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The growing role of service learning

The UO College of Education’s Service-Learning Program and the Department of Landscape Architecture invited new and returning students and their parents to volunteer at the Courthouse Garden during the Week of Welcome. Participants toured the garden and helped with harvesting and other gardening activities.

The purpose of the event was for students and parents to see hands-on how students could work together building community relationships and growing food for those in need. Kelsey West, a sophomore majoring in Sociology and minoring in Planning, Public Policy and Management, was among the volunteers.

“The event on the 20th was the perfect opportunity to tour the garden and learn more about its mission and operations,” she said. “As college students it is imperative that we learn about the surrounding community, beyond the campus, in order to foster a greater connection between UO and Eugene. It seems like in every class there is at least one student who asks, ‘What does this have to do with real life?’ Well, service learning answers that question. The Courthouse Garden is able to take lessons from the classroom into the real world, benefiting both the students and the community partners.”

Located across the street from the Federal Courthouse in Eugene, just a few blocks from the UO campus, the garden was created through a collaboration between the City of Eugene, the University of Oregon and the Federal Re-Entry Program. The Courthouse Garden is dedicated to transforming lives through working together to grow food for those in need. Fruits and vegetables harvested in the garden goes to local organizations such as the Eugene Mission, HIV Alliance, Food for Lane County and other groups.

Deanna Chappell Belcher, director of the Service-Learning Program, said, “Participation in service-learning helps students develop their awareness of community problems and actively participate in real solutions. The result is a genuine feeling of connectedness to our community and a grounding of academic experience in ‘the real world.’ When we get off campus, students, staff, and faculty are able to see the diversity of human experience first-hand and change the way they engage in their own learning process.”

For more information about the College of Education’s Service Learning Program, contact Deanna Chappell Belcher at