nutrition 100. Fiber rich foods are associated with a diet abundant in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, diets lacking fiber are mainly focused on dairy, meat and refined products. The latter diet lacks countless nutrients that are necessary for proper growth and development, especially in young children. It was exciting for me to take part in the event because I was not only educating the little ones, but their parents as well. In regards to fiber, it is mostly up to the parents to make the right choices for their children's meals. Honestly, it is a simple choice for parents to choose whole grains over refined, fresh fruit over sugary snacks, and veggies over refined chips or crackers.

Through this opportunity, I have realized how important it is to educate our community about nutrition, especially since diabetes and obesity are a problem in our country. Not only are these issues on the rise in the adult community, they are becoming more of an epidemic with our children. It is imperative for children, along with their parents to be aware of healthy eating habits which can positively impact the health of countless lives.

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One Person at a Time

Donald Rowland 
Nursing 160: Certified Nursing Assistant
Instructor: Mary Wright

The goals of the Michaelle House are to improve the quality of life for patients with human immunodeficiency virus / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). After sitting down and speaking with the director of operations for the facility, it was made clear to me that the mission of the home is taken very seriously. The first of the two main goals is to improve the quality of life for the residents. This includes making sure they have access to clean clothes and medications, providing assistance to social services, and meeting their care needs. The second goal is to transition the residents into an independent living situation. This includes making sure that they can take care of their own needs, have access to their medications, and ensuring that they have some type of support group in place to help them deal with their illness.

The residents of Michaelle House come from all walks of life. After taking the time to get to know them, it’s amazing to learn the diversity of people that the disease affects. Wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs, blue collar workers, and the homeless are all impacted. The residents come from all walks of life and social circles. They are united in the common goal of defeating the disease that they share.

 My experience at Michaelle House was a very rich one. I completed tasks from weeding the garden with a resident to cooking, to just sitting down and joking around. The people I came into contact with touched my life in a very special way; they put a name and a face to a disease I was really quite ignorant of until I began my service learning project. I really hope that I had a fraction of the impact on them that they had on me.

What I enjoyed most about volunteering at Michaelle House was chatting with the residents on a daily basis. After coming in every morning you got to know the routine, the inside jokes and the banter that carried on when 12 or so people with HIV/AIDS live in a house together. I also enjoyed hearing the stories, especially the stories about past residents who had transitioned into their homes, and who still call from time to time to chat. I guess you could say that what I liked most were the people; getting to know them and interacting with them.

I learned so much, not only about HIV/AIDS as a disease, but also how it totally changes every aspect of a person's life. Many of the residents who are at Michaelle House have been devastated by HIV/AIDS both financially and emotionally. The disease is very polarizing; it tears friends and family apart, and causes problems at work.  All of this can seem impossible to deal with at times. If I could share something with the community, I would share the fact that this disease does not discriminate who it infects. The stigma is still out there and I was amazed to find just how much prejudice and discrimination people with HIV/AIDS still face today. I would share the fact that the disease does not care about drug use or sexual orientation and is not confined to the inner city streets, as so many would like to believe. I believe that the public is still grossly undereducated on the topic of HIV/AIDS, and that's what I hope to do, educate, even if it’s just one person at a time.

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My Classroom Experience

Alexa Dilley
Math 105: Concepts and Structures of Elementary Mathematics I
Instructor: Kerry Ferreirae

For my service learning project, I went to Capri Elementary School and assisted Mr. Clark in his third grade classroom of 18 students. I noticed that Mr. Clark has a great personality and a good sense of humor but can be very stern with the students when needed. I really like those personality traits in a teacher. When teaching such a young grade, one must keep the classroom activities interesting or the kids will get bored and may not have a positive learning experience. However, young kids tend to get off task a lot, so it’s important to be strict in order to keep them together.

One strategy I observed for keeping the children focused involved using a behavior chart. The chart had four colors that reflected each students’ behavior. Purple was amazing, green was great, yellow was warning, and red was a trip to the principal's office. Each child starts the day on green. Their behavior determines if they move up to purple, stay at green, or down to yellow or red. I thought this idea was a great one that helped keep the students on task. When I am a teacher, I think I will use a strategy like this in my classroom to foster good behavior and keep the children focused!

Each day that I helped the students, I was able to apply what I was learning in my Math 105 class. The students counted, read, wrote whole numbers to 10,000, identified the place value of each digit in numbers, used expanded notation, found the sum or difference of two whole numbers, added and subtracted simple fractions, and selected appropriate operational and relational symbols to make an expression true.

