Service learning program offers insight into American Indian tribe

Submitted photo

Each year students face the sometimes overwhelming university requirement of service learning.

But for the 22 undergraduates taking part in the Human Development Center’s Lac de Flambeau service-learning trip, the requirement is undaunting. In fact, it can be downright exciting.

Each semester for the past eight years, the Human Development Center, located in room 173 of the Human Science and Services building, has offered a two-part trip to the Lac de Flambeau Indian reservation, said program assistant and graduate student Trisha Groeschl.

The trip is designed to fulfill service learning credits.

This semester, the 22 undergraduate students, five graduate students and four faculty members will make the three hour trip north of Eau Claire to the Lac de Flambeau Ojibwe Indian Reservation.

The trip is taken in two phases. The first consists of an orientation trip to the reservation.

During this, participants learn about Ojibwe culture by visiting with community members and touring the Lac de Flambeau Museum.

Students also visit the schools, where they spend the majority of their time serving the needs of the Head Start program.

The orientation trip lasts a total of two days.

Students complete the second phase of the program, which runs from a Thursday to a Friday, when it is convenient for them.

Usually three to four participants go at a time.

Participants start the second phase of the program by reporting to a Head Start teacher as a teaching assistant first thing in the morning.

As assistants, they then report to the reservation’s Youth Community Center to work with the children ages 1 to 5 years old.

The next day, participants serve as teachers’ aides in the elementary school, which consists of children in kindergarten through eighth grades.

“It’s really an awesome experience,” Groeschl said.

Students get the opportunity to learn about Ojibwe culture and why it’s important to respect differences, she said.

Senior Angela Baker said she is looking forward to completing the second phase of the program this weekend in Lac de Flambeau.

She first heard about the program from a friend who participated in it and then Baker heard about it again in her Special Education classes.

One thing she noticed on the orientation trip was that although the school is beautiful on the exterior, the reservation as a whole ranks relatively low on the socio-economic scale.

Groeschl had the same opinion.

“The school is beautiful, which is deceiving because 80 percent of the students there live in poverty,” Groeschl said.

The experience is open to all majors at the university and fulfills the full 30-hour service-learning requirement. Participants must take part in both phases of the trip, as well as a debriefing meeting at the end of the semester.

In addition to this, students are required to write a two-page reaction paper in order to receive the service-learning credits.

“It’s a very hands-on service-learning (experience),” Groeschl said.

For more information on the Lac de Flambeau service-learning program, contact the Human Development Center at 836-5604.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.