Putting Service Learning Into Orbit


  • Martin J. Hornyak
  • Steve G. Green
  • Jereme A. Estes


Service learning is a powerful pedagogical tool using community or public service experiences to enhance traditional course content’s meaning and impact. This approach is valuable for two interrelated reasons: 1) it provides a form of practical experience enhancing learning in all potential curriculum areas and 2) the community service experience can reinforce civic and moral values desirable in society from serving others (Zlotkowski, 1996a, 1996b). This paper presents a brief description of service learning and describes a unique application of this pedagogy at a military service academy. A special offering senior capstone course involving engineering systems design and program management, where the final project (a small satellite) is actually placed in orbit, is used as a vehicle for service learning. Also experience-based insights into improving service learning implementation are presented with suggestions and demonstrations for making this approach part of the curriculum.