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VISIONS - Tennessee Tech University, Winter 2011
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ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT IN TREE HOUSES AND SERVICE STATIONS

On a chilly fall afternoon, residents of Tennessee Tech University's new learning villages spent time at the university's organic farm located west of campus.

There, the students tended plants that they harvested for a Thanksgiving potluck meal for themselves and for dinner at the Cookeville Rescue Mission.

TTU launched its learning villages concept in the fall semester with two villages: one focusing on environmental learning and one concentrating on service leadership.

TreeHouse1TTU biology major Amber Shepherd of Knoxville assists instructor Andy Smith at one of the university’s organic gardens.

TreeHouse2Neal McClatchey of Murfreesboro, Michael Cart of Whitehouse, Amber Shepherd of Knoxville, instructor Andy Smith and Nate Dodson, a TTU alumnus, enjoy the bounty of their organic garden.

Students in the environmental villages have since named their group The Tree House to combine the principles of community and caring for the earth. Residents of The Tree House live in TTU's newest residential hall, New Hall North. The faculty adviser for The Tree House is Lenly Weathers, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Students involved in the service leadership village call themselves The Service Station, and they reside in New Hall South. Their faculty adviser is Paula Hinton, associate professor of history.

The learning villages at TTU are envisioned as places for building lifelong social connections, developing richer engagement with areas of academic study, and providing students the opportunity for greater ownership over their living and learning lives while at the university.

The learning villages concept also fits into TTU's overall goal to boost student retention. Two more learning villages – one focusing on women and the other on engineering – will be launched next year.

Already, one writing instructor is incorporating both environmental learning and service leadership into his class.

"I believe that educational initiatives like learning villages do dramatically impact the nature of the college experience, fostering a more genuine and interactive classroom culture," said Andy Smith, an English instructor who meets with writing classes in the environmental village and assigns essay topics on food and the environment.

"By keeping it real, we hopefully motivate students to feel like college is an integral and engaging part of their life paths rather than a necessary evil that postpones the so-called real world," he said.

 

 

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