Effects of a Service-Learning Neuroscience Course on Mood and Intergroup Anxiety
Loretta M. Flanagan-Cato, Rista C. Plate, Christina Steele, and Adrianna C. Jenkins
Department of Psychology and Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 19104.
“Everyday Neuroscience” is an academically based community service (ABCS) course in which college students teach basic neuroscience lab activities to high school students in an under-funded school district, working in small groups on hands-on science activities for 10 weekly sessions. The present study examined the possible psychological and social effects of this experience on the college students, in comparison with peers not enrolled in such a course, by observing and surveying the high school and college students across the 10-week course period. First, the teaching-learning sessions in the course successfully promoted science-focused discussion between the high school and college students for 45 to 60 minutes each week. Second, college students in “Everyday Neuroscience” reported higher positive affect and less intergroup anxiety at the end of the semester compared with the control group of college students who were not in the course. Finally, surveys of the high school students revealed that they found the sessions to be positive social experiences. These findings reveal that a neuroscience-based community engagement course can be both a positive experience for the community partner and a benefit for college students by promoting psychological and social wellness.