Community-based Capstone Projects

How Bilingual are You? An Investigation and Reflection on Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism in the United States – Katie Bissmeyer, Fall 2017

This capstone project focused on the exploration of bilingualism and language acquisition in the Unitedkatie at capstone States through many mediums, including the creation of a Spanish language curriculum, the implementation of that curriculum, and a literature review investigation into second language acquisition and bilingualism. Creation of the Spanish curriculum was based on my own experience as a Spanish language learner and the needs of the adult students in the classroom. To implement the curriculum, I volunteered at Esperanza, Inc., two days per week throughout the semester to teach the students both grammar and vocabulary. While doing so, I investigated the roles of the explicit and implicit pathways in second language acquisition and how these pathways can dictate differing teaching styles and strategies depending on student demographics. I then looked into definitions of bilingualism and fluency, only to discover that, in reality, both concepts are hard to define because they exist on a spectrum. Finally, I investigated the concept of bilingualism on both an individual and societal level in the United States. All of these topics were contrasted with my own experience as an English-Spanish bilingual, an English as a Second Language Teacher for native Spanish speakers, and as a Spanish teacher for native English speakers. Ultimately, the project forced me to ask myself "How bilingual are you?" and to determine what that level of bilingualism meant for me as a US and global citizen.

Increasing Empathic Concern in Early Childhood Environmental Literacy – Duck H. Rhee, Spring 2017

Duck Rhee photographThis project explores the extent to which increasing empathic concern in early childhood environmental education leads future generations to become environmental stewards. The first section is a literature review that defines environmental education and examines studies regarding the historical roots of environmental education. The following section explores why environmental education is much needed in the United States. The subsequent section narrows the scope of the review by analyzing Ohio's grasp of environmental knowledge, which is followed by discussion of the major criticisms regarding environmental education. To bookend the literature review, a discussion on why empathy matters is followed by a comparative best practice, anecdotal case study of the local early childhood environmental literacy programming at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Throughout the capstone, I served as an education intern at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, teaching early childhood (pre-k) to 4th grade students, in the form field trips to the Nature Center or off-site visitations to public institutions. During my time, I was able to observe non-formal educational staff teaching patterns, review educational materials and programs, provide input for pilot activities, and analyze educator evaluations which were aggregated by a program evaluation specialist. The conclusion emphasizes a need for more funding and research dedicated to data-driven, longitudinal studies that would measure how a change in one's empathy (emotional capacity), locus of control (agency), and the decrease in guilt (shame) can build better citizens of the future.

Mobilizing Ohio's Latino Millennial Electorate in the 2016 Elections – Thomas A. Franco, Fall 2016

The focus of the capstone was mobilizing Ohio's Latino Millennial electorate in the 2016 U.S. elections Thomas presenting and included an internship with the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs' 2016 Ohio Latino Vote Campaign. Using a digital organizing method put forth by the Aspen Institute, 15 college Latino student groups were invited to join the formation of a new coalition and its endeavor to increase voter turnout among Latino millennials in Ohio. The efforts had a low response and participation rate. Possible underlying reasons for the low levels of participation include (1) The historical trajectory for low levels of civic engagement; (2) The lack of national attention on the political relevance of Latinos in Ohio; (3) The need for paid opportunities for Latinos to become civically engaged; (4) The effectiveness of using an online platform to civically engage Latinos; and (5) The need for a team-based approach and collaboration among similar efforts. Photo courtesy of Andrea Magaña Lewis, OCHLA.

Eliciting Visitors to Take Action for Wildlife Conservation at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo – Erin Deasy, Spring 2016

Erin conducting surveyA primary mission of zoos is to inspire a feeling of connectedness to nature and motivate actions that support long-term survival of healthy ecosystems. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo recently developed a new website to help raise awareness of the Zoo's international conservation programs and the conservation issues affecting wildlife living in nature around the world. To make it easy for visitors to find, the Zoo has created a ghost web-page that will be used on interpretive graphics as a gateway for additional information and opportunities to take action for conservation by donating money, signing a pledge, or serving as a wildlife advocate via social media. The Zoo is testing, creating, and testing again a series of interpretive graphics aimed first at increasing awareness and second at increasing action. This Capstone project was aimed at identifying what methods will increase visitor awareness of the Zoo's conservation efforts and determining the best approach for compelling visitors to access the Zoo's conservation web page via the ghost URL.