One day, Mr. Clark had me work in the small group rotations. The groups consisted of three to five kids and we rotated every 15 minutes. Each child had their own mini white board and a marker. On my white board, I would give them addition and subtraction problems. To start off easy, I did two-digit numbers like 57+34. I would show my board to them, and they would have to write the problem and solve it. I looked at each student as they solved the problems and checked for understanding. I continued this for 15 minutes mixing up different addition and subtraction problems ranging from two-digit to three-digit whole numbers. This is a really fun and competitive way to solve simple addition and subtraction problems. One negative aspect of this approach is that some students in the class are brilliant, but they just take longer to process and solve the problem than others. I noticed that those students would just look at their neighbor's board and write the answer so they wouldn’t feel "dumb" for not having the answers as quickly. Even though they take a little more time, they know how to solve the problems. I worry that these students get cheated out of learning and practicing because they feel rushed.

Another activity I did with the students was addition and subtraction bingo. This is a
game that Mr. Clark had in his classroom. Again, we worked in small groups of three to five kids and each one got a bingo card with random numbers in different places. I had the cards that had the math problems printed on them. I would show the students the card, and they had to solve the equation in their heads. They were all two-digit problems differing in addition or subtraction. The first child to get five in a row wins. After that, we would play blackout which is when all the numbers on their card is covered by a chip. The kids seemed to really enjoy this game. Most of them were pretty quick at answering the problems. Some of the children had a hard time on the subtraction and I would see all of them use their fingers to try and work the problems.

One day, Mr. Clark had the children working strictly on worksheets that he gave them. My job was to walk around the classroom and see how the children were working and help any of them that needed help. This was the time that my Math 105 class came in handy. One girl in the class named Cassie was stuck on a three-digit subtraction problem, and I showed her the lattice method which I learned in my class. She was a little confused at first with placing the numbers in the lattice, but once I showed her a few times with different problems, she understood it and told me that it made it easier for her to understand. When Cassie told me this, I was so excited that I was there to help.

On a few of my visits, we had the children in small groups rotating every 15 minutes to different stations. My station was to work with them using manipulatives which are blocks that represent the place values of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. First, the children were asked to build a number that I gave them with the blocks. I started off with three-digit numbers and gradually went into four. For example, I would tell the kids to show me what 436 looks like with the manipulatives. After they built it, they would have to draw it on their whiteboard, and then write the number. For the last step, I asked them to write the number in expanded notation.

Each time I went to the classroom and worked with small groups, the children were at different levels of math. It was interesting to observe the various levels and to see how the kids managed to solve mathematical problems. Overall I really enjoyed my experience at Capri Elementary School. I liked the school and its atmosphere. Mr. Clark was a great teacher to work with because he really cares about his students, and you can tell that he is really passionate about his job. I realize now that there is a lot of stress in becoming a teacher. Every year there are brand new students, and the teacher must assume the task of learning about each one so they can determine the most effective teaching approaches. After this experience, I am still going to pursue my career of being a teacher. I figured out that I really want to teach younger grades like second, third, or fourth. I think that being a teacher will be an amazing experience and I can't wait to start my journey in the teaching world!

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Dragonfly Experience

Ivan Salinas
Child Development 105: Programs and Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
Instructor: Jennifer Paris

I participated in service learning at Educational Enrichment Systems (EES). Educational Enrichment Systems is a nonprofit organization with 23 sites located throughout San Diego County, including Oceanside, Vista, and San Marcos. I completed my hours at the David and Jillian Gilmour Early Education Campus in Vista. EES has several sites that offer part day programs and a few sites that offer full day programs. I chose to do my hours at a full day program because I work for the part day program. EES was established in 1979 and has provided quality childcare services to low income and working families for over 30 years. Their mission is to provide a unique and affordable childcare setting for low income families, in environments that are designed to meet the child's social, emotional, physical, and cognitive needs. The organization strives to promote literacy in children and their families, provide quality childcare for low income families, and work closely with partners to create new childcare settings.

While doing my service learning hours at EES, I had different responsibilities throughout the classroom. My main responsibility was to interact with the children. The teachers encouraged me to observe children and interact when necessary. The more I interacted with the children, the more my responsibilities would increase. I started out just observing, but after a few days, I was reading books during circle time and helping out at different centers. These became my main responsibilities during indoor time in the classroom. Outside I had different responsibilities. When the children played outside, I would supervise a specific area of the outdoor environment. I would also help the children with any issues or conflicts they had with each other. My final responsibility outdoors was to choose equipment for the children to use, such as tricycles, sand/water, or manipulatives. Once the children were done playing, we would put the equipment away together.

I really enjoyed the environment at the Gilmour site. At this preschool, there were five classrooms which had children ranging from ages two to five. I was placed in the four to five year-old classroom, also known as the Dragonfly room. In the Dragonfly room, I worked with the lead teacher and her two assistants. The classroom consisted of 20 children, 11 boys and 9 girls. The classroom was well lit with only a few lights throughout the room, but received additional light from three skylights. This created a natural feeling by allowing sunlight to enter the classroom. The furniture was made out of wood and the floor was hardwood which added to the natural effect.

