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Curriculum-based Planning Process


A Planning Process for Curriculum-Based Service-Learning

Working Title:



Community Partners:


Why are you developing a service-learning program? What are the primary ways that students will benefit from this service-learning program?

Project Description:

Essential (Guiding) Question (EQ)

What possible EQ comes to our mind? How will you enable students to define a central question or issue for this project?


What skills, attributes and knowledge will they gain? Where possible, build connections to specific state standards.

Essential Learning #1:

Essential Learning #2:

Essential Learning #3:

Civic Skills

What civic attributes, knowledge or skills will be fostered by this project?

SCAN Skills (Work related skills or career awareness):

How will you know if students have learned or applied these skills?

Rubric/Scoring Guide

How will you assess student learning? (Multiple choice, essay, teacher designed questions, interviews, performance assessment, other?) What do you need to collect or administer to prove that students developed and can apply the desired skills or attributes?

High Stakes Audience

How can the product or service be of value to the greater community?

How will you involve the community or school in assessing and reviewing student work?

How can you maximize the role and resources of the community?



What do you need to teach or have students experience so they will master and apply core academic skills?

What preparation does the community need so they can effectively engage students and maximize student learning?


How will you involve the students in the design and implementation of the service projects so the projects are meaningful to the community and students?


How will you encourage reflection and other metacognitive activities?

How will you help students see connections between the course objectives and the service-learning project?


What curricular and educational materials will students receive?


What resources, transportation, supplies and/or equipment will students need to accomplish the objectives?

Action Plan

What?     Who? When?


How will you assess the impact on the community?

How will you assess the educational value of the project?

How will you celebrate your success?

Who will you share you project with (media, district, school, parents)?


Ideas for Enriching English Classes:


Intergenerational Writing:
Students in sophomore English interviewed elderly residents of the Gig Harbor community who had lived there for most of their lives and then wrote a book based on the interviews and research. This service project tied to the tenth grade English curriculum in the interview process, research paper writing, and essay writing.

Writing Children’s Literature:
Sophomore English students write a book for elementary students. This service activity is linked to the curriculum through journal entries, papers on childhood heroes and other childhood topics. This activity enriches the elementary curriculum and develops an intergenerational relationship between 10th graders and primary students. The books that are written by the high school students are permanently bound and students can donate the books to the elementary students or loan.

Writing About Public Issues:
Students can use their writing skills to help inform others about public issues or to share their own perspectives. Through letters to the editor, Amnesty International and on line projects, students can inform and influence others.

Reading and Literacy

Check out the Best Practices section for some very effective programs that enable students to use their own reading skills to help others.



History – Best Practices



Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical and life sciences; civics and history; geography; arts; and health and fitness.

Africa and Ancient Egypt



Science -outline



Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical and life sciences; civics and history; geography; arts; and health and fitness.

The Aquatic World
Human Genome Project
Jammin’ Salmon
Creek Restoration




Linking Service Activities to the Essential Learnings

Goal One–Getting the Tools: Read with comprehension, write with skill, and communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of settings.

Goal Two–Adding the Content: Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical and life sciences; civics and history; geography; arts; and health and fitness.

Goal Three–Exploring the Content: Think analytically, logically, and creatively, and integrate experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems.

Community Service-Learning for Creative Foods
Madrona Corps
Research related to goal three
Goal Four–Connecting Learning, Life and Work: Understand the importance of work and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect career and educational opportunities.

Evergreen Exit Projects
Forks Study Skills
Migrant Education
Nooksack Valley
Pasco High School
Talbot Hill Ventures
West Valley City School
Service-Learning Internships

Ways to Enrich Classroom Teaching

Five questions can help you design a service-learning project that is aligned with a chose class topic or content. ( Questions developed by Jim and Pam Toole) This project-based approach to teaching and learning can provide students with authentic tasks through which they can learn and apply core classroom.

Teaching Others:
Could you teach what you have learned ( skills or knowledge) to an audience beyond the classroom?

Developing a Product or Performance:
Could your efforts be shaped into a product or performance to be given to someone beyond the teacher?

Problem Solve:
Could you help solve a real concern in the school or the community?

Address Policy:
Could you use what you have learned to advocate for a change in public policy?

Develop Philanthropic Ventures:
Could you write a grant or raise money to fund a project or social entrepreneurial venture?

Ideas for:


Social Studies (History, Civics)

Foreign Languages









Aligning Service-Learning with District and State Learning Goals

More and more teachers are thoughtfully connecting their core curriculum to their service activities. The more clear the connection is for the students, parents and community members, the easier it is for students and people to understand how service-learning relates to course work and the more likely it is that students will understand why they are doing the service activities. It also increases the likelihood that they will be able to apply classroom learnings, not only in the service setting, but to future settings.
Teachers often involve students in a planning process which makes the connection to curriculum more explicit. For example, the teacher will take the time when they begin their units to articulate the Essential Learnings or the core curriculum which will be the focus of the unit. Students then generate service activities that clearly demonstration the curriculum. Examples of classroom projects which are closely tied to Washington State Essential Learnings can be found at the Service-Learning Northwest Web site.


Two planning processes are generally used. A general description along with the benefits and disadvantages are described below.

Project-Centered Process:
The following steps are used if a project-centered process is used:

1. Identify the Service Project. Students/ teachers work with the community to develop the service which they think is most significant given the school and community context.

