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Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research

Mentoring Middle School Students in PEPP (SOC 83S)

Students in Guadalupe Kasper's Soc 83S course enhanced their learning of Sociology from an applicable perspective in education by mentoring middle school students in Reading.  In the college classroom the students studied the key concepts of social structure, including inequalities of class, race, gender, and age in the context of education, particularly urban education. In the middle school classroom, the students saw the real world application of those concepts.  They served as Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) Learning Assistants to introduce college life and opportunities to the students and show that higher education is an attainable goal.  Every Wednesday the students participated in the after-school program where they served as role models, tutored the students, helped with homework, and participated in fun and educational activities.

Frank Gilyard (ENGL 474, AM ST 497)

In Spring 2013, 14 students wrote a collaborative narrative from the oral history recordings of the late Frank L. Gilyard, the founder and former director of the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum (CPAAM) in Reading, Pennsylvania.  CPAAM houses art, artifacts, documents, court records, newspapers, and books that focus on local African American history.  This community-engaged student project is intellectually situated at the intersection of oral history, African American oral tradition, and writing studies.  The many issues addressed by oral historians and of great interest to writing scholars--the relationship between the interviewer, narrator, and audience project, collaboration and co-authoring, power relations between narrator (interviewee) and writer/editor, narrative construction, political context, shared or blended voices, and African American vernacular English-- were complicated by the multiple participants as well as the fact the the interview subject is deceased.  The completed written narrative was given to CPAAM.

Jewish Representation in History, Literature, Art, and Photography (AM ST 497D, CAS 494D, ENGL 497D)

Twelve students in a Spring 2011 upper-level interdisciplinary course produced a photographic history of Berks' Jewish community for Arcadia Publishing's "Images in America" series. The students gathered more than 200 images and high quality photographs, providing captions for each photo, and writing introductory text for each chapter.

Black American Literature

Several students assisted with inventory work at the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum in Reading and completed two writing assignments to relate their work at the museum to the course work and readings that investigated the complicated relationship between literature, narrative (through the stories museums tell) history, and the African American experience. 

A Portrait of a Community

In the upper division courses, cross-listed in American Studies, Communication Arts and Sciences, English,Portrait of a Community and International Studies, students interpreted, documented, and preserved the history of the local Latino community(ies) in a 132-page book, Hispanics/Latinos in Reading and Berks: A Portrait of a Community. Centro Hispano is distributing 1200 copies of the book. 

Rhetorical Traditions (ENGL 471)

Nine students created four 10- to15- minute documentaries of local African American history. The topics, decided upon by Frank Gilyard of the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum in Reading, include the former stops on the Underground Railroad in Berks County, African American military veterans and personnel from Berks County, the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum in Reading, and African American women in Berks County. 

Special Topics in Humanity Sexuality Education

Students participated in a supervised and cultural- and age-appropriate sexuality education teaching experience. Emphasis was placed on looking at diverse health-related situations, exploring methods available for education, examining sensitive issues and materials, adapting existing education interventions, and developing strategies from a societal perspective. Students contributed to the Kenya Eco-village Initiative through collaboration with the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre in Nyeri, Kenya. 

Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Health & Education

Students focused on identifying the factors that influence the development of individual, group and society cultural perspectives on health and education. Students traveled to the Children Youth Empowerment Centre to take an experiential approach and apply cultural competence in health and education. The course aimed to develop a self-awareness of the diversity within health and education and foster attitudes that value varied perspectives. 

A History of the Jewish Community in Reading and Berks County

In an interdisciplinary upper-level course (including American Studies, Communication Arts and Sciences, Global Studies, and Professional Writing), students worked in partnership with the Jewish Community Center to write a local history of Berks County's Jewish community. History of a Community

Students in English 202H, Honors Writing in the Humanities, wrote life narratives of Holocaust survivors who live or have lived in Berks County. The Albright College Library in Reading has a Holocaust Center and over 30 videotapes of survivors are housed there. 202H students used these videos to create written life histories. In order to help students to understand the context and meaning of survivor testimonies, the course investigated aspects of the Holocaust through several humanities perspectives: history, oral history, museum studies, literature, and film.  The book is available online.