The teachers in the classroom were peaceful and respectful, which allowed the children to see and model their behavior. When the teacher showed calmness and respect, the children would model them, which created a friendly environment of calm and respectful individuals. The preschool environment of the Dragonfly classroom allowed the children to freely explore the classroom. The toys, games, and other interest areas were placed at the children's level in order for them to have easy access to these materials. By placing these objects in a way that children can easily access, the teachers were promoting independence in the children by allowing them to make choices about what they wanted to play with. The overall environment of the classroom was calm, soothing and respectful, and allowed the children to develop appropriately.

Connections to Course Content
Through my service learning experience, I had the opportunity to observe guidance principles in early childhood education. I was able to see first-hand how children develop socially, physically, and cognitively in a preschool setting. Through observations, I was able to apply knowledge learned in class and in the textbook.  For example, during circle time I realized how children develop social skills. During this time, children were encouraged to participate by answering questions asked by the teacher, or simply by sharing what their favorite part of the day was. By sharing and answering questions, the children were developing strong communication and language skills. During circle time the children also had to sit quietly for ten minutes. This allowed the children to develop self- control, which will be important in the years to come in school.

I watched how children develop physical skills. At the age of four to five, children are mastering gross motor skills and are learning to perfect fine motor skills. Children were developing gross motor skills every day during their outdoor exploration. Whether balancing on the balance beam or riding tricycles, they used their large muscles. When balancing, the children needed to have strong legs and core muscles in order to keep from tipping over in any direction. Through the use of tricycles, children developed the muscles in their legs when pedaling, and the muscles in their arms and upper body when turning and steering.

At this age, children are also developing fine motor skills. I noticed how a five year-old would hold a pencil with more finesse than a four year-old. The five year-olds were able to do this because they have had more practice. Children would also develop these fine motor skills through the use of sand and water play, as well as with play dough. These interest areas gave the children the opportunity to explore items using their hands, which builds the smaller, fine motor muscles in their fingers.

Throughout my service learning, I also observed cognitive development. During the ages of four to five years, children experience significant cognitive development. I noticed this one day when the children were talking about where they lived. One boy said, "I live in San Marcos" and another said, “My grandma lives in San Marcos." The children recognized that they were currently at school, in Vista, but that they, or their family, lived in another city. This demonstrates their knowledge of different locations and places.

The children were also able to recognize and write their names, letters, and numbers with little assistance from the teachers. They were able to advance cognitive development by engaging in the different interest areas of the classroom, especially the library. In the library, the children would follow along with books on tape. This activity encouraged literacy which is essential for future schooling.

In addition to the children’s development, I observed how the teachers implemented appropriate developmental practices. Perhaps the two that stood out to me the most were the daily routines, and the interest areas. By using these two properly, the teachers were able to create an environment that promoted independence and knowledge in the children's lives. The Dragonfly classroom had a daily routine which consisted of free indoor exploration, outdoor exploration, circle time, child directed and teacher directed activities, meals, and nap time. Having a daily routine is important for children in a preschool environment. At this age, children should have a consistent routine in order to prevent confusion and frustration. When the children know the schedule, they know what to expect and the teacher can plan routines that meet each child's individual needs. For example, during indoor exploration, some children were slow at cleaning up or had no motivation to clean-up. So the teachers decided to ring a bell when there were five minutes left for indoor exploration. This warning bell would allow children time to start finishing their play and prepare for clean-up time. By doing this, the children experienced less frustration and confusion.

Another developmentally appropriate practice implemented was the use of interest areas. The teachers had interest areas strategically set up throughout the classroom. The interest areas included art, music and movement, library, dramatic play, blocks, water and sand, discovery, toys and games, and cooking. These areas were set up next to one another based on how children would play with them. For example, the water table was next to the sand table. These were placed next to each other because mixing of sand and water is beneficial for children; it allows them to build more complex structures using mud. Away from the sand and water area was the dramatic play interest area. This was located next to the blocks, as the children often liked to play with both at the same time. These interest areas were very high in noise level, so it would be appropriate to place the blocks and dramatic play separate from sand and water, in order to not have all the noise in one area. I also noticed that the teachers placed the art and library in the most lit part of the room. This was important because having a well lit room can inspire children to look up or outside and paint what they see, and it allows them to see the books clearly. These two interest areas are quieter so they were placed together, out of the way of the blocks, sand, water, etc.

During my service hours, I saw different teaching styles of the teacher and the two assistants. Two of the three teachers seemed to have a Vygotsky approach to teaching, while the third seemed to have Smilansky's approach towards the role of play in a child's development. I observed how the teacher and one assistant used scaffolding, a Vygotsky technique, to guide the children through their problems. Through scaffolding, children take new ideas given by the teachers and apply what they know in order to develop greater skills.

