The Role of Service Learning Throughout the Dental Hygiene Curriculum

Authors: Brunick, Ann L; Kennedy, Beverly J

Source: Journal of Dental Hygiene, 1 October 2007, vol. 81, no. 4, pp. 91-91(1)


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The dental hygiene curriculum at the University of South Dakota is primarily service-oriented and students provide dental hygiene services in various settings as course requirements. In addition, many service-learning projects are embedded throughout the curriculum. Beginning in their preclinical course, students develop and complete a service-learning project, then reflect on what they've learned about themselves and those assisted. Projects range from basic toothbrushing instructions for preschool children to interactive education for prenatal and "Baby & Me" classes and leading an interdisciplinary team of professional students in applying fluoride varnish to over 200 elementary children. SADHA members' civic involvement has improved the quality of life of soldiers by sending kits overseas and of inmates by delivering holiday sacks. As up to 90% of the graduating class receives their BS degree, all must meet a 15-hour service-learning requirement for USD's signature IdEA (Interdisciplinary Education and Action) program. Currently, dental hygiene students in this course are making fleece blankets for those less fortunate. This project involves grant writing, matching funds, speaking at a board meeting, and comprising a budget and timeline. Students learn everyone has a role, and coordinate activities to achieve a common purpose.

Faculty have found students stretch beyond the classroom and learn from these real world experiences. As such, they are provided with diverse learning experiences, a goal of our program. The written reflections following completion of the projects are positive indicating greater self-esteem, more awareness of societal inadequacies, and a desire to be involved in a community as they begin their professional careers. We believe service learning enhances dental hygiene education and is an integral part of our curriculum.

Document Type: Abstract

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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