Since its foundation in 2004 Siena Italian Studies implemented the pedagogy of service-learning in the students’ curriculum. Over the course of the years, service-projects varied and expanded including: teaching English and Spanish in public schools, setting tables and serving food at the city soup kitchen, visiting with the elderly at a nursing home, volunteering with Siena’s ambulance service, serving as mediators in language classes for asylum seekers, participating in inclusion projects for refugees, participating in activities of urban sustainability, taking part in summer camps for kids, working in animals’ shelters, organizing and managing language conversation exchanges for university students, working with the disabled, participating in hippo therapy, taking part in earthquake relief camps, shadowing activities in health centres, serving in a local clothing drive, helping in a local community garden, setting up a project of service-learning from afar with Cameroonian partners.
The inclusion of the service-learning pedagogy at Siena Italian Studies had as primary goal that of language acquisition and led to the development of EUFICCS (European use of full-immersion: culture, content and service) that was born as a European project and subsequently adopted as a teaching methodology. Stemming from this service-learning has become a privileged tool not only for the acquisition of language and culture but more extensively for the development of a culture of democracy based on RFCDC.
Since the beginning all service-learning projects at Siena Italian Studies have been complemented by reflection classes that had the function to link the service activities to classes content and the overall intercultural experience. Reflection classes journal served as a starting point to develop an assessment tool, RICA (Reflective Intercultural Competence Assessment) through which about 100 journals were assessed.
Recently Siena Italian Studies teaching curriculum has been enriched by the integration of the Council of Europe’s model of competences for democratic culture that was applied to all the EUFICCS components and is leading to the updating of the RICA model. One aspect that needs further investigation is the impact of Siena Italian Studies service-learning projects on the local community.