The second assistant teacher followed a more Smilansky play based approach. Smilansky believed that there are four types of play: functional play, constructive play, dramatic play, and games with rules. The assistant teacher would allow children to play freely with games, and felt there was no right or wrong way to play a game. This teacher would encourage combining interest areas like blocks and dramatic play, or sand and water. The first two teachers would be actively involved in games, but this teacher would allow the children space to play by themselves, and would engage when necessary or when asked to by the children. She followed a more child directed approach, while the other two teachers used more teacher- directed activities. By allowing the children to play without interference, the assistant teacher was able to ask the child questions about their games or what they were making. These questions allowed the children to actively think about their games and what they were doing.

The teachers would also encourage social interactions. Their classroom was set up to be a pro-social environment, which allowed the children to explore and feel comfortable. By doing this, children create positive relations with peers and their teachers. Through the use of social interactions and scaffolding, the teachers would give the children the tools necessary for developing appropriately.

Reflections on Experience
Through this experience, I had the chance to learn many skills by observing the children and teachers. I was able to learn more about how a classroom should run, and what goals are appropriate for children. I learned that goals should be achievable and reasonable according to the child's age and development, in order to promote success and self- confidence. I also learned new ways to set up the classroom environment, and how this affects children. I was able to gain skills, and I was also able to put what I have learned into practice. I would scaffold children when necessary, but I would not get involved if it was unnecessary. This experience changed me in a few ways; it changed my view on children and how they develop. Before I only believed in Vygotsky's theory of social interactions. I felt that through the use of teacher directed activities, scaffolding, and recognizing a child's zone of proximal development, the child would have everything needed to develop properly. However, after learning more about Smilansky's play based approach, and seeing it in action through my service learning, I now know the importance of play in a child's development. Play is important because it allows children to create positive social interactions with peers and teachers, which will be used throughout life. I realized that skills, such as how to write with a pencil, may be learned best through the use of  scaffolding, but others, such as critical thinking or positive social interactions, are best learned through play and modeling.

This experience also demonstrated to me the importance of observing children. I saw how the teachers would walk around making observations as they interacted with children. These observations were important because it allowed the teacher to view each child as a whole. By observing and knowing each child, the teacher is able to implement techniques or strategies in the curriculum that will be appropriate for all of the children in the classroom.

This was a great volunteer and learning experience. I had the opportunity to enhance my learning by observing how practices are being used daily in a preschool environment. I was also able to implement techniques and skills that I have learned in this class and in other classes. By allowing me to implement techniques, I was able to gain additional experience in the field of child development. I would recommend this site to others who may want to do service learning. It had a great atmosphere and learning environment for all students, including myself.

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The California Welcome Center

Katie Klimuszko
Hospitality 110: Guest Services and Presentations
Instructor: Karen Smith

I chose to do my service learning at the California Welcome Center in Oceanside. The Welcome Center serves people who live in the area and also people traveling from different states or countries. This organization provides maps and pamphlets which give directions and advertise local attractions in Southern California cities. The volunteers and staff are there to assist tourists and locals in finding information about Oceanside, as well as surrounding areas such as Los Angeles and San Diego. I worked closely with Richard, who is another volunteer, and Blanca LaVoie, who is the Administrative Assistant. I was able to work with Richard to help people who came into the Center and direct them on how to get to the Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Sea World, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, the local Missions, the Harbor and Pier, and even all the way to San Francisco. We also gave restaurant recommendations as well as campground and bike trail recommendations.

One of the challenges that the organization encounters is ensuring that they have adequate funding to continue operating.  With each guest that visited, we had to find out where they were from, where they were going, and how we could help. All of this information was recorded so that we could submit it and document how many people were helped and how much business was brought to the city.

I feel like my service helped because I was able to direct at least ten people a day and that means that overall I helped fifty people. Giving recommendations and helping them find their way makes the visitor’s vacation more fun and enjoyable. It also makes them want to return which improves future business for our area. I learned so much about the organization and how helpful it is to have a welcome center. I thought since global positioning systems (GPS) and the internet options are so popular, people would hardly come in, but I was incorrect. Some people would say they had no idea what they wanted to do so we would send them to lunch at the harbor to see the boats as they ate, recommend a visit to the Surf Museum, riding the bike trails, or seeing the local missions. All of these suggestions help the local economy and ensure visitors have a great stay.

The most difficult part of providing service was trying to learn about all the various attractions in Oceanside and giving directions. I could make recommendations but then visitors would need hours of operation and specific directions to reach their destination. That was when the job got difficult. However, Bianca and Richard were always there to assist and I caught on quickly to reading all the maps.

I was able to improve my customer service skills in a non-sale environment and was able to learn how to gauge what people might be interested in and if they needed help from me or were more independent visitors. I liked that I could not always predict what someone would enjoy. I thought only locals would want to see the California Surf Museum because we have a passion for it, but several people were very interested in visiting and learning about something they had never experienced before.

