Merida 1Service learning is “a method under which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs, that are integrated into the student’s academic curriculum or provide structured time for reflection, and that enhance what is taught in school by extending student learning beyond the classroom and into the community” (Cauley K, et al. Service learning: integrating student learning and community service. Education for Health; 2001;14 (2):173-181.). The goal of the service learning program is to provide OSU DPT students with a combination of community and professional service opportunities that will enhance their DPT education and foster values consistent with the APTA’s core values.

What is Service Learning?

  • The Intentional integration of service and learning where students learn and develop outcomes and where community needs are addressed
  • There must be reciprocal benefit to the student and the community

Goals of Service learning

  • Create a symbiotic relationship between educational institutions and their communities
  • Provide students the best possible education and lifelong community service ethics

Each 1st and 2nd year DPT student must satisfactorily complete the service learning requirements. All students are required to serve 15 hours per year providing direct service.  Over the course of the year every student will:

1. Sign up for a primary service learning group.
2. Meet with the faculty advisor for the group to learn of the group’s requirements and establish written group goals and a plan for the year, which must be approved by the faculty adviser.
3. Provide direct services according to the agreed upon plan.
4. Help write a group report to assess the outcome of the group’s activities at the end of the year.
5. Write an individual reflection documenting all service learning for the year, including service to the group as well as any additional service. 


Service Learning Groups

Biomechanics Outreach

The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Research Institute, and others in the Health Sciences Colleges (Medicine, Dentistry, Optometry, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing) participate in several outreach activities throughout the year directed at students in elementary, middle and high school whose purpose is to increase awareness of and interest in health science-related careers. Participants in this service learning group will help organize and put on several events through the school.

Dodd Hall "After Hours" Student-Led Group Exercise Class

A grass-roots OSU DPT student-led group exercise class researched, designed, and executed by your very own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year classmates started in January 2017. Assist with guarding clients with neurologic diagnoses, teaching portions of the class, modifying exercises for clients’ needs, and participating in theme-based fun (yes, dressing in the week’s ‘theme’ is highly encouraged!). Students will gain experience in leadership, mentorship (with other DPT classes), communication, and interpersonal skills, while applying physical therapy knowledge in a hands-on way in a nationally renowned top inpatient rehabilitation setting. Students will also have a chance to be a class leader if interested. Classes are every Tuesday afternoon from 4-4:30pm.

Faith Mission Clinic

Faith Mission Clinic, located in downtown Columbus, provides a variety of services at no cost to individuals who are homeless including general medical, dental, pediatric, and vision services. Physical therapy consultative services are provided in the evening from 6:30-8:30 PM on the third Thursday of every month.  Students will have opportunities to assess and provide education and home exercise programs to individuals from diverse backgrounds with orthopedic, neurologic, and cardiopulmonary impairments under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

First Community Village Group Wellness Classes

Programs include a comprehensive, progressive balance class for community dwelling older adults, a group exercise program for our residents living with Parkinson’s Disease,  small group exercise instruction for individuals with memory impairment,  and evidenced based home exercise program instruction (OTAGO).  Students will gain experience in leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills, while applying physical therapy knowledge in a hands-on way. Assist with guarding, teaching portions of the class, educating participants on a variety of health and wellness topics, and administering pre and post class balance assessments, track and monitor resident home exercise performance and compliance. Students will also have a chance to be a class leader if interested. Hours spread across Autumn, Spring and Summer semesters.

Goodwill Columbus Health and Wellness Program

The Goodwill Columbus Health & Wellness Program serves adults with developmental disabilities, including those in the SAGE program who are 45 years or older.  The Health and Wellness Program provides access to adaptive exercise equipment, health screenings, diet and nutrition classes, and health education that will help to deter preventable illness.  Service activities include activity classes such as yoga, volleyball, walking club, and dance, as well as hands-on assistance in the weight room, all under the direction of a wellness coordinator.  Activities are ongoing throughout each week, and have a varied schedule across Autumn and Spring semesters with some summer activities available.

OhioHealth Fore Hope

Fore Hope is a therapeutic golf program for people with disabilities, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, amputations and much more.  Goals of the program are to improve mobility, balance, strength, endurance, problem solving, decision making and social support.  The program is led by a recreational therapist and a professional golf instructor.  OhioHealth physical therapist participates weekly to support participants play and practice golf.  This includes but is not limited to warm up exercises, guarding for patients at fall risk, teeing up balls, transferring patients.

OhioHealth MS Wellness Program

“MS Wellness Program” is a twelve-week fitness program at McConnell Heart Health Center for people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis with an EDSS of <3.5 (ambulatory without a device) designed to improve strength, balance and endurance. Twice per week exercise component, led by a physical therapist and exercise physiologist, consists of cardiovascular exercise, flexibility, balance and strength training. Once weekly the exercise session will be accompanied with an educational session provided each week by various medical professionals covering topics such as nutrition, medication, mental health, energy conservation, recreation, cooking, bowel/bladder and more.  Initial and final sessions of the twelve week series consists of orientation and outcome measure assessments.  Students will participate in the outcome sessions by assisting with participant flow, administering of surveys or performing outcome measures.  On-going weekly, students will assist with class set-up, participant flow, exercise instruction assistance and monitoring participant needs.

