Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education


This practice-based approach argues service learning can teach social justice in parks & recreation management education. The US parks system creation and history is rooted in injustice. Use of US parks and park service employment remain inequitable today. Significant work must be done in the provision of recreation and park services to all members of the community, including those who have been traditionally marginalized or underserved. The industry requires recreation and parks professionals at all levels who are informed and intentional about inclusion and social justice, which starts with parks and recreation management education.

Service-learning, a form of experiential learning allows students to participate in an organized service activity, meeting identified community needs and reflecting on the service activity, to further understand course content, foster a broader appreciation of the discipline, and enhance their sense of civic responsibility. The paper describes a semester long service learning example. Upper-level undergraduate sport management and hospitality and tourism management students at a small, private college in the Southeast adopted a park in collaboration with the local Parks & Recreation department. The students created a new recreational amenity site plan including access for persons with disabilities, designed new educational signage, and removed invasive flora species. The course contained content modules on social justice issues, including the history of Native Americans and the parks systems, racial discrimination in parks and parks administration, and recreational access for persons with disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Students met content knowledge learning objectives and reported skill acquisition and application of course material outside the classroom. With revision to improve student satisfaction, expand coverage of other marginalized groups in parks and recreation, and more explicitly connect course activities to equity and inclusion, this model can be replicated to successfully teach social justice.

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