Learning Communities (LC) at ISU include many types of structure and organization and do not fit one particular model. Our horticulture learning communities are characterized as having linked courses, clustered courses model, and are based on a freshman interest group (i.e. subject of horticulture). Participating in a LC eases the transition for students from high school or community college to the university. The academic-based and residence-based horticulture learning communities have proven to be a key in the retention of students. The learning community provides not only an instant bond with other first year students, but a way to enhance faculty interactions, study together, obtain tutoring assistance and supplemental learning sessions for all of the students involved.
A peer mentor plans and conducts study sessions, local field trips to horticultural enterprises and social activities. We conduct activities to enhance and deepen faculty-student interactions. The first-year students also become involved in a service-learning project initiated in 2002. During their first semester, students have access to apple research plots at the ISU Horticulture Station and use trees of which data are not collected in that year. Students learn to harvest, grade, bag, and store their apples. They research potential charitable organizations, and then donate the fresh apples to the charities of their choice. Recent examples include homeless shelters in Des Moines and food pantries in local towns and cities. In 2004, the service-learning project was funded by a Cargill Higher Education Initiative grant and was expanded to include first-year students in Food Science and Human Nutrition learning about local food systems.
Learning Communities university site: http://www.lc.iastate.edu/