Service-Learning Program in U.S. Virgin Islands
When you dig into the EARTH Program, you’ll find much more than a well-grounded education. Through the EARTH Program, Iowa State students travel to the island of St. John for a summer or an entire semester to work, live and help in the community. You’ll assist with school gardens and help grow local fruits and vegetables sustainably. Service-learners have the chance to help teachers in culinary arts and environmental science classes and create learning opportunities for school children. You’ll learn about the lives of U.S. Virgin Islanders in the Caribbean and what it means to protect beautiful ecosystems.
Spring 2019 EARTH Program student experiences
The EARTH Program provided many opportunities to be fully immersed in the community of St. John and the opportunity to grow with and learn from the local community members. This semester taught me a lot about living on an island with limited resources. My favorite part was being able to work with the elementary school students at GHS on my zero-waste challenge. The students gained important knowledge about environmental issues on the island. Children are a vital component of the island’s future and shining light on this issue was a very impactful experience for the students and myself.
Over the course of the spring semester, we participated in numerous community events and cultural activities. My individual project consisted of working with a local expert and botanist on shore restoration following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. We worked together, in a partnership with the National Parks Service, to collect native plant seeds and seedlings to propagate and install in September. This was my favorite part of my internship experience because she taught me invaluable knowledge about St. John’s history, insider cultural perspectives, and I finally understood the importance of habitat protection and conservation.
While I was on St. John, one of my projects was teaching the students about vermicomposting at Gifft Hill School, although my main project was irrigation. These opportunities brought a different perspective to my life. I was able to learn the culture and get to know the local people more than I ever thought that I would. I also learned the importance of helping others within the service that we did. I have only strengthened my love for agriculture and learning. I will take this in to my future career and share with people all of the different parts of agriculture that I have learned about while in the USVI.