Service Learning Spotlight: Cassie Donahue

One of the most popular placement sites for Missouri State University (MSU) service-learning students each semester is the Discovery Center of Springfield (DCS). Biomedical Sciences major Cassie Donahue completed 40 hours of service there last fall semester and found it to be an enriching experience. She recently gave some insight into her time at the DCS and how undertaking service-learning has helped her.

Cassie takes care of the aquarium at the ChromoZone.
Cassie takes care of the aquarium at the ChromoZone.

Why did you decide to do service-learning?
I wanted to start getting involved in the “real-world” scene behind biomedical science. When I discovered I would have the opportunity to volunteer at the DCS, I was thrilled at the thought of being able to teach what I love to others.

How was your service-learning experience?
Very rewarding! Working at the DCS is fun and fulfilling, and I love getting to share my passion about science with others.

What have you learned from doing service-learning?
Teaching and guiding children and teens through science is rewarding, and a worthwhile investment of my time. In high school, I struggled with chemistry so I was turned off to all science for a long time. Looking back, I really regret that, considering how much I love and appreciate the field of chemistry now. Knowing I can help others discover their passion for whatever field of science it is makes me smile, and preventing them from going through the same negative experience as me gives me a huge sense of purpose.

What kind of work did you do at the Discovery Center?
I assisted with experiments in the ChromoZone (the life sciences area), general lab set up and clean up, and various tasks, including mixing and making solutions for exhibits (chick wringer, buffer for gel electrophoresis, agar plates, etc).

What did you enjoy most about working at the Discovery Center?
I enjoyed assisting visitors with the “DNA Extraction” experiment. Generally, people are very interested in what DNA is and why it matters, and watching them be able to extract it and have a tangible product of the experiment is insightful. Most of the visitors that partake in the experiment have good questions and are eager to learn more, and being able to answer their questions and ultimately explain why science matters is great.

Cassie monitors the Chick Incubator.
Cassie monitors the Chick Incubator.

What advice would you give students who are considering doing service-learning?
Do it! Now! Don’t wait. My supervisor has been so flexible with my schedule, and the benefits I reap from the service-learning experience far outweigh any academically-related accolade.

According to DCS ChromoZone Program Coordinator Sara Coffman, both MSU students and her organization benefit greatly from the Citizenship and Service-Learning (CASL) program.

“Our resources are very limited so having CASL students who are more than just “one-time volunteers” allows us to set aside time for training and develop program material that otherwise would not be able to be completed,” she explained. “They, in turn, are able to invest their time and talent into helping our organization reach our goals of providing creative, informative and hands-on discoveries about the sciences and the world around us.”


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