The Other Side of Paradise: Spring Break Service Learning Takes Students to Hawaii
Though they spent their spring break on the islands of Hawaii, a number of University of Idaho Native American students weren’t surfing, beach combing or relaxing, they were working.
“The course is a life changing experience. I enjoyed seeing a new culture and way of life, both environmentally and socially,” said Brandon Guzman, a 2012 Native American Service Learning Experience participant. “It felt good to give back to the native plant and animal species of Hawaii.”
Students, some on scholarship and others on their own dime, spent their week of spring break 2012 collecting seed on a barren Hawaiian mountainside as part of an immersive ecological restoration project during the first Native American Service Learning Experience offered at the University of Idaho.
Guzman said the program was a pivotal point in his education. While focused on ecological restoration activities as service learning, Guzman said the cultural and social exchanges also had a huge impact on him personally.
“Our objective is to design a course that challenges students to look at problems they face every day and seek novel solutions from a different perspective, in both ecological and cultural settings,” said course architect Anthony S. Davis, native plant regeneration and silviculture professor, who created the opportunity with Arthur Taylor, Native American tribal liaison and Jeremy Pinto, adjunct assistant professor at the Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research
Beyond being a popular vacation destination, Hawaii has challenges like any other state or region: population growth, ecological degradation and a gradual cultural evolution from a changing island. It’s because of these dynamics that Native American students at U-Idaho are readily able to provide public service, while learning from indigenous people.
With a first year of success, organizers are preparing for a second trip scheduled for spring break 2013. Instructors are considering other venues including Mexico, Haiti and Canada. If you would like more information on the program, please email Davis