Old Order Germans in the Community

Students in Dr. Randall Fegley's interdisciplinary 400-level (Fall 2011) have completed a research and service project at The Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead that focused on the history, religious beliefs, society and culture of Berks County's Older Order German sectarians including the Amish, Mennonites, Moravians, Schwenkfelters, and Brethren. The service involved preparation of the physical site as well as events held there. In spring 2012, three students enrolled in ENGL 209 edited the manuscripts for publication. Stay tuned for publication announcements!

Unearthing Artifacts at the Nicholas Stoltzfus House

Students in Randall Fegley's cross-listed Research and Service on Old Order German Communities in Berks County course spent the Fall 2013 semester out of the classroom and in the fresh air. They dug up artifacts at the Nicholas Stoltzfus House, helping to preserve the history of one of the oldest Amish homesteads in the country.  The students spent six Saturdays digging, and in Spring 2014 the found artifacts will be cleaned and displayed at Penn State Berks before moving to their permanent home with the Stoltzfus House.  Before the semester began, the Nicholas Stoltzfus Heritage Society had already unearthed some interesting artifacts, including a 1775 half pence coin.  The students added to the inventory, finding pieces of plates, cookware, and various other artifacts.


Introduction to Teaching English to English Language Learners

Students in Andrea Pfaff's CI 280 class collaborated with the Salvation Army's Mañana program. Berks students utilized instructional practices for teaching English to English language learners that were studied in the course. Each Berks student partnered with one Mañana program student, helping the them to develop language and literacy proficiency in English by practicing effective instructional strategies for English language learners. Berks students identified the children's proficiencies in language and literacy and developed instructional activities that address the concepts with which the student needed additional support and practice. Berks students evaluated the effectiveness of their instruction by assessing their students' academic progress throughout the semester.


Since 2004, Dr. Grobman's classes have included several service learning and community-based research partnerships with the (CPAAM) in Reading, Pennsylvania. In Fall 2012, students in Grobman's linked courses, English 30 Honors Composition and PSU 005T, First Year Seminar in Writing African American History, will collaborate with Frank Gilyard and his colleagues to research and write "stories beyond the CPAAM exhibits." While studying such topics as African American history, local history, historical reality versus historical knowledge, and the writing of history, students will expand on and deepen the historical information displayed in the exhibits at CPAAM. This project is being continued this spring semester in Dr. Grobman's English 015 class.

Rhetorical Theory (CAS 201) & Foundations of Community & Civic Engagement (CAS 222)

View of pagoda overlooking the city of ReadingIn Spring 2012, students in Jill Burk's CAS 201 course began an extended research project where they investigated the history and stories surrounding the buildings that comprise the City of Reading skyline as seen through the windows of the Pagoda, a local landmark and tourist attraction.  This project enabled students to recognize and apply rhetorical theories and concepts outside of the classroom, and consider the notion that local history is itself "rhetorical." In addition, students learned the importance of rhetoric and participation in local civic life. Students who enrolled in CAS 222: Foundations of Community & Civic Engagement in Spring 2013 continued this community-based research, focusing on the implications of public meaning in shaping communities.  In June 2013, the compilation of the students' work A Landmark's Legacy: Stories From the Reading Pagoda's Windows was published.

Reading Public Museum

Senior Penn State Berks students who were training to be certified Pennsylvania teachers took the classes they are student teaching in the Reading School District on a special field trip to the Reading Public Museum. The purpose of these trips was to participate in a standards aligned lesson in social studies where children explored the exhibit "Toothpick World" with the specific guidance of PSU Berks student teachers. Penn State Berks students provided service to their assigned schools by bringing children to see an internationally-acclaimed traveling exhibit with many learning opportunities. Further, students served their elementary schools by creating resources that will be shared with teachers for future lessons in social students.


For more information, e-mail Dr. Laurie Grobman (leg8@psu.edu) or call 610-396-6141.