The project was
developed in the summer of 2002 (2001-3/4) and implemented
this last fall term (2002-1). I worked from a text called
Skillful Means by Tarthang Tulku which deals with work
and generating enthusiasm and creativity. I focused on
several chapters: "Self-Knowledge," "Communication," "Cooperation," "Responsibility," and "Humility." Although
I used this book, the primary text of the group became
the group itself. I used Listening Circles as a means to
allow group members to experiment with building community
and developing consensus and leadership skills.
At the start of the fall term, I invited students from five of
my ENC classes to take part in the group. I had an initial response
of about fifteen students. This number decreased to eleven given
the demands of the project.
The first session took place on September 27th; students completed
a leadership skills questionnaire. The following day students
did a three-hour training at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
in order to lead the five Saturday sessions we were going to
have with the students participating in the service-learning
project. Each week we met for about an hour and a half, most
of the time we used the listening circles model to allow the
group to address issues related to working on the Cape Florida
project. Some of the group time was also spent doing oral presentations
related to the Skillful Means text. We met twelve times during
the semester with the last session taking place at my house over
The success of the project is comprehensive. From a class retention
perspective, 100% of all the students who participated passed
my ENC 1101 course. Ninety-one percent passed with a B or higher.
Five out of the eleven students (46%) were first semester college
students. At the end of the term all five had a B or higher GPA.
The lowest GPA for this group was a 2.66. For the other students
who had enrolled at the college prior to the fall 2002-1 term,
their GPA's improved. Many of the students had problematic academic
histories; many showed a long history of failure; the 2002-1
semester seemed to mark a new beginning for this group. I will
look again at their records at the end of this current semester
to look for progress.
On an affective level, the project was tremendously successful.
By the end of the term, everyone who participated got a taste
of community. Students enjoyed themselves and the learning process.
I noticed a significant shift in how students communicated with
me and one another. They were a lot more assertive and powerful.
Dinner at my house was a highlight for all of us. It was an experience
that I will not forget and will continue to invite to happen.