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UW-Eau Claire Students|
Volunteer In Nebraska
MAILED: June 29, 1999|
Complete with aluminum foil, Popsicle sticks and paper cups, seventh-graders from Papillion-LaVista School District in Nebraska designed a city of the future recently as part of a program planned and hosted by six students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
The program, which is the end result of a special topics political science course on political problems at UW-Eau Claire, allowed 37 gifted seventh graders the opportunity to blueprint and construct "Utopia" a 3-D model of their Ideal City of the Future.
The political science course, taught this past semester by Dr. Robert Burns, director of the Center for Service-Learning, had the students at UW-Eau Claire planning for the May 23-27 event, learning about gifted students and setting various goals for the seventh-graders to accomplish.
The students who traveled to Nebraska to work with the seventh graders were Ann Bodden, a junior sociology major from Kewaskum; Kyleen Gregerson, a sophomore accounting major from Buffalo, Minn.; Sarah Pingry, a sophomore social work major from Madison; Calie Seitzer, a junior elementary education major from St. Peter, Minn.; Elise Senteney, a junior economics major from Eau Claire; and Holly Thull, a sophomore secondary education major from Campbellsport.
Although the end result of the week with the seventh-graders was the completion of a 12- by 16-foot detailed model of a city from the year 2050, the intent of the course and subsequent program was focused on understanding democratic decision-making and city planning, Burns said.
"The seventh-graders and UW-Eau Claire students learned how to come together, resolve conflicts and reach a final goal," Burns said. "This activity was set up to show that city planning is a political activity that people have a right to get involved with."
Burns, who used to work for the state of Nebraska in the state's water planning office, said he has seen first hand how citizen participation is often times at the end of the political process.
"We'd finish a report and say to the public, 'here's what's going to happen,'" he said. "If we are going to involve citizens, we should do it right. Citizen involvement should occur throughout the process, instead of waiting until the very end."
Through his affiliation with Kansas State University, where he taught community planning, Burns started the program at Papillion-LaVista School District in 1993.
When he started at UW-Eau Claire last year, he wanted to continue the program, thinking it would be an excellent opportunity for students to interact with a different kind of audience, learn a new subject and fulfill their service learning requirement at the same time.
"The students had a crash course in conflict management and learned how to work through problems," he said. "The students walked away from this class and the project glad they had experienced it. It was something different and they truly got to like a lot of the kids they were working with."
Because she someday hopes to teach seventh- and eighth-graders, Seitzer said this was an excellent opportunity to work and associate with students that age.
"It was interesting to see them develop thoughts, compromise and work together," Seitzer said. "I learned a lot from this experience. Basically it was a ton of fun."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: June 29, 1999