I am very aware now of how much our community has to offer. When I thought of tourists visiting, I only imagined them staying in hotels and going to major amusement parks. However, many of them asked for local restaurant and grocery store information and also wanted to know about shopping malls. Visitors impact the community financially and support key pieces of our local history. The missions and museums are not always visited by locals, the tourists are the ones who pay to visit, but we enjoy having them be a part of our community.

One topic we talked about in guest services is always being able to help the customer to the best of our ability.  This was something I experienced several times while volunteering at the California Welcome Center. I tried my hardest to help every visitor I could but when I did not know the answer, I would not leave them hanging without information. I was compelled to offer the best service because we were there as resources. I was able to check the internet for information as well as ask the others who were working with me. I realized that if I simply tell a visitor I have no idea how to get somewhere or have no recommendations on where to go, they are stuck with no answers in a strange town. I believe going that extra step and taking that extra time is great customer service; much better than taking the easy way out and saying I do not know.

The California Welcome Center also had a binder with papers in it at the exit so people could leave comments. People were very complimentary. The volunteers told Blanca I was catching on quick and the visitors wrote that the service at the California Welcome Center was friendly and helpful. This made me realize that maybe I am in the right industry for my skills and that I do well with people and customer service. Although everyone I encountered seemed pleased with our help, I am sure if they had anything negative to say, the volunteers would try their best to correct the error and serve the visitors better.

I feel the management team empowers the volunteers because they are never watching over us or stepping in when we help a guest. Blanca only stepped in once because we were unaware that Legoland was closed that day and we needed to tell a guest. Then she showed us the schedule of blackout dates so we were able to inform people by referencing the schedule.  Using the internet also empowered us as volunteers; we were then able to look up information in the front without having to go into the back offices to ask various questions.  From day one, we were taught how to search for information, which allowed us to learn on our own and help each other.  This helped us to feel successful.  This experience confirmed that the tourism and hospitality industry is where I want to be. I enjoyed working with people in such a friendly and helpful environment.

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Serving those who Serve

Kim Coppa
Nutrition 100: Nutrition Today
Instructor: Gail Meinhold

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said "Everyone can be great because anyone can serve.You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love…” This is true in both military and civilian life. Making a sacrifice to serve the community shows your appreciation and provides an opportunity to grow as an individual. 

I choose to do my service learning with the nutrition department on the Camp
Pendleton Military Base. They have a program called Semper Fit which gives Marine and Navy soldiers access to a nutritionist at no charge. The nutritionist provides information and advice on how to maintain a healthy weight. They also provide free cholesterol testing and body fat evaluations. Classes are offered that cover topics such as healthy eating habits and taking nutritional supplements.

On my first day of service learning, I learned a lot of information about nutrition and how to apply it to everyday life. I was able to watch two Marines get a nutrition evaluation and cholesterol screening. I was surprised at how unfit they were. When I think of military members, I think of individuals who are in tip-top shape. I was totally wrong. They were both teetering on being overweight for their height and both had very height cholesterol. After they were tested, the nutritionist went over meal plans with them. She also helped them learn how they can lower their cholesterol and what foods really make a difference. The two Marines were very intrigued in the topic. They asked a lot of questions and even compared their meals of that day to the meals they should be eating. I was very impressed with how much they truly wanted to learn.

While in the Semper Fit office, I helped a fellow volunteer find information on the internet about alcohol fats and made signs that were going to be posted in the bathroom stalls of the gym because it was alcohol awareness month. We found most of our information from sites that had interesting facts about alcohol and how it affects one’s life. We also made a flyer for a supplement class that was going to be held that weekend and helped prepare for a health fair.

In preparing for the health fair, a fellow volunteer and I learned that it was going to be
held at the wounded warrior barracks. We were asked to think of games that would get the soldiers involved at our booth. We came up with a nutrition facts game and a game involving a fat suit. The fat suit was 20 pounds and the Marines would put it on and then see how far they could jump. Afterwards they would take it off and see how much easier it was to jump without that extra fat on their body. They were all amazed to discover how 20 pounds made a difference in their physical ability.

At the health fair we also had information about smoking and how bad it is for one’s health. There was information on how much sugar was in things like soda and a piece of chocolate cake. To quantify this information, there was a display that actually had the sugar measured out in teaspoons to show how much sugar each item contained. We also had a display that showed the good fats and bad fats in food, and the amount of fiber in food. We explained the benefits of eating foods high in fiber and gave the Marines examples. We also explained good fats verses bad fats and why one should eat more good fats than bad fats. Many of them were very interested in what was being said and had good questions about the topics, which we gladly answered. It was really cool taking what we learned in our nutrition class and being able to apply in a real life situation.

On another day with Semper Fit, I helped out at a free cholesterol screening fair at a different location on Camp Pendleton. During the cholesterol screening we would test the Marine's cholesterol and tell them how they could improve their good cholesterol and how they could decrease their bad cholesterol. It was interesting to me to see that out of the 25 people tested, only two had balanced cholesterol, and everyone had low to extremely low good cholesterol. We suggested using olive oil and vinegar as salad dressing, eating avocados, and excising on a regular basis.

