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Service Learning Core Program

Students in grades six through twelve will participate in a comprehensive infused service-learning program. Most students will participate in a core program at the middle school level.

Service learning for middle school students is addressed in interdisciplinary teams as a part of the student’s regular classroom learning activities. At this level the teacher develops the plans for integrating the service-learning project into the unit or lessons as a way to achieve unit objectives.

Students at the high school level must complete an approved service-learning program of individual service or participate in a number of locally approved projects during their high school experience. No specific projects or units are mandated centrally.

Middle School Core Program

Most students will participate in a core program at the middle school level. A core program is a locally designated service experience coordinated through a class or grade level. Our program requires a minimum level of service learning engagement of 75 hours from each student. The experience will include preparation, action and reflections components. The unique structure of the middle school program provides the flexibility necessary to implement this approach. In addition, it is hoped that the middle school experience will lay the groundwork for students to continue service to the community throughout their school years.

Service learning takes place in Grade 6 and is offered through Grade 8 as part of the students’ regular classroom learning activities. While in middle school, students will participate in a variety of service-learning projects to fulfill the requirement of 25 hours of service-learning projects each year. A high quality curriculum-based service-learning project will be conducted under the direction of designated school personnel who must certify that students have met the requirement.

Middle School Transfer Students

Middle school students who transfer into the HCPSS from another Maryland School System or from out of state, and are unable to complete the comprehensive three year interdisciplinary core program (75 hours) at the middle school level must complete an approved service learning program of individual service or participate in any of a number of locally approved projects during their high school experience.

Students must complete twenty-five hour of service learning for each year they were not in attendance at an HCPSS Middle School. Students attending HCPSS middle schools who transfer to other Maryland schools are given credit for 25 hours of service learning for each full year of attendance at the middle school level.

Additional information can be provided by the school service learning point of contact or guidance staff.

High School Core Program

Students who have completed the 75 hours required at the middle school level have fulfilled their High School graduation requirement. Students in grade 9-12 may also fulfill their student service-learning requirement by successfully completing a semester course entitled Leadership II Community Service or a two-semester course entitled Leadership I/II. These courses are designed to give students practical opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills in various settings and are designed to accommodate students who need either a year or a semester option. Topics for study include organizational structures and operational techniques, application of interpersonal skills, and appropriate problem-solving and decision-making skills. Participation in a community service project is required.

High School Transfer Students

Option I

Students who transfer into an HCPSS High School will meet the Maryland graduation requirement of 75 hours of service learning as follows:

High School

  • Grade 9 – a maximum of 75 hours.
  • Grade 10 – a maximum of 50 hours.
  • Grade 11 – (first semester) 40 hours.
  • Grade 11 – (second semester) 30 hours.
  • Grade 12 – (first semester) 15 hours.
  • Grade 12 – (second semester) 10 hours.

Option II – Approved Courses

Students in Grade 10, 11 or 12 may fulfill their student service-learning requirement by successfully completing one of the following courses: Leadership II Community Service, Leadership I/II, Special Education Peer Assistant/ Tutor Course or Student Services Office Assistant/Tutor Course.

Option III – Structured High School Experience

Under the direction of high school personnel, students could complete their service learning requirement by performing an independent project encompassing up to 75 hours (dependent upon entrance to HCPSS). This project would involve a school or community-based experience that will be certified by the designated school personnel as fulfilling the graduation requirement. Students completing this option must also complete the Individual Service Learning Project Form at their school guidance office and submit it to the designated school personnel for approval before beginning their project.

All service learning must be documented using the HCPSS Student Service Validation Form. It will be the responsibility of designated school personnel to certify that students have met the requirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are student records towards the Student Service Learning (SSL) diploma requirement maintained?

All students must complete a, Student Service Validation Form at the conclusion of each service-learning project. At the high school level the program must reviewed and approved by the SSL coordinator in advance of service. Hours documented on verification forms are put into the student’s permanent record. Hours completed are reflected on the report card from grade 6 through 12. Students should keep copies of all SSL documents. Each secondary principal is responsible for confirming the completion of the service-learning requirement on the transcript of each student.

A SSL point of contact is available in every middle and high school to provide information about the SSL requirement, opportunities, timelines, and forms.

Can middle school students participate in independent service learning projects?

Yes. Middle school students can participate in independent service learning projects. They are not required to seek pre-approval on independent service-learning projects because, although their independent community involvement is encouraged, any hours they earn will not be counted toward their high school service-learning graduation requirement. At the middle school level only curricular infused service-learning hours will be counted toward completion of the graduation requirement.

How are HCPSS students with exceptional SSL record recognized?

Each year student leaders are recognized by their individual schools and in the community. Students completing exemplary projects are nominated for the annual Maryland State Department of Education Service Star Awards. Students who are very involved in service learning in their community and hold active leadership positions in community service organizations are also recognized throughout the year during school wide assemblies, eNews, local news paper articles etc.

In each of our high schools students are recognized for outstanding student service learning at our Senior Awards Ceremony at the end of the year. Counselors meet with these exceptional students to inform them of various scholarships and honors, which might be available to them. All Students and parents are informed about service learning opportunities, scholarships and awards via Guidance Bulletins, monthly Scholarship Bulletins and announcements on the individual school Website. The websites are linked to hcpss.org scholarship/service oriented scholarship opportunities.

Can a church, synagogue, or other religious body sponsor SSL activities?

Yes. The service activity must have a secular purpose and be based on a recognized need in the community. The service must reach beyond the participants in the religious event to members in the greater community. SSL activities cannot include preparation or participation in the performance of religious services. Religious institutions and their activities are often on the pre-approved but not recruiting list.

How Can the Community Contribute?

There are several ways in which community members, agencies and organizations can support the student service learning program. Interested persons may:

  • Participate by forming partnerships with the school system.
  • By asking to be included in a central directory.
  • By offering to support ongoing projects as determined by individual schools or classes.

For example, when the students at Glenwood MS lost a classmate in a bicycle accident, they responded by developing a comprehensive bicycle safety program that earned them national recognition. As part of the year-long project, students worked with school system personnel and a local sporting goods store to develop a bicycle safety lesson that is now part of the school curriculum. They planned and sponsored a community bike rodeo at which bikes were checked for safety and riders were taught safety tips. The students’ most impressive accomplishment came as a result of their successful campaign to promote the use of helmets by bike riders. Through the efforts of this concerned and committed group of students, Howard County became the first jurisdiction in the country to require children to wear bike helmets when riding on major county roads.