Community learning is founded on the principal that all knowledge is fundamentally community knowledge. Knowledge is communal at its creation, in the collaborations of scholars, and it is communal in its use, informing and improving life in communities. Sharing the processes of creating and using knowledge never diminishes it, neither in quantity nor value; in fact, the scope, depth, accuracy, and clarity of knowledge increase as the range of sharing increases.

Education is thus enlarged when the process of learning is collaborative. Community Learning at Trinity fosters collaborations between college students and many kinds of partners outside of the College. These collaborations deepen our students’ abilities to retain, comprehend, apply, synthesize, and evaluate their course learning, while at the same time sharing learning and knowledge with others. It also deepens our student’s commitments to values celebrated in the college’s Mission Statement, to “foster critical thinking, free the mind of parochialism and prejudice, and prepare students to lead examined lives that are personally satisfying, civically responsible, and socially useful.” Indeed, Community Learning powerfully and directly fosters all of these goals. Community Learning collaborations moreover contribute directly to society, fostering the larger goals of justice, equality, and opportunity.

For all these reasons we regard Community Learning as an ideal for education in the Liberal Arts. It is not limited to a specific area of the curriculum nor to a particular theme, but could be integrated into every course, from first year seminars to the senior thesis. 

Community learning connects science and the public good in testing children's toys for lead.

When lead levels in Chinese-made toys became a hot news item, Trinity's Dr. Alison Draper asked her community learning class to investigate in time for the holiday season.

"It was a way for the students to be real scientists and also to see how science can be used for the public good," she explains. The students purchased small toys from China—suitable for both boys and girls aged 2 to 5—at retail outlets in three different Hartford neighborhoods.

When they tested the toys' lead levels, the data revealed that only one toy of the 73 tested contained a discernable amount.

Impressed with the students' work, Connecticut State Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr., invited the class to participate in a televised press conference. The reporters' questions introduced the students to the demand for simple answers about complex scientific data.