On my final day of volunteering at Camp Pendleton, I helped at a huge fair on the flight strip. They estimated about 5,000 Marines were in attendance. The Semper Fit Program had a few booths set up to promote health awareness. One of the booths was a smoking simulator that allowed participants to see the impact of smoking. If the soldiers wanted help quitting, the military would pay for it. There was another booth providing information on health facts such as the sugar, fat and fiber content in food. Another cool area was the 101 Days of Summer Silent Marine Awareness. It was a representation of how many Marines died last summer during the 101 days of summer. There was a picture of a soldier and it stated how old the Marine was and how he or she had died. The goal was to warn others about summer safety.

Volunteering is something that I have been involved with my whole life so when I was given the opportunity to do service learning in my health class, it was a no brainer for me. I really liked the organization I served. I learned so much more by being able to apply some of the information from my health class to everyday life and be able to teach others what I learned.

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Shaping the Future

Melissa Musick
Psychology 211: Learning and Behavior Modification
Instructor: Judith Phillips

I conducted my 20 hours of service learning at the First Presbyterian Preschool. I was able to observe and assist in a classroom with four year-olds. The teacher that I worked with was T. D'Oporto. She has over 10 years of experience working in early childhood education and has been an instructor at First Presbyterian for nine years. During my time there, I was able to observe, assist, and apply many of the theories and concepts that we discussed in our class. I chose to do service learning with preschool age children because I had not spent much time in a classroom with that age group. My goal was to observe how to use different reinforcement methods on the developing child.

Children's personalities and dispositions are formed at this stage and therefore, it is crucial to have the right caregiver to guide and shape them. Children must feel that they are in a safe and nurturing environment and able to trust their teacher. These factors contribute to promoting desired behaviors through positive reinforcement.

The teacher that I worked with was an excellent instructor that had created a loving, warm, and homelike environment for the children. The children in the classroom were very well behaved and had few behavioral issues. I believed this to be due to the time of the year that I conducted my service learning hours. The issues that you would typically expect to see in a setting with 14 children had already been worked out. The teacher had already altered the environment as needed to produce a high-quality learning and behavioral environment. Operant and classical conditioning, as well as positive and negative reinforcement had been used to shape desired behaviors.

I spoke with the teacher after the first day of service learning because I was worried that I would not be able to observe her using punishments and reinforcements, due to the class being so well behaved. She explained to me the process in which she began the year by using positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and at times she did have to use positive and negative punishment.

During my observations, I noticed that transitions from activity to activity went extremely smooth. The teacher did not have to use verbal queues when giving a transition signal. She would ring a bell that prompted the children to start clean-up and transition to the next activity. The teacher would ring a bell which had conditioned the children to start the clean-up process without asking questions. In the beginning of the year, she gave the children a verbal explanation of what it would mean when the bell rang. Next, she would ring the bell when she wanted the children to start clean-up. Without explaining what she wanted them to do, she would observe one child who was doing what was wanted, and would give them positive reinforcement through verbal praise. For example, "Emily, I see that you are cleaning up nicely and are ready to move to circle." She would do this with every student that displayed the correct behavior. Other students would observe their peers behavior and follow. Through observational learning and operant conditioning, she was able to shape this children’s behavior. After the behavior was constant, she began using partial reinforcements. According to the teacher, there would be times she would reinforce their behavior by giving them a reward using variable ratio reinforcement. This is an excellent way of making sure the behavior does not go into extinction. I was able observe this behavior on many occasions when she would give verbal praise and give a pat on back when a child was displaying desired behaviors. I realized how important it is to follow up with a positive reinforcer even after a negative reinforcer or negative punisher has been used.  

During my time in the classroom, I was able to interact with children to see how they learn best. The school’s teaching philosophy was that children learn through play. They encourage learning through exploration, observation and experience. Through play, children are able to create memorable experiences that promote thinking skills and problem-solving techniques. The learned through using their senses, such as squishing mud, splashing water, and seeing their friends swing on the tire swing. The teacher was constantly singing songs that related to what they were learning as well. They would sing counting song like, Ten Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree or a song that dealt with sequencing like Old McDonald had a Farm. This allowed the child to create a memory and be able to recall the information by a mnemonic.

One experience I had with a child was assisting her with the lower case letter "p"'. I came up with something that stuck with the child and she remembered how to make the letter. I told her to make a stick and then put a belly on it. It just happened and it stuck with her. She went to closing circle and shared how she remembered to make the letter. I felt that I had accomplished something and guided the child’s learning.

