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Service Learning

Service learning enables students to engage in meaningful community projects while building social, civic, and academic skills.

Service learning is about diving deep into real life. It is about asking important questions and understanding who you are. Through talking about what’s going on in the world, research into what makes things the way they are, and action to make change, students develop as strong leaders.

What Is Service Learning?

Service learning in CPS has shifted from focusing primarily on individual responsibility, through volunteer hours, to a more participatory and justice-oriented participation, embedded in classroom service learning projects. As part of our mission to provide high quality public education for every child, in every neighborhood, that prepares each for success in college, career, and civic life, every CPS graduate will complete two civic-oriented, service learning projects as part of their high school experience.

Service Learning Projects:

  • Connect classroom curriculum and extend learning with authentic community issues, assets, and research.
  • Engage students in projects that serve the community while building social, emotional, civic, and academic skills.
  • Begin with inquiry and engage student identity, leadership, and reflection.
  • Position students to take informed action on issues that contribute to their community and to democratic life building a strong sense of agency among young people.

What Is the Service Learning Requirement?

All high schools must provide an opportunity for 9th through 12th grade students to complete two service learning projects as part of the CPS graduation requirement. Service learning projects shall be linked to current academic goals and classroom curriculum and should build social, civic, and academic skills. The two service learning projects must be completed in the following way: 

(1) Successful completion of a service learning project in Civics or A.P. U.S. Government course

(2) Successful completion of a service learning project in conjunction with any other course offering, preferably during 9th or 10th grade.

What is the Inquiry to Action Framework?

SSCE’s Inquiry to Action framework is designed to support the development & implementation of classroom service learning projects that bolster civic oriented project-based learning in all disciplines, K-12. The Inquiry to Action framework requires deep learning and analysis of systemic issues after which a student-led informed action takes place. Following a unit of study, students are asked to apply that knowledge through investigation and action on authentic issues or problems that impact their communities or lives. Read more about why use the Inquiry to Action framework.

Can Volunteer Hours Still Be Completed?

CPS students are encouraged to continue volunteering to address community needs but volunteer hours will not fulfill the service learning graduation requirement. Students will need to receive written verification by an adult, non-relative supervisor of the volunteer hours, that both describes the services performed and documents the number of hours served in order for their school to document the volunteer hours on their transcript. Students will provide this written verification along with the Student Volunteer Hours Submission Form and a written reflection to a school counselor. Once verified by a counselor, the volunteer hours will be logged into Aspen, populated under Awards. Additional questions about volunteer hours should be directed to the Department of Counseling

For more information, please contact Margie Smagacz, Project-Based Learning Manager:

Service Hours Documentation

Though service hours will no longer be a graduation requirement for students in Class of 2020 and beyond, out-of-class volunteering and leadership will be recorded on student transcripts in the Awards and Honors section. This allows students to share their experiences and service with universities and employers.

Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement

501 W. 35th St.
Chicago, IL 60616