Archive for the 'Culminating Projects' Category


Risk Management

Risk Management and Liability
Be Prepared–Know your Guidelines ( For Washington State)

Risk management is an important component of culminating projects that encourage or require students to work with the community.  Thoughtfully developed policies and procedures can help teachers and administrators manage risks effectively.  Because “documents of agreement,” which attempt to reduce and/or transfer responsibility for harm are governed by state law, it makes good practice to review written consent and/or liability forms with the administration’s risk manager and/or legal counsel.

Work-study policies which guide off-site career placements can be applied to culminating projects as well.  The following recommendations should guide projects which involve a large number of students in service-learning.

Utilize school district’s risk management professionals and/or legal department to review policies, procedures, and forms; articulate and publish service learning policies, procedures, goals, and benefits for students, parents, staff, agencies, and service recipients.  Be sure to adjust and modify as needed.

Identify risks and liabilities and develop policies, procedures and training for students and staff, and develops goals, objectives and curriculum for the community project.

Require parental/guardian permission (in writing) for student involvement. The permission form needs to thoroughly describe the community activity and any potential dangers.

Become familiar with  child labor laws and Labor and Industry employment standards to insure that students are not engaging prohibited activities. (For example students may not use power tools; youth must be adequately trained for any on-site tasks.)

You may also visit the Washington State L&I Help for Teen Workers web site:

For more information on federal law, contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour division at 206-398-8039 or visit their web site:

Be sure there are supervisors at each service placement site.

Develop training and handbooks that cover health, safety and emergency crisis plans.  Training should include information about inherent risks.  Include this information in the student handbook and service site procedures handbook.

Be sure transportation policies for students traveling to and from service-learning sites follow all school district requirements and state laws governing student drivers and school transportation safety laws.

Students traveling off campus during school hours should have medical release forms signed by parents available on site.

Student medical and mental conditions that might impact the students’ safety and/or abilities must be known by students, community coordinator and school coordinator.  This information is covered by FERPA and cannot be released without a signed parental medical release.

While most of the risk management issues are common to all civic projects, there are some guidelines and recommendations that should guide program planning.

A. Teacher-guided service-learning projects with direct supervision.
B.  Student-Directed Service-Learning

A.  Guidelines for teacher-guided and supervised service-learning projects

In addition to the above guidelines the following recommendations can guide planning for teacher-supported service-learning.

Require all participants to wear identification badges and to sign in and out with each visit.  Student I.D. cards are helpful when placing students out in the community.

Provide adult supervision based on your district’s field trip adult-student ratio (1 adult/8 students). Some districts may allow parents, substitutes, Americorps and community volunteers to help provide supervision. Note that most general liability insurance requires direct supervision of volunteers by an employee in order to provide coverage.

*Any adults who are supervising students alone must have successfully complete Washington State Patrol Background Checks or fingerprinting.

Include health, safety, first aid and emergency crisis plans in project orientation.

Require that the teacher or service sites have a first aid kit, copies of the student’s medical release form, and clear instructions on what to do if the student is injured.

Good Judgment

Good judgment and common sense often dictate what safe and appropriate activity is. What is safe in one set of circumstances may not be classified as safe in another set of circumstances. For example, changing weather conditions call for you to assess a situation and possibly discontinue an activity. If you are uncertain about the safety of an activity give the district full details and don’t proceed without district approval.

The safety of the students is your most important consideration. Because of their youth and inexperience, children need guidance and support from adults. Adults must determine the degree of care required according to the child’s age and skill and the nature of the activity. Err on the side of caution when considering whether to proceed with an activity.

Recommended items to include in program planning and safety orientations.

Student Orientation

At the community site students should be instructed to:

  • Never do anything they have not been trained to do.
  • Follow their gut instinct if they are uncomfortable and get help.
  • Ask questions.
  • Never use power tools.
  • Find out where they can get help if they need it.
  • Know emergency exits and procedures
  • Understand the educational purpose, expectations and value of the service-learning project.

Parent Orientation

Parents should do the following:

  • Thoroughly understand the purpose of the culminating project and expectations of the service-learning project.
  • Inform the school supervisor of their child’s unique health and behavior needs.
  • Provide adequate medical accident insurance. If they don’t have insurance they can frequently purchase health coverage for their child through the school. Some examples include: Excel Serve, PTSA Student Accident Insurance, and L&I Volunteer Insurance.
  • Review the information sent home regarding the project site and activities and sign off only if they are comfortable with the value and safety of the project.
  • Provide their student with appropriate clothing and equipment for activities, or contact the leader before the activity to find sources for the necessary clothing and equipment.
  • Assist the leaders when their child has special needs or disabilities.
  • Make provisions for their student to get to or from meeting places in a timely manner.

