Service Learning in Geosciences - The Story of Wine to Water Texas A&M

Apr 14, 2016

In the Fall 2015 semester, the College of Geosciences introduced an undergraduate level course that focused on the world water crisis as seen through the eyes of Doc Henley, founder of Wine to Water the NGO. What came out of it was something no one could have predicted.

The course started out as a landmark, the first class in the College of Geosciences to focus on service learning as part of the high impact learning program. Students were informed about the class during their New Student Conference and given the opportunity to sign up if they had interest. The proposition was met with great response.

The main goal of the course was presented by professor Judy Nunez, consisting of a service learning trip to Costa Rica that focused on helping the local population of San Isidro with water testing ­­­­– along with educating the local students on water conservation. But before anything could be accomplished, the students had to learn why the trip was so important.

The assigned reading for the class was Doc Henley’s autobiography, Wine to Water. The book outlines Henley’s journey and personal discovery of the world water crisis, along with his mission that transferred into the NGO, which was founded in 2007.

Throughout the Fall semester, students were presented with an idea: What do you think it would be like to not have access to clean drinking water? They were encouraged to explore this proposition through individual research and in-class discussion.

The passion for the project was quickly apparent within the group of students. Before long, they were applying to become a recognized student organization so they could better spread their message to others at Texas A&M University and the surrounding community. The class also participated in a tour of the wastewater treatment plant.

The Spring 2016 semester focused on learning about the water crisis as it pertained to Costa Rica – a water-rich country with its own unique crisis. In order to better prepare themselves for their service learning trip to Costa Rica in April, the students chose topics to present ­– such as culture, geopolitics, and geography of Costa Rica.

The Spring also brought a nice surprise for the class when they were presented with the Student Assistance Funding Award from The Association of Former Students.

By: Andrew Vernon '06