Spread Awareness, Not Disease
Students in Dr. Ginny Webb’s Microbiology course (BIOL 330) aim to spread awareness of various infectious diseases and methods of disease control. They regularly partner with Oakland Elementary School where microbiology students teach hands-on lessons to kindergarten students about disease transmission and hand washing. The kindergarten students immediately see how well they wash their hands and how easily microbes transfer with the help of special lotion under glowing lights.
During Spring 2020, microbiology students were given the additional opportunity to design their own service learning project. Students formed research team, chose an infectious disease impacting our community, and designed a service initiative around combating the affliction, developing a plan to help combat this community health problem. Topics chosen included vaccines, antibiotic resistance, the Flu, and STDs. While all teams encountered chaos as a new infectious disease interrupted their incipient plans, students adroitly shifted from planned in-person service to virtual outreach and reported heightened awareness of the impact of COVID-19 on immunocompromised people.
One group focused on STD rates in SC and specifically among college students. This student group had planned a week of activities during STD awareness week and also collaborated with graphic design students to produce an informative pamphlet about STDs. Before COVID interrupted, students worked with health services to plan a “testing” day to encourage students to utilize the STD testing services offered to students. Shifting plans, the STD team used the STD informative pamphlet they had created to start a social media campaign. They posted the pamphlet online and also provided it to local health clinics for patient access. The group also created a GoFundMe page to raise money for a local health clinic that tests and treats STDs.
Overall, we had some minor bumps in the road, but this project enabled us to reach out to the campus community and become more involved, which is the main purpose of Service Learning. It truly is a feeling like no other when you get to work with leaders and faculty on campus towards a common goal that you are both passionate about. I truly encourage students to utilize this class, not only as a way to learn about Microbiology, but to become aware of growing issues in our community and how you can work to spread awareness.
Please also visit the Student Service Story page for a version of this story written by two students on the STD team!
Dr. Ginny Webb observes, "this project is a wonderful opportunity for Biology students to serve the community while reinforcing infectious disease content learned in class. Students take ownership of their projects and I see them passionately work on their project and become invested in making a difference."
Read more about the ongoing Oakland Elementary project in this 2016 news story.
Mary Bucher, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Public Health & COVID-19 Response, worked with the STD awareness group and reports being impressed with the group's approach to working with the content in these dynamic times. She also noted that this story showcases "our Spartan Strength and our amazing students as we face this challenge and support our community together."
Read the pamphlet students prepared
A kindergarten student checking out germs under a glow light
STD Prevalence pamphlet in rack (top, center)
A student reading the pamphlet in the clinic office