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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches

Orono High School Independent Service-Learning Project

Grade Level: Mainly 11th grade with options for all others

Promising Approaches:

  • Service-Learning and Community Service

Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Required Resources
Professional Development Opportunities
Snapshots of Practice in Action
Comments and Reflections from Students
Contact Information


All Orono High School students are required to complete an Orono High School Independent Service-Learning Project.  Academic instruction, assessment and service supports are geared to juniors; however younger students with a passionate desire and an outstanding opportunity can receive special permission to start their service earlier.  The project includes 30 hours of service, an “I-Search” paper (see ELA Maine LAD assessment) about a researched topic related to their service, and an oral presentation with a visual shared with the public during an Annual Service-Learning Exhibition night.

BEFORE junior year:  Each spring, the service-learning coordinator hosts a Community Fair inviting over 40 local organizations to the school to meet with sophomores.  All students are encouraged to use this opportunity to explore careers and/or match their interests, talents and skills with the volunteer needs of one these organizations.  Students choose projects based on the community issues meaningful to them and then develop action plans that are signed by their community partner.  This plan commits each student to complete the required 30 hours of service.  It also asks students to evaluate and document if they successfully met the identified community need.

DURING junior year:  In small groups all juniors meet monthly with the service-learning coordinator to problem solve, identify and research issues related to their service, understand research tools and strategies, discuss assessment requirements and work on presentation and exhibition logistics.  The “I-Search” paper is explained and students are expected to complete this requirement during 3rd quarter.  This paper is part of the district’s Local Assessment System required by the state of Maine.  During this time, students are also checking their action plans, keeping track of their service hours and having supervisors sign record-keeping sheets.

FINAL CELEBRATION:  Toward the end of each school year, there is the Annual Service-Learning Exhibition.  Student prepare an oral presentation with a visual about their service and the researched issue that impacts this service or has created this community need.  Students share their reflections on what they have learned, how they learned it, the partnership with a community member or organization and the project’s relevance to their lives.  Each student presents to an evaluator and community members all of whom have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

Special Features

This project requires students to select their own service site, yet there are staff resources and supportive structures to help match student interests with community partners/needs. It encourages and supports student independence in action, research, presentation and reflection. It is part of the district’s Local Assessment System and makes the school and district’s vision, mission and strategic plans come alive for students. In addition, it fosters youth-adult relationships and knowledge of how to “make a difference.” The Orono High School Independent Service-Learning Project has generated a lot of positive public feedback.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking
  • Planning and implementing civic action through managing, organizing, and building consensus

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Required Resources

Time in the schedule to support all students. The availability of listings or meetings with community organizations/potential partners for students.


Professional Development Opportunities

Service-learning training sessions by KIDS Consortium
State exhibition assessment study group

Snapshots of the Practice in Action

R. spent over 30 hours coaching the summer track team for 4-14 year olds through the community education program.  She has always loved track and is a great achiever on and off the track.  Her area of study was the role of sports in child development.  After the project she said that she used to think that sports and track in particular was important because it helped build the school’s record, prestige and spirit.  Now she is far more convinced that sport programs in schools are far more important in helping to build a strong work ethic, a sense of self-efficacy and lifelong teamwork skills in participants.

D. worked on boardwalk maintenance with the   organization.  In particular, he spent over 30 hours building an outhouse and hut as part of the trail’s amenities.  He researched the importance of wetlands and experienced firsthand the care required to maintain the area’s health.  His insight was that this type of learning was powerful and motivating; he became a passionate environmental advocate.  After his oral presentation he was asked to be a docent and continue to educate the public.

Comments and reflections from students

T, Counselor at a camp for children with cancer:  I think two words can sum up everything that I have found in my research and personal experience this summer:  Life Altering.  This experience truly changed me as a person and I will never forget it.  The kids I met, the people I worked with, the volunteer nurses, the parents who were so thankful to us for donating our time to making their kids’ summer one to remember, the smiles, the skills I walked away with, the new ideas for careers, but mostly the memories.

A, Crew member for 7 day middle school Allagash trip: I learned how to bring children of many different levels to the level needed for survival.  Everyone needed to put in the most effort they possibly could in order to get to the stopping point of our excursion on time.  Many children didn’t want to set up their tent or get up at 6 a.m. and paddle for six hours straight.  By the fourth day everyone got used to the Allagash way of life.

Contact Information

Deta Pearce, Orono High School Service-Learning Coordinator
14 Goodridge Drive
Orono, ME 04473

KIDS Consortium
215 Lisbon Street, Suite 12
Lewiston, ME 04240



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