CPS offers remote, distanced service learning

Olivia Clayton, Contributing Writer

(Daisy Rymer)

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, service learning classes have taken on a new look this semester. Normally off-campus and within the community, many classes must now do their work from afar.  

In the past, service learning classes have been an integral part of Tulane’s “learning by doing” approach. Students are required to take their first service learning course by their fifth semester, usually accumulating 20 to 40 hours of volunteer work through it. Planted at various sites around the city, students take what they are learning in class and use it to benefit the community. This year, however, with the pandemic making it more difficult to leave campus, service learning classes had to get creative in how they could affect the community. 

“I requested that my partner sites create remote activities for students and offered them assistance in doing so,” explains Clare Daniel, professor of the TIDES and service learning course Reproductive Politics in New Orleans. “Actually, one [out of four] of my sites is having the students go there in person to do some aspects of the work, and they’re just being very careful about making sure they’re socially distanced while they’re doing it … We had to get special permission from [Center for Public Service] in order for that to be allowed.” 

Grace Printy, a student of Daniel, explains that even her in-person project is done mostly online. “COVID makes it much harder for us to go in and to do things, and most of the stuff we do is online, if it isn’t manual labor.”  

Service learning classes have always differed in form from both other classes and each other, and this year is no exception. While some have gone fully or close to fully online, others were barely affected at all. 

“Honestly it really doesn’t seem like there’s that many differences,” explains freshman Aleksa Banki. Her class, Irish in New Orleans, takes place mainly at local cemeteries. “It’s like outdoors and stuff so we don’t really have to worry, as long as we keep our masks on and stuff, and social distance.”  

Daniel feels similarly that the students are not missing out on too much. “I think the only thing students are not getting is what it feels like to be in an office. Or be on site, whatever the site may be,” she said. 

Some people were unsure if service learning would still happen this semester, but Daniel assures it is more important now than ever before. 

“Issues have been exacerbated, the injustices that are very common are arguably worse now, in many ways, than they were before … I think it’s all the more important that we leverage the resources that we have at Tulane to help raise awareness about those things,” Daniel said.  

The impacts of COVID-19 have changed everyone, but especially those in New Orleans. 

“I’m much more aware of the impact of disease than I would have been if I was a year older and doing this project last year or something,” Banki said.

“From my perspective, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing it in this current context,” Daniel said. “Because I think students can still get a lot out of it, when it’s remote. And they can still take the concepts that they’re learning about in the course and see them play out in the non-classroom environment”.