Koch chosen as Community of Service-Learning Faculty Fellow
Lori Unruh Snyder and Daphene Koch take a break in the Costa Rican jungle during 2011 Spring Break.
Daphene Koch, assistant professor of building construction management, is one of seven faculty members selected to be Purdue's 2011 Community of Service-Learning Faculty Fellows.
Koch has teamed with Lori Unruh Snyder, assistant professor of agronomy, to take 10 students to Costa Rica during Maymester. They will be working in the San Carlos and Caribbean regions of the country. The students will work in a very poor community to renovate a health clinic, construct a school recycling storage center, and build a one-room addition to a house for energy efficiency, all while learning about agricultural food systems. They also will start the process of creating a self-guided tour through a primary jungle area to help bring agrotourism to the region. This project stems from Unruh Snyder's previous contacts and research with Pangola Farms.
The group will also interact with students and personnel from EARTH University, an agronomic school.
With the grant she receives as a Service-Learning Fellow, Koch will pay for a student to document the experience on video. “This grant will help document what we’re doing to help future project leaders see how to evaluate and how to reflect on a service-learning experience,” she said. “This becomes a pedagogical process. We can measure the outcomes.”
In addition to the planned work, the group will stay with local host families for two nights while working in the community. "That’s another learning experience,” Koch said. “You don’t learn about a culture unless you are immersed with the people.
To help with their language skills, students will participate in a two-day, Spanish-language immersion course before they begin their work.
Koch believes the concept of service-learning dovetails nicely with the expectations of the Department of Building Construction Management. Students are required to complete 800 hours of work experience by the time they graduate. This study abroad course will provide one-tenth of that requirement, 80 hours, in addition to the four academic credits they will receive.
“There’s a lot of pre-work and pre-planning to do,” she said. “They will also train people there to be able to sustain what we’ve done. The trip and projects will help students put into practice many of the concepts they learn about on campus." Koch said the students will draw upon knowledge learned in their intro, estimating, and scheduling courses, as well as “any class about managing people, communications, and problem-solving.”
In addition, the experience will broaden the students’ perspectives.
“We’ll be the first people to collect data of the primary forest located on a farm in Pangola,” Koch said. “BCM students will work on the layout and documentation of a walkway, which will be about a mile long. The agriculture students will help with identification of wildlife and plants while working with indigenous Malekus.”
Koch said she and Unruh Snyder hope to garner more grant funding to sustain the work they are doing in Costa Rica, which Snyder began three years ago
"[Unruh Snyder] has created the foundation to help bridge construction to agriculture. With her three years of experience leading study abroad trips, funded by a USDA Higher Education Grant, this new step into service learning will be highly successful in creating a larger impact for Purdue," she said.