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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the service graduation requirement?

Students will need to complete 75 hours of service learning, which will include proper preparation and reflection. Students will meet this requirement following the Approved County Plan. Furthermore, all activities completed through the county plan must meet our eight guidelines for successful student service. Finally all SSL hours will be recorded and approved using the Washington County Student Service Learning Record of Participation Sheet. This form may be obtained from the high school counselor or high school SSL coordinator. The Opportunities page is updated on a regular basis, providing students options to consider.

How can I learn how many hours my student has earned?

  • Log into Synergy as a parent
  • Click on a student, then click on "StudentVue"
  • Click on "Course History"
  • Click "Graduation Status" near the upper right
  • Scroll to the near bottom, where you will then see the Service Learning Requirement

Can students earn more than the required number of hours?

Students are encouraged to continue service beyond the required 75 hours. Interested students should contact the service learning coordinator at their school. Seniors who have earned 150 or more hours are honored each year.

What cannot be counted as Service Learning?

  • Any activity that increases the amount of revenue for a private, for-profit business or to generate new revenue for that business
  • Any activity in which a student replaces a paid staff worker of the participating agency or institution
  • Any activity that compensates the student with money, goods or services
  • Any activity in which the chief purpose is to convert others to a particular religious or spiritual view and/or which belittles the religious or spiritual view of others
  • Any activity whose chief purpose is to help prepare and/or participate in the performance of a religious service or religious education activity

How is service learning implemented?

Students earn 15 hours in each of four grades in which activities are included in the curriculum:

  • Grade 6 science
  • Grade 7 social studies
  • Grade 8 English language arts
  • Grade 10 life skills

In addition to these 60 hours, students must earn 15 hours undertaking independent projects. Independent hours can be a student-designed project OR served with a community-based agency or organization which partners with WCPS. To assure the plan meets the Maryland guidelines, student-designed projects must be pre-approved by the school-based coordinator. Record cards should be submitted to the school coordinator in the same calendar year as the hours are earned. Students may begin working on the independent project upon completion of the 8th grade.

Why is it called service learning instead of community service or volunteering?

Service learning is a method of experiential learning. In most cases, service-learning projects are a natural outgrowth of the curriculum. Students study their communities and understand the many ways that their academic studies are related to being involved as a citizen. They also evaluate, discuss and reflect on their service in order to make the connection between their academic subjects and effective action.

The term community service carries connotations of restitution for committing a nonviolent crime. It does not address the vital learning that takes place. Volunteering refers to a person demonstrating good will to offer time and energy to address a need, rather than a structured learning experience. 

What will my child get out of fulfilling the service requirement?

Students involved in service learning typically demonstrate social, personal, and intellectual growth and development. They increase their teamwork and problem-solving skills, as well as leadership and initiative. Their self-respect increases as they see that they can tackle tough problems and succeed. It will also help them see their roles as citizens and as active participants in the solution of community problems. 

Won't this requirement take class time away from the basics?

Teaching students how to be involved citizens is a basic and has traditionally been one of the primary purposes of public schools. The State Board of Education passed the requirement in support of the "book learning" that occurs daily in our schools.

Service learning is also a method for improving classroom learning. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has endorsed required service learning. There is now understanding that many students learn best, not through lectures and seat work, but through active, purposeful experiences. For instance, when students study chemistry, they can test a local stream for its acidic content. Based on their evaluation, they may decide how best to help clean up the stream or advocate for better water quality as a matter of public policy. 

How will students receiving special education services be affected by the requirement?

For the last several years, special education students have been performing all kinds of service, including planting trees, assisting the elderly and making wooden toys for daycare children. Students receiving special education services are expected to fulfill the graduation requirement. A student's IEP committee can, however, decide not to include service learning in a student's individual education plan if service would be inappropriate due to the nature and severity of the student's disability. This decision must be reasoned and documented. The majority of special education students will fulfill the requirement.

Who will be responsible to make sure my child meets the requirement?

Ultimately, your child is responsible for meeting the requirement. Each school district, however, will help by providing opportunities for students to engage in service in the school, through classroom-based projects, through school-sponsored extracurricular activities, by accepting service performed at outside organizations, and by keeping a cumulative record of students' service.