EdCC service learning: enact change while earning credit


For Edmonds Community College teacher and active service learning participant, Kasie McCarty, service learning is a way of life. “I like getting outdoors,” she says, as she hacked down invasive growth at an ongoing college project in Japanese Gulch, a stream running across private property (that we had gotten special access to) in Mukilteo. “It’s good for my mind; it’s good for my body.” It’s also good for the community and, ultimately, the planet, according to Thomas Murphy, chair of EdCC’s anthropology department and a pioneer of service learning at the school.

When asked what exactly service learning is, Murphy described it as, “a teaching method that combines learning objectives with service objectives.” Service learning allows students to enrich their learning experiences by involving themselves in and developing an understanding of what it means to be part of a community.

Students desire an education that involves real-life application, an education that can make a real change in this community. In a world that has only a little over a decade to stop catastrophic climate change, everyone should be doing their part to help the environment. 

     Service learning provides an abundance of projects and events that anyone can participate in. One popular activity is “Trashy Tuesdays,” an event in which students pick up trash left around the campus. 

This process evokes discussions of plastic pollution, and how it affects the environment. After collecting the garbage, it is separated into categories for an analysis of the waste stream here at Edmonds. This activity provides not only a cleaner campus for all of us to enjoy but a better understanding of the waste around us and how it affects this earth. 

    To gain a better perspective on what is done by the service learning crew during their projects, I signed up for the Japanese Gulch Tour and Invasive Species Removal activity, which occurred Saturday, October 20th. 

“This is a very important place, historically,” Murphy told us, starting the morning with a discussion of the history of the sight. The Japanese Gulch, down in Mukilteo, was named after the Japanese Lumber camp that used to reside there in 1903-1930. 

Years later, in 2010, the Snohomish County Airport decided to do something that made a difference and worked with the Tulalip tribes, Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife, and the city of Mukilteo to move barriers for salmon migration down in the Japanese Gulch. 

“At the time at Edmonds Community College, we were already working closely with the City of Mukilteo and Snohomish County on unrelated environmental projects.” Explains Murphy. EdCC was contacted to help participate in this project and has ever since. 

The once exterminated salmon that lived down in the gulch would soon be making a reappearance, making our objective for the day to clear out the invasive species from the stream, so that we could prepare for the upcoming salmon monitoring project. 

The pathways were overgrown with thorny vines and poisonous berries, prompting us to cut through. The muddy stream needed to be raked and cleared. After a few hours of digging in the mud, tripping over vines, and picking thorns out of our gloves, we had made a lot of progress. Areas that had been entirely overgrown when we had first got there were now cleared and prepped. 

“For me, it was amazing just how much it’s changed from previous years,” said McCarty. McCarty had been on this particular service learning trip multiple times. She cut down invasive plants in the pathways with ease, telling me she was very used to it at this point. “It was amazing to see that you couldn’t get through in areas where, a year before, it was really clear.” 

By participating in even just the Japanese Gulch Tour and Invasive Species Removal activity, I feel like I learned a lot. There are so many options of events to participate in, giving everyone who engages a sense of fulfillment. 

To sign up for a future service learning event, access the Edmonds Community College website /service learning, and scroll through the list to choose whichever appears to be the most appealing. It’s an excellent opportunity to work hard at making a difference in this community!