Students trade spring break for conservation and community service

March 01, 2011

For most college students, spring break means a mini-vacation away from the rigors of academic life. But two groups of Penn State Lehigh Valley students will spend their week involved in either community service here in the United States, or expanding their knowledge of environmental issues abroad.

The first group of nine students will travel to the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica to explore environmental conservation and ecology issues in a rain forest environment from March 2-9. This international service experience came about from a partnership between two courses at the Lehigh Valley campus; a civic engagement course taught by Mary Hutchinson, assistant professor of ESL education and adviser to the civic and community engagement minor, and a biology course taught by Karen Kackley-Dutt, instructor in biology. The group also plans to blog about their experience.

"This is a great opportunity for students to see firsthand the effects of issues they study in the classroom," said Hutchinson. "We will be participating in research and service projects and will visit coffee, banana, and chocolate plantations to learn about these crops and their impact on food production and sustainability."

A second group of students will travel to Tennessee from March 5-12, where they will join students from other area colleges in a long-term service project at the Snowbird Cherokee Community. Students will lend a hand in a number of the community's spaces including the senior citizen center, child development center, the Nantahala National Forest, and a private residence.

For more information, contact University Relations at 610-285-5067 or e-mail

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Last Updated March 01, 2011