April 2019 Service-Learning Newsletter

Living Lives of Sustainability

Ginny Steinkamp

Dr. Mark Schramp’s Principles of Biology class is approaching biology, the study of life, in a unique way. Students are partnering with Mount St. Scholastica to learn about what contributes to sustainable life through the sisters’ example. “This course is really meant as an intro to the principles of life. The service-learning component is designed to get students to think about how biology impacts their everyday life. It allows students to work directly with the sisters at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the two sponsoring institutions for this college,” Schramp stated. In its third year with a service-learning component, the service and reflection elements of this course allow Ravens to connect the information learned in the classroom in a deeper way to their daily life.

The course includes three visits to the Mount. First, students received the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a Benedictine sister. Sister Loretta McGuire, Director of Volunteering at Mount St. Scholastica, expressed the joy she and the other sisters received from visiting with the students saying, “What I heard from the sisters was the meeting was invaluable to them to share their life…They appreciated the faith of some of the students, their openness, and their willingness to listen. The sisters here were all teachers…so to have the student visit with them, and they visit the student was not only a great opportunity but a holy sharing.” Elisabeth Fanning, a junior at Benedictine College, enjoyed getting to know the sisters at the Mount and said, “The sisters were really sweet and we chatted to them about all sort of things, but especially about how their convent was sustainable…and it taught us about the processes of aging, because the sisters have a nursing home there. They were lovely.” Through this interaction, not only were students able to learn about the daily implementations of enduring practices, but both they and the sisters were able to better grow together in community.

For the next two visits, Dr. Schramp’s students will be learning about and aiding in the sustainable and environmentally-responsible practices the sisters employ. Schramp describes his goal for these next two visits as, “The next two visits are designed to give students a hands-on experience of how the sisters integrate ecology and a respect for the environment into their lives by working with them to establish their working organic garden.” Those in the class were able to hear from the sisters about their various practices already in place. Sister Loretta listed some of these practices: “We shared with them about our care of the earth. We care for our grounds ourselves. We do not use insecticides. We have bees. We compost and have solar panels. We also try to cut back on paper and plastic products.” Many students were impressed to see all of the eco-friendly practices being utilized.

Fanning sees great value in the experiential component that is connected with their foundation in the biology classroom and with the reflections expected in the upcoming visits saying, “I think we are able to see a practical way to implement it and implementing it in our own lives makes it easier to learn.” Learning from the sisters’ environmentally-conscious way of life will not only benefit students in the classroom but also as people seeking to have a more sustainable lifestyle every day.

The students of Dr. Schramp’s Principles of Biology class are cultivating a respect for creation and community. Schramp commented, “I hope they take away a respect for their environment, but also that they will see how biology directly impacts their lives. To me, that is the most important aspect of service-learning. It is a means to better educate students…” Through their experiences with the sisters, reflection, and education in the classroom, these Ravens will learn to implement practices into their daily routine that promote a culture of sustainability and allow them to pursue further engagement in the community.