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Released July 8, 2004

By Allison E. Lockett

HATTIESBURG -- The Division of Undergraduate Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi recently created a way in which students could apply lessons from the classroom to real-world settings while giving back to the university community.

Students from the Summer Development Program conducted a service-learning project in which they read to and practiced reading strategies with children at the Southern Miss Child Development Center. "This is something we have wanted to do for a while, and this summer we got the opportunity," said Julie Howdeshell, reading instructor for the Division of Undergraduate Studies.

Weeks before the service-learning project, students learned various ways to read different material. The materials included everything from scholarly works to textbooks and children's literature. Students also spent time in Cook Library learning how to select appropriate reading material for the project. The reading course teaches students not only how to read material for understanding, but also how to engage and gain interaction from their listeners.

Sandra Watkins and Ritha Funchess, teachers at the Child Development Center, allowed the students to read to their 3- to 5-year-old classes. "The students did a wonderful job. They chose books that were interesting and appropriate for the children, things that the children enjoyed," said Funchess.

Funchess also said the students interacted with the children very well. Watkins, who teaches 3- and 4-year-old children, said she liked that the students read to the kids in small groups. "The project went very well," Watkins said.

"Such an activity allows students to feel as if they are actually gaining something from the classroom experience," said Lorie Fulton, an instructor in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. "This activity goes beyond the test and the students feel they have a purpose."

At the conclusion of the service project, students were to write narrative essays about their experience.


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July 20, 2004 4:22 PM