“Continuation MS Fitness Group” is held at John J. Gerlach Center for people with MS who have completed the McConnell 12 week MS Wellness Program.  This twice per week fitness class is led by a physical therapist.  

OhioHealth Stroke Fitness Program

Twelve week group exercise program for stroke survivors designed to improve participants’ strength, balance and endurance.   A second objective of the program is to assist participants in assuming responsibility for their health by providing education and skills necessary to continue exercising safely and independently over a lifetime.  The fitness classes are led by a physical therapy assistant and exercise physiologist.  Initial and final sessions of the twelve week series consists of orientation and outcome measure assessments. Students will participate in the outcome sessions by assisting with participant flow, administering of surveys or performing outcome measures.  On-going weekly, students will assist with class set-up, participant flow, exercise instruction assistance and monitoring participant needs.


Kidsport offers adapted gymnastics classes for children with special needs up to age 18. Gymnastics curricula are adapted to allow the children to experience motor activities in a supportive and fun environment. To make this program a success, we need volunteers to assist the students. Classes are held every Sunday from 4-5 pm, starting in September. Sessions run during OSU academic semesters. The classes are designed by pediatric physical therapists with experience in working with children with special needs. Buckeye Gymnastics instructors assist with class instruction and volunteer training. Common diagnoses seen in the program include Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and global developmental delay. Volunteers provide direct assistance to children during the classes to support their participation and maintain safety. Volunteers will receive training in how to guide the children through gymnastics circuits and spot them for safety. Gymnastics experience is not required, however, volunteers should feel comfortable interacting with children with special needs. 

Special Olympics

Events include volunteering with the Columbus Sports Classic in May and FUNfitness Screens at the Ohio Special Olympics State games the end of June. The Columbus Sports Classic is a multi-sport event held every year at Whetstone HS.  Students volunteer for a variety of positions and sports including, but not limited to Bocce Ball, Track, Weight Lifting, Tennis, Soft Ball Toss, and Volleyball.  FUNfitness, the fitness event developed in collaboration with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) for Special Olympics (SOI) Healthy Athletes® provide fitness screens to special needs athletes. The screening also provides instruction to participants about how to stretch, strengthen and improve balance and fitness. Physical therapist assistants and physical therapist or physical therapist assistant students assist physical therapists in various aspects of the event.  Beyond these two 8-hour events, additional opportunities exist throughout the year to volunteer with other county and state Special Olympics teams.

TAACS (The Adapted Adventure Sports Coalition)

The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition, TAASC, brings outdoor activities such as alpine skiing and snowboarding, water skiing, kayaking, cycling, fishing, sailing, ice skating and other sports opportunities to individuals having a disability and their family.  Students assist in actual sporting events as well as open houses and training events.  Events are seasonal.  Water events occur from June – October, including a three-day water skiing event in summer.  Kayaking occurs for several different groups, with morning and afternoon/evening hours, as well as some weekends.  Snow sports run primarily in Jan-Feb, with many ski Saturdays at Snow Trails and Mad River Mountain.

Student Run Clinic

The Ohio State University Student Therapy Clinic

Student ClinicThe Ohio State University Student Therapy Clinic is a full-service clinic, offering physical therapy services to uninsured and underinsured residents of Central Ohio free of charge. Services include a free examination and diagnosis, as well as the development of a personalized treatment plan to address impairments and limitations of neuromuscular, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. All physical therapy services are provided by graduate students in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program at The Ohio State University, under the supervision of licensed physical therapists. The clinic is co-sponsored by Primary One Health and The Ohio State University Physical Therapy Program.


Ohio State Student Therapy Clinic Website

International Service Opportunities

International Service Learning: Yucatan, Mexico

Merida 2Each Fall Semester, DPT students embark on an unforgettable service learning course to Yucatan, Mexico. The first-of-its-kind elective course for Ohio State DPT students is supported by faculty members Anne Kloos, PT, PhD, NCS and Laura Schmitt, PT, DPT, PhD and other physical therapists who serve as clinical instructors.

The faculty and students work in a variety of locations in the city of Merida, including a school for children with multiple disabilities, nursing homes, a rural rehabilitation clinic, a residential facility for people with disabilities and private homes. They provide services to local residents, which include individualized consultations, screenings, evaluations and treatments.

One of the participants in the program, Kayla Francis, had nothing but good things to say about her experience. “This trip provided the opportunity to fully use the skills I had learned in PT school and helped me to realize the true potential that lies in our profession,” said Francis. “I helped a 33-year-old patient walk for the first time in years, an experience I will never forget. We fixed numerous wheelchairs and provided extensive education to site staff on proper positioning of patients, as many were immobile. This service learning trip allowed my classmates and I to create an ongoing impact in a community with much need.” 

While visiting Merida, the DPT students also have an opportunity to experience the culture. During the past trips they have visited the Mayan ruins, shopped in the el Centro, and visited a wetland reserve that is home to vast flocks of flamingoes.

This elective course, HRS 7700S, will be offered each Fall to third year students who successfully completed all the didactic and clinical work preceding the trip. Interested second year students will receive details pertaining to course application, course requirements and travel during the Fall Semester of their second year approximately two weeks prior to the course application deadline. Second year students will be informed of course acceptance approximately two weeks after the application deadline. Enrollment for this course is limited to 12 students.

More information about the trip can be found on Merida Service Learning Presentation.

For additional information, please contact Anne Kloos, PT, PhD, NCS at

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