November 2018 Service-Learning Newsletter

Students Discover Atchison

By Ginny Steinkamp

As Benedictine students enter the fall semester of 2018, many are eager for the exploration of new knowledge. For some, that knowledge will be encountered in the biology lab. For others, this exploration will take place through research for a paper on English literature. The wealth of information for students to unearth this semester is expansive, but students in the Discovering Atchison class have a special opportunity to uncover the historical, environmental, and literary significance of Atchison, Kansas. Through lectures, excursions in the community, and service-learning engagement, students will come to a better appreciation of the historic town in which their college is nestled.

Dr. Julie Bowen, one of the professors teaching Discovering Atchison, discusses the topics covered in the class, “When the professors and I were working on this course, we sort of designed it somewhat chronologically. So we went way back, you know, geologically and biologically…We talk about why Kansas is the way it is and kind of move forward chronologically,” Bowen says. Students then learn about the exploits of Lewis and Clark and their influence on this area. As the semester progresses, more modern topics will be included such as the significance of Amelia Earhart.

The class includes many opportunities for students to explore Atchison. Students were able to visit the Earthen Lodge, a replica of a mound home built by Kanza Native Americans. Students also were able to visit Independence Creek, the site where Lewis and Clark camped on July 4th, 1804. The Discovering Atchison class also consists of engaging lectures and discussions designed to inform students about Atchison and reflect on its significance.

One of the most important aspects of the Discovering Atchison course is the service-learning component. As part of their course work, students engage in service within the Atchison community on two separate occasions. Students then will submit a reflection paper that acts as the final paper for the class. Dr. Bowen discusses the necessity of this component and says, “When all of us professors teaching the course talked about engagement, we understood it to mean not just going out and looking at, but doing something in the community…That would be an excellent way for them to learn about the realities of Atchison.” The service-learning component not only benefits those in the community receiving service from the students, but also benefits the students who desire a connection with the community outside of their campus. Elena Frost, a 5th year student studying Spanish, says, “We all want to be one community instead of a community within a community.” A variety of service opportunities are offered for the class including working with Hunger Coalition, Atchison Boys and Girls Club, and cleaning grave stones at Mt. Vernon Cemetery.

Erin Farrell, a senior studying psychology, plans to work with Hunger Coalition and help deliver meals to those in need in Atchison. Farrell sees this requirement for service as a rewarding opportunity to give back and serve the community. Farrell says, “You get to know the community better because through service you get to meet people, and they don’t just become “townies” or whatever we use to distance them, but they become people we can talk to again, and meet, and see at Wal-Mart. Their town becomes our town and they become our community not just the people living next to us.” Farrell has enjoyed becoming better acquainted with Atchison, its people, and its history. Farrell says she has enjoyed “being able to see it in a way that isn’t like this quirky thing to love Atchison, but to actually love Atchison because it’s a cool place and it’s interesting.”

Dr. Bowen hopes that through the Discovering Atchison course, the bonds between the Atchison community and Benedictine College community will continue to be strengthened. Bowen also describes the hope to “…Model for them, how you go about getting engaged in the community that you live in, and that they should go forth and do this wherever they end up living. We are called to do this as a liberally educated and Catholic person.” Students like Erin Farrell have grown in appreciation for Atchison as they discover and explore the sometimes overlooked heritage of this Kansas town. Farrell says, “Atchison is this place that is its own place. It’s not just this city that holds my college, but it’s a town with a really rich history.” The Discovering Atchison students have been able to experience and appreciate Atchison for what it is-a historic town with a community of caring people that Benedictine College is lucky to be a part of.