While many of their fellow students were soaking up the last rays of summer before the start of the fall semester, a group of students from the LSU College of Art and Design were working in South Africa as part of a service-learning project that brought them to a rural township south of Cape Town where they used their skills and design expertise to improve the conditions of two preschools.
The 17-day program, facilitated by the Office of Community Design and Development (OCDD), brought together students of various levels from the School of Architecture, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture and School of Interior Design, and enabled them to earn course credit in the concentration of community design studies.
For most of the program, the students lived in Noordhoek, SA and traveled to the rural township of Red Hill, where they worked at the Red Hill Preschool redesigning and rebuilding a children’s playground and outdoor teaching area. They also designed and built a portable puppet theater, renovated interior office space, designed and installed new signage, and designed and constructed a new raised-bed garden for the school.
“It was a fantastic program and a real life-changing experience for many of our students, who had never been exposed before to that kind of need,” says OCDD Director Marsha Cuddeback, a professor in the LSU School of Architecture. “The poverty is real and palpable, yet the sense of community is strong and hopeful.
The program was the first of several international service-learning programs in Red Hill, SA. The program offers opportunities to sustain collaborative relationships between OCDD and its community partners, assess local needs and align with student- learning outcomes. Next year, Cuddeback and her School of Architecture colleague, Frank Bosworth, plan to work with students on the design and construction of a portable preschool, and develop sustainable strategies for sewage treatment, composting and community gardens.
“These are the kinds of opportunities that really set apart the curricula in the College of Art and Design,” Cuddeback says. “It’s the kind of real-life experience students cannot get in the classroom, and it’s doubly rewarding because not only are they earning but they’re also making a positive contribution to communities at risk.”