2. Clarify the Essential Academic Skills. Students, community and teachers identify the skills which will be needed to complete the project i.e. computer skills, interviewing skills, writing skills etc.. Select 1-3 essential Learnings which are central to the project and/or core curriculum.

3. Determine Best Assessment Method(s)
(Essay, multiple choice, interview, or performance assessment)

4. Develop Standards and Scoring Guide if necessary. Participants develop criteria for a successful project/product. The criteria may be formulated into a scoring guide, building upon state or locally-developed rubrics.

4. Prepare and Complete Project. Prepare students for the service activities, teaching or reinforcing the necessary project skills. Assess service activities to determine effectiveness of learning.

5. Assess Student Learning. Assessment criteria is used during or at the end of service project to determine the level of performance which was demonstrated by the students and the community.

Example: Wheelchair Ramp
The following example shows how this process could be used with a wheelchair ramp project.

1. Identify the Need. The students and teacher would work with the community to identify a genuine need in the community. Perhaps a wheelchair ramp is needed to enable an elderly person to stay in his home which does not accommodate his new wheelchair. To assist this elderly person, students need to design, plan and build a wheelchair ramp for a local community center, taking into account the need for safety and accessibility.

2. Identifying Possible Essential Academic Learnings. The teacher can then determine which Essential Academic Learnings are incorporated in the project. For example, this project includes the following Essential Academic Learnings.

Legal Information- Liability
Permit Process

Select 2-3 Essential Learnings

4. Prepare and Complete the Project. Teachers along with community members provide needed information in order for students to know the information and materials they need to complete their project.

5. Assess Quality of Work. The teacher, along with the students and community members, can assess the quality of the service tasks, based upon the combine assessment activities


Curriculum-Center Service-Learning

Why are you developing a service-learning project? How will students benefit? What community need(s) will be addressed?

What state standards will be met?

Civic Skills:
What civic skills, attributes or knowledge will be fostered through this experience?


Ideas for Enriching Math Classes:

Ideas for Enriching Math Classes
Mathematics 1.4: The student understands and applies the concepts and procedures of mathematics: probability and statistics.

Possible Service-Learning Projects:

  • Use mathematical information to determine appropriate actions.
  • Complete a survey and then present your findings using graphs and diagrams.

Mathematics 2: The student solves problems using mathematics.

Possible Service-Learning Projects:

  • Interpret mathematical charts and other information to make a decision.
  • Graph the data collected from water sampling and use the results to make recommendations to policy makers.

Service-Learning Projects

Urban Schoolyard Habitat Project:
The Urban Schoolyard Habitat Project was a pilot project designed to reclaim a natural habitat for indigenous plant and animal life in the schoolyard of Richmond Elementary School. Once created, the habitat served as an environmental classroom for the school and community and a replication model for other urban schools. Curriculum areas included writing, research, math and communications.

Math/World Cultures Project:
Students marketed third world crafts to support impoverished artisans overseas, as well as raise money for the local emergency food bank.

The Community Gardens Project:
The aim of the Community Gardens Project is to have students creating gardens in their classrooms. They can eat the produce and learn about math (growth rates) nutrition and biology in the meantime. They then go out and start gardens in the community.

Watt Watchers:
Watt Watchers is a two-day interdisciplinary program that teaches students in grades 4-6 and their teachers to view their school building as an electricity consumer. Students learn to recognize problems that waste electricity, to identify appropriate (and cost effective) solutions to the problems, to quantify the savings and to get action on their recommendations.

Analyzing food based food’s nutritional value and cost effectiveness?

In an effort to ensure that the packages being assembled were the most nutritious, satiating, and economical, students explored how to to come up with a rating that takes all of these things into account. Using the ND rating and Fullness Factor they established  the price per calorie for each food, and created ratios for the nutrition and satiety of each food that was analyzed.

Other Ideas

  • Tutor younger students in math skills.
  • Conduct surveys on community needs and process and analyze the results.
  • Count species of animals or measure and count trees and other plant life for the Department of Natural Resources or Agriculture.
  • Calculate needs and measure building materials for construction projects such as installing wheelchair ramps.
  • Interview local businesses about how they use math in their daily work and publish the results in a booklet for other math classes. Problems could be included that would show practical applications for a range of math concepts.
  • Help food banks, food crops or local businesses with their monthly or quarterly inventories.
  • Assist small businesses or farms with basic bookkeeping such as cross checking journal entries or totaling columns.



Resources for Faculty

Resources for Faculty

Websites Containing Service-Learning Projects Aligned with State Standards:

National Service-Learning Clearinghouse

Lesson Plans, Syllabi, and Curricula


National Youth Leadership Council

NYLC provides service-learning training and resources for educators, youth, and community partners. Contact them about the Generator School Network, the National Service-Learning Conference, youth leadership training and the Urban Institute.


KIDS Consortium

The KIDS Consortium website provides teachers with valuable resources, including a toolkit to facilitate the Martin Luther King Day of Service .


Go to Service Learning.

This website has examples of service-learning curriculum designed by teachers across the country.

The Service-Learning Providers’ Network

This global social network is designed to assist those offering service-learning professional development opportunities.


Youth Service America

Develops resources and programs that increase the number and diversity of youth who are engaged in service, learning, leadership and achievement. They providing funding, resources and support for youth, educators and program partners. Sign up for their weekly briefings and grant alerts.



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.


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