UCAP 390 Conservation of National Parks and Protected Areas: a Service Learning Capstone, Spring 2011-14

UCAP 390 explores environmental conservation with a focus on people and protected areas. A critical part of the course is a community-based learning component in which students travel to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia during cumberland groupspring break to gain hands-on experience with environmental management activities and to contribute to conservation efforts with the National Park Service. Cumberland Island provides a revealing case study of the conflicts that often arise between ecosystem conservation, private development, historic preservation, and public use. By studying the history and current management of Cumberland Island, we explore the enduring environmental issues of conflict and collaboration in conservation efforts. Throughout a weekly seminar and service learning trip, students will synthesize information, apply critical thinking skills, reflect on firsthand experience, and lead and participate in discussion. Students also choose an environmental issue relevant to protected areas and Cumberland Island to investigate in-depth that will form the basis of a significant paper. Read more about previous student projects and view trip photos.

UCAP 395 The Effects of Resettlement on Child Refugees - Emma Haas, Fall 2014

For this capstone, I focused on the impact of refugee resettlement on the mental health and development of child refugees. Emma at IntersectionsTo get a clearer picture, I completed both a literature review and a weekly internship at Catholic Charities in Migration and Refugee Services. I examined existing research and used my experience at Catholic Charities to inform my research. To begin, I researched the process of refugee resettlement so that I could better understand information surrounding the topic. Then, utilizing my Psychology major, I looked at how being uprooted from a home country impacts child development and mental health. I compared "normal" child development patterns with refugee children and identified the core stressors that may contribute to a decline in mental well-being. Next, I researched the role of education and formal schooling to better understand the barriers faced by child refugees and the process of forming self-identities. I also explored the role that refugee resettlement agencies play in the resettlement process to help integrate child refugees and their families. I experienced, first-hand, the application of the research through an internship at Catholic Charities. As an intern, I worked each week in different areas of refugee resettlement. Some of my duties included attending job interviews, writing resumes, helping in ESL classes, and creating curriculum for a single mothers group. Lastly, I made several recommendations for work with child refugees based on the knowledge I gained through the literature review and internship.

UCAP 395 An environmental curriculum for the community of Manzano Uno, Nicaragua: Increasing access to education and promoting sustainable action - Samantha Marek, Spring 2014

This capstone focuses on creating an environmental education curriculum for the community of Manzano Uno, Nicaragua. The Sam in Nicaraguacurriculum will be implemented by Waves of Hope, a local nonprofit I have worked with on Alternative Spring Break trips through the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning. The curriculum strengthens the mission of Waves of Hope to "improve the quality of life in [their] community through strengthening local education, healthcare, and infrastructure" by providing knowledge on sustainability that will improve the education and infrastructure of the community. The curriculum encompasses five units: Introduction to Nicaragua and the Environment, Pollution, Water I, Water II, and Wildlife. Each unit is composed of two lessons that are designed to be taught by any instructor, regardless of background on each topic. The curriculum will be supplemental instruction outside of normal school hours. Overall, the curriculum links place-based lessons with environmental action to cultivate pride in the students' local environment that will motivate them to follow through with sustainable action. I wanted to do more for Waves of Hope after spending spring break 2013 working with them. In collaboration with one of the founders, we outlined a curriculum structure for the children of the local community. This project allows me to incorporate knowledge gained through biology classes, skills from Spanish coursework, and passion through service.

UCAP 395 Student-Centered Language Instruction Strategies and the Impact of Language on Latino Identity Formation: Effective Methodologies of Teaching ESL to Adults - Derek Schadel, Fall 2013

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over a period from 1980 – 2007 the number of people five and older who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled and this change is at a rate four times greater Derek teaching classthan the nation's population growth. Considering this demographic shift and America's monolingual tradition, the demand for effective English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction is on the rise. Through a literature review as well as an applied experience working as a volunteer ESL teacher at El Barrio,a workforce development center in Cleveland, I have focused my research on adult language learners and the approach to language education called student-centered language instruction. I have identified student-centered teaching strategies and delved into their efficacy, challenges, and possible implications beyond the classroom to synthesize the best practices in this field to improve educational practice. In addition, my weekly service component as a volunteer ESL teacher has provided me the opportunity to get inside the ESL classroom and gain a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of adult ESL instruction. Within the context of this community-based ESL program, I offer an analysis of effective teaching methodologies and recommendations for the future. Considering that Latinos make up the largest minority group in the United States and are the majority clientele of El Barrio's ESL programs, I have focused on that specific group of adult language learners to develop an anthropological investigation on how language affects the formation of Latino identity in the United States.

