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Giving Back

Students Make Book Donation to Local Elementary School

CCELL Bookfair
Tales of kings and queens, talking animals, and evil stepmothers are helping LSU communication studies students learn first-hand this semester about group roles, leadership, and conflict, along with providing a little fun and learning for some area elementary school students.

Students in Professor Amy Fannin’s communication studies 2064 classes are getting direct experience in group communication this semester while implementing a children’s book drive to benefit the students of a Baton Rouge public school, Belfair Elementary. With sections of the class separately charged with organizing, promoting, executing, fundraising, and celebrating the drive, students are discovering that working together for the community can produce remarkable results.

With an initial goal of collecting 150 books for Belfair Elementary students, the class has already amassed close to 600 books, collecting 500 of those before the actual on-campus book drive began.

Fannin credits the success of the book drive to her students’ enthusiasm and creativity, which she said has been strong from the first day they received their assignment.

“From the first day they were in their groups and received their semester tasks, they have not stopped coming up with incredibly inventive, creative ideas,” Fannin said. “Their enthusiasm has not waned for a minute, even when we've met with roadblocks. They have rolled up their sleeves to really make this book drive a huge success.”

Many of the groups have gone the extra mile when considering how to collect as many books as possible for the elementary school. The fundraising group not only contacted community organizations and secured donations from various organizations, but conducted a bake sale to raise funds for more books. The bake sale and other fundraising efforts netted over $220, which will go to purchase more books as well as a bookmark for each child.

While working together to complete their tasks for the book drives, the students are finding that group communication theories pertaining to group roles, goal setting, leadership, and conflict occur naturally as they interact. When it comes time to study these theories in class, students reflect on their experiences in their groups.

Fannin says the service-learning component has been ideal for the class, which she developed as part of the Faculty Scholars Program, a seminar offered by the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership (CCELL) at LSU. The Scholars program, offered each year, awards $2,000 stipends to full-time LSU faculty for planning and implementing a service-learning course.

“What better way to teach small group communication than with a real life project, with real-life consequences and implications,” Fannin said. “I wanted a project that would force students to apply the class concepts to real-life situations and to see how what we discuss in class actually applies to organizations and group situations they are likely to encounter when they enter the work world.”

Communication studies student Rehana Mohamed said working on the book drive has helped to reinforce the learning goals of the course much better than if it had not been included in the class.

“Trying to communicate as a whole group is difficult in a large class,” she said. “You get to know your peers better when working in small groups outside of the classroom.”

In addition to receiving experience in promotions, fundraising, and event planning, each student was also paired with an elementary school “Reading Friend,” a student they read with once a week.

“This personal interaction teaches students the importance of getting to know the needs and assets of any group they are representing, an understanding that will be useful in their future professional lives,” CCELL director Jan Shoemaker said.

“By meeting with their Reading Friends and raising books for the school, I really believe they are forced to look beyond their needs – something that this project has forced me to do as well,” Fannin said. “It really is true that by helping others, we are actually helping ourselves also.”

A distribution celebration is planned for December 2 to present the collected books to the principal and teachers of Belfair Elementary School and representatives from Volunteers in Public Schools. The class is also inviting the individual children they have worked with over the semester, arranging various games and activities for them throughout the celebration.

Each child will leave the event with at least three books and an organic tote bag to take them home (also donated). Any books remaining at the end of the night will be offered to Belfair’s teachers to select for their classrooms.

The prizes for the games at the celebration?

Books.

For more information on the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership visit www.ccell.lsu.edu.

Christy Kayser | Program Coordinator | Center for Community Engagement, Learning, & Leadership
Fall 2008


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