I observed that each child was definitely at different developmental stages. Some children were still learning how to cut with scissors and some had already mastered the skill. Children learned not only from teacher-guided instruction, but peer-guided instruction as well. Observational learning is a great way for some children to learn. They watch other children do the same task and learn through observation. Some children could write their names and others were still just making unrecognizable letters that were all over the page. I became aware of how important teacher and student guided learning experiences can be to create a high-quality learning environment. Children must be allowed to learn through trial and error so that they can better remember how they solved the problem. One child that I was able to work with and observe was trying to put together a puzzle, and I watched anxiously while he struggled to put the pieces together. I tried to give him direction, but he would not have any part or it. After flipping, turning, and rotating each piece, he finally completed the puzzle. He wanted to put it together again. So this time I decided to time him to see if his accuracy and speed would improve. This time it was a slightly improved, but then he did it for a third time. His third attempt was more accurate in error and speed compared to the first time.

In conclusion, I am very pleased that I had this opportunity to participate in this service learning experience. I was hesitant about doing this and not the behavior modification assignment because I work 40 hour a week and go to school full time and was not for sure where it could fit it in, but it worked out. I was very fortunate that I was able to work with such an experienced and loving teacher. She taught me that learning is not just about the A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s. It’s about being knowledgeable enough to know when you need to direct a child ' s learning and when you need to step back and allow them to problem-solve and use critical thinking skills. Piaget and Vykotsky may have had slightly different views about cognitive development and domains of development, but they were similar in their views of discovery through social interaction and experiences. That's where learning takes place.

Teachers must be knowledgeable in the use of learning behavior modifications, such as properly using positive reinforcement and limiting extrinsic motivation, so not to create a young adult that is always expecting a reward for their actions. The goal is to nurture a child who has an intrinsic desire to behave, leading to a well-rounded adult. Although I have always respected teachers and feel that they are underpaid and underappreciated, through this experience, I have gained a new respect for early childhood educators. These are the men and woman that are responsible for the development of our future leaders, doctors, nurses and educators. I greatly appreciated this opportunity. It has been a wonderful learning experience.

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Blessing in Disguise

Ana Kieffer
Child Development 113: Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
Instructor: Penny Skemp

The site where I went to do my service learning was at the Women's Resource Center (WRC) in Oceanside. I had already been volunteering with this organization with their Domestic Violence Response Team before I helped with the children. The WRC helps a lot of women and men get away from abusive partners. They have a two-year program for survivors to help them get established independently from their abusers as well as helping them provide for their children.

One of the reasons I was so attracted to volunteering was because of the amazing work the response team does. As a volunteer, one receives intensive training and learns so much from the police officers, survivors, and nurses who have a great deal of knowledge to share. I never wanted to get into helping the kids because I thought I would break down every time. I didn't think I would be emotionally equipped to see the kids every week and hear them talk about their situations. In reality, it was the complete opposite. The children were so upbeat and wanted to play every game under the sun. They were so happy, joyful, and resilient. I was pleased to have been able to work with them.

One of the course concepts that I observed over and over again was how children imitate behavior. The children were mixed ages. Most were at the preschool level but there were also a handful of elementary aged children. So most of the interaction I observed was between the older and younger kids who played with each other. I kept thinking about Bandura's concept of self-efficacy and learning through imitation. This was apparent for the kids between two and six years who imitated the older ones. If an eight year-old boy was jumping off a swing, the four year-old would want to do it too. When the four-year-old would get hurt, I had to explain to the crying child that he was not big enough to jump off like the older child.  He could not grasp this idea. Cognitively, he was not mature enough to understand the fact that his friend was much older and much bigger. Also his biosocial domain had not matured either. He was smaller and much more likely to hit the floor harder or even break a more fragile bone that the eight year-old. Needless to say, it was quite an experience explaining the difference between the reality of their capacity and what they imagined they could accomplish.

Another concept that I observed was animism. I noticed a lot of private speech (talking to one’s self) but also observed children talking to bikes or fake ovens as if they were real. I was always aware that children tend to have imaginary friends or make up cool stories that seem like they stemmed from fantasy books. But talking to an oven, that just seemed bizarre! My mind began to click when we learned about Piaget’s preoperational thought stage.  At this stage, the child uses certain language and their imagination because they are not ready for more logical thinking.  I began to understand that children between the ages of two and six are not fully aware that objects, such as an oven, do not feel like they do.  I also learned that children at this stage are still somewhat egocentric even if they show signs of sympathy or empathy. This gave me a better understanding of children and what to expect.

On a personal level, I had a blast. The kids were wonderful, challenging, intelligent, funny, and above all, they were real. If you ever want a dose of reality, speak to a child. They do not hold anything back or sugar coat the truth. If an elephant is in the room, they push it aside and begin talking about it. This experience was definitely eye opening because of the   preconceived notion that I had before I began volunteering. These kids taught me how to "grin and bear it" and made me see how someone else may have it worse. In no way, shape, or form, do I feel sorry for the kids. I respect them for having to be such young fighters. They have had to overcome obstacles, change living arrangements, and even leave family and friends at the drop of a hat.

