Indiana State University Newsroom

Getting involved: Earth and environmental systems students help out Sullivan Recycle Center

May 5, 2011

Finals week at Indiana State means it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. This week, Jim Speer's Conservation and Sustainability class did just that.

Amidst piles of plastic, cardboard, and aluminum, about 20 Indiana State students spent the morning Tuesday volunteering at Sullivan County's Recycle Center.

The trip originated from a research project by three students in the class who looked into the sustainability of Sullivan, particularly its Recycle Center. Their research studied the public's perception of the Recycle Center and ways to further improve its image. In addition, they held a fund-raising event to raise donations.

Speer encouraged other students in the class to participate Tuesday to experience firsthand the rewards of getting involved with their local community. Speer, associate professor of earth and environmental systems, encourages a more hands-on approach, as it "provides a more meaningful education for the students where they can see the benefit of what they've learned."

An engaged approach is also part of the design of the SENCER class. SENCER, which stands for Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, utilizes classes which teach science while emphasizing community involvement and project-based learning.

Senior Vickey Blankenship of Lowell supports this particular learning style. She says she has learned not only "how to do research" but "a lot of practical stuff."

Time spent at the Recycle Center also counted toward the 20 service hours students are required to have as part of the Conservation and Sustainability class. ISU junior Cale Pigg of Sullivan, the student who lead the Sullivan Recycle Center project, described the volunteering as "something worthwhile," adding that it was beneficial to actually experience working at the place he was researching. "You have more respect for the people who do this, sort everything. It can definitely seem overwhelming," he noted, motioning to the mountains of recyclables which filled the Center.

It is Speer's hope that students will take away critical thinking skills from his class which will allow them to effectively gather information and analyze the results. He wants them to have the ability to apply their findings to real world questions and situations. By getting involved and experiencing the things they are researching, Speer hopes his students will see the changes they can make. "They can make a difference. The work that students do in this class is meaningful to themselves and the local community."

Photo: - Indiana State University students in a Conservation and Sustainability class had an unusual final exam on May 3, 2011. They helped out at a recycling center in Sullivan, about 25 miles from the ISU campus. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Paul Reed (left), manager of the Indiana State University Recycling Center, and Cale Rigg of Sullivan, an earth and environmental systems major at Indiana State, help out at the Sullivan Recycling Center. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Jim Speer, associate professor, earth and environmental systems, Indiana State University, 812-237-3011 or

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or