Teacher/Supervisor Orientation

Educators should do the following:

  • Conduct a hazard mapping of site prior to service activity.
    Make sure there is not unsupervised access to children.
    Be sure students are supervised if they have direct contact with agency clients.  (If students will be regularly working with children and elderly State Patrol checks should be completed on the student volunteers.)
    Be sure all parties (student, parent and community) understand the educational purpose, expectations and process of the culminating project.
    Partner with law enforcement to provide background checks and, if necessary, fingerprinting, for community and parent supervisors.
    Be sure students are adequately trained prior to the service-learning projects so they know how to safely complete their tasks and how to respond in case of emergency.
    Create a statement of social, emotional, and physical, barriers for student success for parents to complete (i.e. Need to know information).
    Service Site

Community agencies should

  • Develop a learning plan for participating students.
  • Offer or provide volunteer insurance.
  • Complete background checks for staff.
  • Inform students of safety and emergency procedures before students begin working on their service activities. Model safe behaviors and provide time to answer questions and concerns.

Background Checks

This is required for all adults who will have unsupervised access to children, developmentally disabled persons, or vulnerable adults complete a Criminal Background Check. Acceptable background checks include the Washington State Patrol background check (using Washington State Patrol form 3000-240-430 or WATCH) and FBI fingerprint checks.

You may choose to use the Washington State Patrol WATCH (Washington Access to Criminal History) system to satisfy this requirement.  This is a free, on-line, secure system that will allow you instant access to State Patrol background information.  It is your  responsibility to ensure that background checks comply with the policies of the agencies and schools.

B. Guidelines for student-directed Culminating Projects.
Students make direct contact with community agencies as part of a Culminating Project.

Schools should:

  • Develop student packets that offer safe guidelines, including an individual student learning plan. Require parents to review and sign these forms.
  • Conduct a safety survey for any service site they promote.
  • Make sure there is no unsupervised access to children.
  • Require parents and students to verify the safety of the site before they begin to serve.
  • Be sure site complies with Child Labor and L&I regulations
  • Inform agencies of the purpose, expectations and process for the culminating project.
  • Be sure students and parents take responsibility for reviewing the safety of the project site. Parent informed consent forms need to be completed and recorded before students go on site.
  • Establish a list of prohibited activities that might put students in harm’s way (i.e. sky diving,, etc.), or the keep your feet on the ground rule
  • Partner with law enforcement and district attorneys to provide background checks, and if necessary, fingerprinting.

Students should:

  • Conduct a risk/hazard mapping of the site with parents.
  • Never do anything you have not been trained to do.
  • Follow their gut instinct, and get help if they are uncomfortable or afraid.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be sure agencies are fully informed of any special needs, medical issues or potential behaviors which may endanger them.
  • Listen to instruction and follow suggestions at the site.
  • Learn to “Think Safety” at all times and to “Be Prepared”.
  • Know how, when and where to get help when needed.

Parents should:

  • Develop an individual student learning plan with their child so everyone fully understands the purpose of the project.
  • Be sure they fully understand the purpose, expectations and process of the culminating project.
  • Assess the community site with their child prior to service activity.
  • Promptly pick up and drop of student at a safe, designated location. Have a back up transportation plan. (Cell phones may be helpful to facilitate communication.)
  • Meet with community site supervisor prior to the service activity.
  • Provide emergency contact information and get contact information from the service site.
  • Provide medical insurance.

Service Site should:

  • Develop learning plan for all students/projects.
    Attend a volunteer orientation which covers safety issues.
    Offer/provide volunteer insurance.
    Provide site supervisors and volunteers with background checks, medical accident insurance.



Project Rubrics

Sample Project Rubrics

Evergreen Public Schools:  Culminating Project Rubric for Assessing the Civic Action Project (10/05)

Quest High School Senior Exhibition Rubric

Bellingham School District: Rubric for Project Proposal

Northshore School District (Bothell, WA): 9th Grade CE Pilot Project Rubric for Determining if the Proposed Project is Challenging and Significant/Worthy



Participants will:

  1. Clarify the purpose of the Culminating Project
  2. Develop a plan that provides clarity and support for students.
  3. Explore ways the district and/or school can benefit from mobilizing supportive partnerships.

Hear what youth have done and what helps them succeed.
Discuss the purpose and value of a Culminating Project (CP) and how it can serve as an effective demonstration of academic learning and civic skills.
Explore ways the CP can serve as part of the new classroom based assessment of Civic EALRS
Learn how schools and teachers have effectively included civic action in their culminating projects.
Review the new District Planning Guide for Civically Rich Culminating Projects which includes:

  • Clear and Aligned Purpose.
  • Explicit, Rigorous Standards .
  • Student-Directed Learning and Youth Engagement.
  • Clear Scaffolding and Support of Skills.
  • Authentic Project Development
  • Community Involvement
  • Coordination and Comprehensive Communication.
  • On Going Professional Development Support and Program Improvement
  • Celebration and Recognition.
  • Risk Management and Liability
  • Build connections to students’ post high school plans.

