Campus News Georgia Impact

Pilot service-learning project connects students, community

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UGA professors are working with teachers at Cowan Road Middle School in Griffin in a pilot project focused on service learning. Pictured are (seated

Working with a pilot school in Spalding County, UGA researchers hope to improve poverty level students’ educational success through service-learning projects.

“Poverty breeds low education levels and vice versa,” says Jeff Jordan, an economist with the university’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the originator of the project idea.

Over the next year, Jordan, Lew Allen and Kathy Thompson of the UGA College of Education will work with the administration and eighth-grade social science teachers at Cowan Road Middle School in Griffin.

They’re using a seed grant of $21,857 from the UGA Poverty and the Economy Faculty Research Grants Program.

“Persistent poverty exists in Georgia and in Spalding County,” Jordan says. “Since the UGA Griffin campus is here, we want to reach out and help the local community.”

More than half of the CRMS students receive free or reduced lunches, according to Jordan. And of the students who are chronically absent, 85 percent come from low-income homes.

The UGA team decided to focus on the eighth grade because of the drop in high school student numbers. Of the Spalding students who enter high school, 54 percent don’t graduate.

“We have to find a way to get these students to school, keep them in school and keep them motivated,” Jordan says.

Studies show that high school graduates earn at least 40 percent more than non-graduates.

“Improving that alone will positively affect the poverty level,” he says.

Thompson assured teachers the project won’t make their jobs harder.

“This initiative will be directly tied to the state social studies curriculum,” she tells them. “What will change is the way you teach and the way the kids learn.”