UMD students are giving back to the Duluth community through seven different dynamic projects at work in the Twin Ports. It's all a part of a Group Dynamics course taught by UMD Psychology Instructor Brenda Butterfield. The second half of the Spring Semester, her students are getting out of the classroom and into the community, making a difference with fundraisers, special events and speakers.
One of the exciting projects taking place is with the students at Kenwood Edison School. The "Pennies for Peace" project is already half way to its goal of $1000 to support the work of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. The Institute promotes peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan by building schools (over 100 built to date) so children can attend, learn and grow.
Two school assemblies were organized to roll out the "Pennies for Peace" school-wide drive. UMD students and Kenwood Edison students created a grade-by-grade competition to stimulate student involvement. A large cardboard "school building" is being "built" in the cafeteria to track and showcase the amount of money being raised. For every ten dollars raised--one brick is added to the "school building" to demonstrate to students how quickly they are achieving their $1,000 goal. Only days after the fundraiser began, Kenwood Edison School raised $570--over half of their goal--with half of the "school" already "built".
UMD Group Dynamics class students are also working in the Duluth-Superior area on another key project --to promote the speaking tour of Joseph Makeer--one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who has traveled to Duluth and is speaking throughout the area during the month of April. Through his presentations, Mr. Makeer tells of the challenges that areas of Sudan are facing, and what his plans are to help those who are struggling. He will speak at UMD April 13, at 7 p.m. in Montague Hall room 70.
Joseph Makeer has teamed with the UMD Group Dynamics class students to collect donations to send women's underwear and feminine products to the affected regions of Sudan. He is also working with the African Soul, American Heart Foundation to help rebuild South Sudan. The foundation is gathering resources to provide housing, food, clothing and access to education and health care for orphans in South Sudan.
There are a total of seven projects in the UMD Group Dynamics class and students are graded on their effectiveness through how well they work together (Process) and what they are able to accomplish (Content). All seven projects are a way to provide a practical application of the theories the students learned during the first half of the spring semester. Instructor Brenda Butterfield says, "Each project has brought new enthusiasm to the class and has provided the students with real world experience while giving back to the community in very important ways."
She goes on to further explain the importance of this learning experience:
"What is happening in my Group Dynamics class this semester is really exciting. Students are fully engaged in learning about the complex dynamics of group work and specifically about how individual behavior, including their own, influences the group's experiences and overall outcomes.
They have chosen the seven different service learning projects to work on--some addressing local community needs and others addressing community needs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. They are learning the course content while working together to make a positive difference in the world. What they are accomplishing in their service learning group projects is remarkable. My favorite quote is one from Aristotle...
'Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.' We are using service learning pedagogy to do both this semester in Group Dynamics."