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T.M. Waliczek and J.M. Zajicek

Service learning is a technique in which instructors integrate community service into their semester curriculum to enhance the learning experience. Service-learning teaching strategies naturally fit into horticulture and landscape design curricula, since hands-on laboratories are often incorporated into lesson plans. The purpose of this study was to integrate service-learning techniques into a university-level horticulture course and measure the impact of the course on students’ perceptions of community involvement, perceptions of social impact, and perception of how well the students felt they learned the course material. Students in an undergraduate landscape design class were taught the process of landscape design using service-learning activities within the city and campus communities. Projects included developing designs for campus gardens, the city post office, neighborhood parks, the campus childcare center, city road median areas and the city women's shelter, and other projects. A survey tool was developed from other existing surveys to measure how students felt about service learning as a means to learn skills in class and to measure their perceptions of community involvement and social impact. Currently enrolled students were surveyed and alumni from five classes taught in a similar manner in previous years were surveyed. Results from the study showed major differences in that students felt more positive about community involvement after the course compared with before the course. Students rated their feelings of social impact and learning course material above the neutral levels in both categories. No differences were found in gender and grade point average (GPA) comparisons in any of the categories, with the exception of the social impact statements with males and students with higher GPAs rating their feelings more positively within that category. Additionally, differences were found in comparisons of alumni vs. current students, with alumni feeling more positive about how well they learned course material compared to current students.