For information regarding summer institutes and other training opportunities, contact contact Dianne Keely at 360-750-7500 or

What Other High School Students Have Done

Health Issues

  • Patrick G. volunteered at the Teen Link Hotline and created a pamphlet on teen suicide. The pamphlet includes steps for intervention with a suicidal person.
  • Brittany J. researched, did observations, and had direct interaction with developmentally delayed children. Through her presentation she made others aware of specific disabilities and how to be more aware of people who have them.
  • Melissa G. and her team created a brochure to educate and recruit volunteers for Hospice, and to educate the general public about their options in Hospice and a related organizations. Their original plan was to compile a book of stories and thoughts of people during the dying process, but found that difficult to accomplish because of the sensitive nature of the subject and the loss of many of the patients before the seniors had a chance to interview them. By changing their project to a brochure to raise awareness of the need for Hospice nurses and volunteers, the team hoped to reach people with a knack for comforting and caring.
  • Courtney G. worked in a therapeutic day care program for kids who had witnessed domestic violence. Her job was to redirect violent behavior in the children.
  • A student studied the issue of domestic abuse through interviews and observation of court cases. She then develop wrote a Public Service Announcement on a local teen radio show, helping other teens understand what they can do when their friends talk about violence in their homes.


  • Jamie H. created a Web site of his culture. While educating others through his site, he learned a lot about his culture and heritage.
  • Jesse M. conducted an eye-opening diversity workshop for middle schoolers. A lesson in tolerance and a boost toward success, the workshop prepared them for the diverse high school environment and the rapidly changing “real world.”
  • One Grants Pass senior created a historical memorabilia display at the school. He interviewed alumni and borrowed memorabilia spanning 60 or 70 years. He made contacts with each person, promising to return the borrowed items in three years.


  • Povanh K. and a partner helped out in a first-grade class at an elementary school. They learned a lot about what it’s like to be a teacher and what they deal with each day.
  • Three football players joined forces to put on a football camp for middle schoolers. One was responsible for promoting the camp, one did a presentation on sportsmanship, and one made a videotape of the camp. They brought in a celebrity football player to make the camp even more memorable.
  • Lindsay K. ran the math tutoring program at a local elementary school. She modified the existing curriculum to suit the needs of a group tutoring session and tutored six kids at a time for five hours a week.
  • A gifted high school swimmer found an Olympic coach who was willing to analyze her strokes and provide specific suggestions for improvement. She then produced a training video for her swim team.


  • Jackson L. volunteered as a Zoo Ambassador at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. He used his experience to design a new exhibit for a Sumatran tiger.
  • A student in Grants Pass, Oregon created a simple fish ladder to help fish migrate to their spawning grounds, a workable answer to a problem that had stumped community adults for years.


  • A senior who enjoyed writing poetry started a poetry circle, where poets from the school and community could gather to read and write. This evolved into a poetry reading at a big theatre in a new building in town.

Community Advocacy

  • Lin Y. is the student member of the Sammamish City Council for his senior project. He sits on the council and advocates for teen issues, including advocating against teen profiling by local police. He also writes a weekly column on teen issues in a local paper as an extension of this project.
  • A student was concerned about the inequality of resources provided by the schools for girls’ sports. She studied the legal requirements of Title IX and then compared the quality of the facilities provided for girls and boys baseball teams. Finding a definite unequal, she developed a presentation to the school board, arguing for improvement of the girls’ softball facilities.
  • A team of seniors established a network between local businesses, corporations, high school students and other community members to refurbish five homes owned by elderly and disabled residents on Make a Difference Day. Their service extended well beyond the day as they raised funds to put in a new well for an elderly couple and spearheaded an effort to fill their new mobile home with furniture – a home anonymously donated because of the students’ efforts.

Quotes from other students:

“I would stress not to be limited to what they can tell you can do. Really be original and try and think of ways to make a really good project. It is your last chance to go out with a bang and give it everything you have.”
“I think people need to choose topics that they are really passionate about. It makes everything so much easier. When you have your speech and your passionate about it, it is s much easier for you to do well on it. Do not choose the easy way out. You will end up having a tougher time doing the project.”
“I went around and handed out flyers in the low-income community. That impacted me quite a bit to see some of the looks on their faces when I would come to the door with this free offer that they would other wise not be able to afford.”
“When I got to interact with people that were victims of domestic violence I learned that it is a serious thing that go on in these peoples lives. I learned how grateful I am, and thankful for the things I have in life. That is what enabled me to learn more about domestic violence.”
“I believe that service learning is definitely a good part in it because it forces you to get out there and get involved in you community. If you did not do this you would be confined to your own area. You would not branch out to other areas that are important. It is important to get involved.”


Resources and Support
Who Can Help You Make a Difference?
Hands on Network: Volunteer Centers are conveners for the community, catalysts for social action and key local resources for volunteer involvement. They bring people and community needs together through a range of programs and services based upon community needs, demographic area, population size, and other factors. Find a Volunteer Center near you!

ServiceLink Northwest is a great place to find planning forms, resources for project planning and a searchable database of organizations currently accepting volunteers in the Clark County Washington area.