New service learning requirement replaces hours with projects

By Eunice Alpasan, Managing Editor

When administration extended the deadline for seniors to submit service hours in order to be eligible for Oktoberfest, Jose Ramos, Div. 881, seized the opportunity and completed his last five hours in order to meet his 40 service hour requirement and go to the event.

Although many students received 30 service hours from completing service learning projects during freshman year, some seniors found themselves rushing early in the school year to complete their last few hours to be eligible for certain school events.

“I realized I didn’t have my service hours done, so I kind of had to rush it those two weeks before the [Oktoberfest] deadline,” Ramos said.

However, changes to the current service learning requirement are being implemented this year for the class of 2020 and beyond.

The change requires these students to complete a total of two service learning projects, one from a civics class and the other from an English or science class in order to graduate, thus removing the 40 hour portion of the service learning requirement.

This CPS-wide decision was made in order to make it easier for high school students to graduate. It also gives students coming from academic centers a fair opportunity to complete the service learning requirement through the implementation of projects throughout all grade levels, according to Mr. Davey, service learning coach.

“[Teachers are] implementing them in such a way that unless you straight up don’t do projects in school, you’re not going to accidently miss these,” Davey said. “There are systems in place so that no kid can fall through the cracks in terms of meeting the service learning requirement.”

The tree taxonomy project in Biology and the research paper offered in English I will count towards the new requirement, Davey said.

Next school year, Lane will be offering a mandatory civics class that the class of 2020 and beyond must complete a service learning project in to fulfill the service learning requirement.

Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English I and II are expected to offer service learning projects this school year in both honors and regulars levels, according to Davey and Ms. Vale, head of the English department.

While impacted students only need to complete one classroom-integrated service learning project in an English or science class as a part of the requirement to graduate, they will likely surpass this as they will encounter around six to seven projects during their time as a freshmen to a senior, Davey said.

Service learning projects must meet standards of “meaningful service, curriculum integration, [and] reflection,” according to the CPS Social Science and Civic Engagement webpage.

To fit the new service learning requirements, teachers and administration are implementing new projects and realigning previous projects such as the tree taxonomy project in Biology and the research paper in English I, Vale said.

These service learning projects will be implemented for English and science core classes at regulars, honors and AP levels and will correspond with the classes’ curriculums, Davey said.

“We don’t want service learning to be a burden so by incorporating it into the class, your teachers are making sure that you’re meeting your requirements and that you’re still learning in their classroom,” Davey said.

Since service learning hours are no longer being recorded by the school towards graduation, they will no longer appear on student transcripts for the classes of 2020 and beyond.

However, for current freshmen and sophomores who have already completed hours or will take part in community service in the future, they are encouraged to record them for self-reference so they can be applied to scholarships, accolades and college applications.

Another benefit of the change is that it prevents students from manipulating their hours and getting large amounts of service learning hours approved without actually providing as much service back to the community, Davey said.

While Megann Lawlor, Div. 070, said she believes the requirement will ultimately benefit future students, she said the new requirement is a pain since she has already completed around 100 service hours over the summer after volunteering as a counselor at Lincoln Park Zoo.

“They should have started with the freshmen so they work with it all the way up,” Lawlor said. “Why start with someone who’s already two years into their high school career?”

Lawlor also transferred from the Taft Academic Center which means she did not get the opportunity to complete the service learning projects offered to the majority of students her grade who took Biology and English I.

Davey said he acknowledges that as Lane transitions into implementing these service learning projects, he is also working with students with unique cases on an individual basis to create individual projects which will count as a classroom-integrated project to help them meet the graduation requirement.

CPS also has partnerships with various nonprofits and charities that provide service learning opportunities for classroom-integrated or individual service learning projects for students, according the CPS Social Science and Civic Engagement webpage.

Davey said he attended a meeting on Nov. 9 with representatives from these partnerships and other service learning representatives from other CPS schools.

“What’s nice is nobody is trying to hit an agenda,” Davey said. “The only agenda that is uniform between all the partnerships and teachers is, ‘I would like my kids to get an experience in doing something that actually makes a difference.’”

Vale said she hopes that the new requirement will remind students of the ultimate meaning behind service learning.

“The issue will be whether or not we can motivate our students to want to make a difference,” she said. “Maybe this project won’t effect that change, but it could possibly plant the seed for someone to want to make a change in the future.”