UCAP 395 A health, hygiene, and nutrition curriculum for resettled refugees at the International Services Center - Julia Lai, Spring 2013

The International Services Center (ISC) in Cleveland, Ohio provides refugee resettlement programs, including English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, life skills training, and employment consultation. In addition to the current services, the ISC staff has identified the need for a health and hygiene education program that is easily accessible and Julia in classroomreplicable, as the importance of hygiene, health, and nutrition is often less recognized by the refugees. In consultation with the ISC staff, this capstone project involved the development and teaching of a curriculum designed to inform the refugees about the American healthcare system, to educate them on health, hygiene, and nutrition practices, and to provide basic training with regard to these topics. A curriculum handbook, including lesson plans and practice handouts, was created with a focus on making the curriculum sustainable and replicable for future ISC instructors. As part of the capstone, seven class sessions were conducted using this curriculum, from January to April, 2013. Topics in health, hygiene, and nutrition were taught, and skills training was performed under supervision of the ISC staff, and the curriculum was refined and strengthened based on the firsthand teaching experience. The new curriculum handbook and ongoing teaching will assist the ISC refugees in achieving proficiency and independence in seeking medical assistance and accessing health care, as well as raise health awareness and practical skills among the refugee students, ultimately increasing their quality of life.

UCAP 395 Actors, Resources and Motivations in Local Environmental Action - Camerin Bennett, Spring 2012

Camerin's capstone focused on the impacts of local environmental action. Each week, she volunteered with Case Western Reserve University's Farm Food Program. Through this experience, she learned about the process of growing food on a small scale and contrasted the Farm's methods with her research on the processes of industrial agriculture. Her final project abstract follows.camerin gardening

In modern society, environmental action has shifted away from being the duty of the average citizen. Now, it is in the realm of activists to move the public towards sustainable behaviors. This trend raises the following questions: What makes people act sustainably? What causes local environmental action? Can local action create lasting, widespread changes? The answers to these questions are not obvious, for it is not only the question of how to cultivate sustainable action, but also who takes that action, and why they do. All three of these questions are highly debatable, but they hold the potential for understanding the best ways in which to move society towards a sustainable future. Using the movement towards local farming in Cleveland as a case study, this capstone project investigates the answers to these questions. Through service within the community, particularly at CWRU's University Farm, and visits to local farming sites, the project developed a proposal concerning the best path towards sustainability. Suggestions are made to unite the powers of local and federal actions to facilitate interactions necessary for promoting widespread, lasting environmental change.


This capstone provides an exciting opportunity for students to become involved in greater Cleveland in two parts. During the ucap395 groupnon-credit summer community experience, students served in an internship-type capacity 20 hours/week for 8 weeks at a local nonprofit and selected a community issue as the focus of their individual capstone project. They also met together to share their experiences with the other students. During the fall semester, students registered for 3-credit UCAP 395A and utilized their summer experience to analyze and research their chosen issue more in-depth, complete a significant paper, and present their work. Limited to a small group, students met in seminar to learn about urban issues, community engagement, nonprofit organizations, and themselves as advocates for social change. You can learn more about the Engage Cleveland Capstone, 2012 students, summer placements, and their capstone projects here.

UCAP 395 Community-based Capstone: Environmental Issues & Community Engagement - Spring 2010

group at lakeThis community-based capstone provides an opportunity to learn about and become involved in environmental issues in Cleveland. Limited to a small group of students, the capstone weaves together interdisciplinary knowledge, research, writing, and community-based experience. Each student chooses an environmental issue relevant to Northeast Ohio to investigate in-depth over the course of the semester and serves at a local non-profit agency to gain hands-on experience with an organization addressing environmental issues. In spring 2010, students were involved in seven different community placements and projects. During the semester, students also meet together in a weekly seminar to share the issues they are working on and discuss readings that explore environmental topics and the Cleveland community. Students synthesize information, apply critical thinking skills, and write a significant paper based on the environmental issue they have identified. They utilize experience at their partner organizations to further their understanding and analysis of the issue. Check out The Daily news blog for additional coverage of the Spring 2010 capstone.

UCAP 395 Community-based Capstone: Mini Medical Experience - Zachary Rubin, Fall 2009 & Spring 2010

zach schoolFor Zachary's capstone project, he developed an educational outreach program called Mini Medical Experience. The purpose of Mini Medical Experience is to expose high school students to the field of medicine and help them determine if a career in medicine is right for them. Mini Medical Experience is comprised of nine hands-on educational activities that are related to medicine. Participants learn about vital signs, performing intubation, and suturing. In addition, handouts are provided on how to get into medical school along with information about special combined medical school programs. It has been designed to be adaptable so that a diverse audience can facilitate this program, including high school science teachers and pre-medical college students. For the Mini Medical Experience to be portable and easily replicated, Zachary created and wrote a curriculum guidebook to provide detailed lesson plans on the activities, a projected budget, and supplemental handouts. As part of the capstone project, a Mini Medical Experience was successfully implemented for students at the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine at John Hay High School and components of the program were adopted by the new Health Profession Pipeline Program. Mini Medical Experience was modeled after Dr. Rubin's Mini Medical School, an 18-hour program that Zachary started with his father in 2005 at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill. It was designed to make exposure to the program more accessible throughout the country.

For additional information on community-based capstones, contact Betsy Banks at CCEL.