Student Service Learning

Service-Learning is often confused with volunteering or community service.  While both activities are defined as forms of service within a community, they do not necessarily include a structured educational connection for participants, which is a foundation of all service-learning projects. Students are encouraged to speak with their school service-learning coordinator to discuss if a volunteer or other service activity can be developed into a service-learning project by incorporating a structured educational component.  

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) requires that all graduating students seeking a high school diploma complete 75 service learning hours. Baltimore County Public School students can begin earning hours in sixth grade.  Service learning hours are infused into specific courses throughout their secondary career,  however, it is important for students to participate in Independent service learning opportunities beyond the infused hours. 

Students and families are encouraged to read the Service-Learning Standards & Guidelines in order to gain a better understanding of how the BCPS service-learning program is implemented and what requirements are needed to complete independent hours.

Components of a Service-Learning Project

Service Learning Components

PREPARATION is the first step of service-learning in which students work with teachers and community members to:

  • Identify issues affecting the community in areas related to health, education, environment, or public safety.
  • Select project site(s) and how to address a selected issue.
  • Plan service-learning reflection.
  • Explore the concept of active citizenship.
Students will need to prepare for their service-learning activity by completing the Independent SL Activity Pre-Approval Form. This form will need to be submitted to the school counselor or SL coordinator before service is completed. The school counselor or SL coordinator will need to make sure the activity follows the service learning guidelines set forth by MSDE. More information can be found in our Service-Learning Standards & Guidelines.

ACTION is the next step of service-learning in which students carry out their service through one of the following:

  • Direct Service – Students have face-to-face contact with service recipients.  Examples include tutoring other students, serving meals at a homeless shelter, working with the elderly in a senior citizen community, etc.
  • Indirect Service – Students perform a service without having direct contact with the recipient.  Usually, resources are channeled to help alleviate a problem.  Examples include food and clothing drives, environmental projects, raising money for a cause through activities such as a walk-a-thon, etc…
  • Advocacy – Students educate others about a selected issue with the goal of eliminating the causes of a particular problem.  Examples include writing letters to legislators or newspaper editors, creating web pages, creating and displaying posters within the community, writing and performing informative plays, creating educational materials for other target groups, legislative testimony, etc.
During the action stage of service, we recommend that student keep a log of their hours and activities. While this log will not be submitted to BCPS, it's important to make sure the service site manager and the student can agree on the number of hours completed. Also, keeping a log of activities can be helpful for reflection. The student will need the site manager to sign the Independent SL Activity Reflection Form in order to confirm the number of hours completed.

REFLECTION is the final step of service-learning in which students look back upon the completed project and review what they have learned.  Reflection may be done individually (journals, scrapbooks, teacher-student meetings) or as a group (class evaluation of the project based on the goals and outcomes).

Students must submit the Independent SL Activity Reflection Form to the school counselor or SL coordinator in order to submit hours for recording. This reflection form can be used as a guide for students to complete the reflection activity. If the student chooses to prepare their reflection in a journal or scrapbook, it must be submitted along with the form. The guiding questions should be used to prepare the reflection. 

 If at any time you have questions about the Service-Learning process, please reach out to your school's Service-Learning Coordinator.

Click here to view a list of Service-Learning Coordinators

What is Service-Learning?

Service-Learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning. Students improve their academic skills by applying what they learn in school to the real world; they then reflect on their experience to reinforce the link between their service and their learning. -- Learning in Deed

Contact Information:
Nora Murray, Project Specialist

Additional materials for staff are available at our intranet.

Service Learning Requirements


Graduation Requirement:

To receive a high school diploma, all students – including those enrolled in special education programs – must complete 75 hours of service-learning (or a determined pro-rated amount for qualifying high schoolers) prior to graduation. Much of the work students will earn already is infused in existing classwork. 

Completing the Requirement:

Students may begin earning service-learning hours in the summer before they enter grade 6. Students can earn hours through required curriculum projects, school-wide projects, or independent service projects. Each school has a service-learning coordinator to assist students. Earned hours are designated as either Infused or Independent. 

Infused Hours:

Students may earn INFUSED hours for completing service projects that are required parts of the courses listed below. Enrollment in the class doesn't automatically earn the student hours. Students MUST complete the SL project in order to earn hours. 

Middle School

Art 7
English 6
Business & Computer Science 6, 7
Family & Consumer Science 7,8
Health 6, 8
Science 8
Social Studies 8 
Technology Education 6, 7

High School

American Government 9
Earth Systems 9 
English 9
Technology Education 9 


Independent Hours:
Students may also work on projects in school clubs, class projects (outside of infused lessons), and outside of the school day. Approved public agencies must be a non-profit organization and the service act must meet the MSDE requirements. This includes direct service, indirect service, or advocacy.

Students are required to complete a pre-approval with their service learning coordinator or counselor to make sure the activity meets MSDE requirements. After the service activity has been completed, the student will turn in their reflection form to the service learning coordinator to have the hours recorded.

See the Service Learning Standards & Guidelines for more information on required paperwork and approved activities. 


Searching for Independent Project Opportunities


The Office of Family and Community Engagement and the Baltimore County Volunteer Program have worked together to create a virtual portal of BCPS-approved,  non-profit, service learning partners for students who are seeking independent service opportunities.

Students and families can visit the online Baltimore County Volunteer Center to view a list of approved Student Service Learning Agencies. This link can be found at the bottom of the Volunteer Center homepage. Students are responsible for contacting the agencies for information and must complete the required BCPS paperwork for hours to be recorded. 

Balt Co Volunteer Center

Please note that student participation with these agencies is at the discretion of the student's parent/guardian and the activities must be completed outside of school hours. The agency is responsible for maintaining student safety. Parents/guardians should contact the agency directly with questions and/or concerns.

Are you an agency looking to partner with BCPS? Please visit our Community Partnership page for more information.

Resources and Publications

Supporting Your Student 

FOCUS Access Imiage
Parents/Caregivers can view their child's student service learning hours in FOCUS.

Creating a Parent Account in Focus (Instructions)

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Creating a Parent Account In Focus  (Video - English)

Viewing SSLH In Focus (Instructions)

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Safe at Home Independent SL Projects

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted throughout the county, we understand that some students may choose to participate in home-based independent projects. We have listed a few ideas below. Please reach out to your school counselor or SL coordinator for other project ideas.

Some suggest SAH Independent Projects:

Have other ideas? Feel free to email your school counselor or SL coordinator for approval. As a reminder, all independent projects will need pre-approval before you begin earning hours.

If additional information is needed, please contact:

Office of Family & Community Engagement

Stacey Wade
Program Specialist
[email protected]

Staff resources can be found in our Service Learning Coordinator Schoology Group. Please email for access.

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