I feel that my idea of career has changed. Before, I wanted to be an advocate and stick to focusing on women and men that were abused. I realize now that their kids are equally as important as they are. The kids are the reason most of these women and men leave and the reason they fight so hard. I feel now that I want to focus on women and children. I want to help the women who leave abusive relationships and also provide the kids with a counselor, whether that is me or someone else. These children have injected themselves in my heart and I know I will not forget them. They will be the reason why my career course changes. My experience was a blessing and I cannot wait to volunteer again.
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Observations from the Pantry at the Salvation Army

Akari Kwai
Sociology 145: Sociology of the Family
Instructor: Karen Baum

I grew up in Japan where volunteering is not as common as in the United States and this was my first time to volunteer. I volunteered at the Salvation Army, an organization that provides food to clients who need help. I was a little nervous on the first day, but people who work at the Salvation Army were very friendly, so I was relieved. My role was to prepare the packages of food, hand out food to clients, hand out paperwork, and organize the pantry. The clients’ ethnicity, age and gender varied. However, they come to the Salvation Army typically for the same reasons; they need help.

On the forms the clients need to fill out, they must include the reason for requesting food. Most of the reasons were unemployment, lack of money, or an insufficient amount of food stamps. The clients can receive food, if their last visit was not within the past 30 days. The amount of food they receive depends on the number of people in each household. If their household has less than three people, they receive one bag of food from the food bank and one bag of food from donations. If their household has more than 6 members, they receive two bags of food from the food bank and two bags from donations. Also, each household receives one whole chicken. If people have specific requests, such as diapers, and there is stock from donations, specific requests may also be accommodated. There were also rules for filling a food bag. I was told to include food so clients can make a meal. For example, if I put a can of tomato sauce in the bag, I would add a package of pasta. If clients had small children, it was important to include canned fruits and snacks.

Through the service learning experience at the Salvation Army, I can see that the United States has an individualistic culture. I think the individualistic culture encourages the development of nonprofit organizations. When people need help, they are expected to find that help on their own, and they are expected to justify or explain their needs. Japan, on the other hand, is collectivist culture. The rate of unemployment and economic disparity in Japan is lower than in the United States. However, in the collectivism culture of Japan, people try to solve problems within their own family, if possible. There are soup kitchens for the homeless people run by nonprofit organizations just like in the U.S. However, the people in need are mainly the homeless and day laborers; they do not have family, or they have no family they can depend on, or they do not want their family to worry about them. In Japan, I have never heard of giving uncooked food, like the Salvation Army. In Japan, there are people who commit welfare fraud, but at the same time, there are people who die of hunger because they feel ashamed to get welfare. This could be because the Japanese are people who worry about respectability. In the U.S. culture, nonprofit service organizations promote their services in their communities. Even so, there are similarities between Japan and the U.S. social service agencies. In the United States, there is speculation that there are many more people who qualify for assistance than there are people who apply. Individualism can discourage people from asking for help because of personal pride.

Picture of Food Pantry

                                                  Akari at the Salvation Army Food Pantry

The individualistic culture also puts great value on how the individual feels. People decide what to do based upon feelings. Individualism and material comfort allow people to make choices on how they spend their money. During one of my service days, I was surprised that one of the clients had neatly-done finger nails, a manicure. Another client spends 5% of monthly income on cable TV. I think this reflects both individualism and material comfort. I also noticed that some clients return foods that they do not like or do not eat, such as rice, macaroni, and dried prunes. I was told some clients receive food from several places, and they do not want that organization to see him/her as picky. They are afraid they would get a reduction in the amount of food they receive the next time, so they donate the food that they do not like to the Salvation Army. Some clients receive food at the Salvation Army and open the bag immediately and return the food that they do not want. I think this also reflects an individualistic culture. People in need will continue to make as many personal and individual decisions as possible. I grew up in a culture where you are supposed to finish the food that you are served and not complain about the food.

I see how socioeconomic status influences how much help people need. During service learning, I saw Hispanic families with relatively large families, such as six, seven, or even thirteen members. I also saw a family where the father was injured so he was unable to work for two weeks. Some clients were older homeless women or single mothers with children. Some clients might be the working poor, people who work but still don't make enough money for all their necessities. Some might have physical or mental illness which cannot be seen from their appearance. Income, health, age, immigration status, and education level are all factors that affect the individual's socioeconomic status. The clients who visit the Salvation Army for help have a relatively low socioeconomic status, in other words, they live in relative poverty.

As we know, the United States is not a welfare state and people debate small government versus big government. There are some people who take advantage of government assistance and the taxpayers feel this is unfair. This argument may always exist. However, in this economic recession, anyone can be at risk of needing help. I was glad to learn that nonprofit organizations such as the Salvation Army fill in the gaps that government services are unable to provide.

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