Our Strategic Vision

Service Learning and Civic Engagement

Teaching the Importance of Service

Interviews by Natania Kremer with students from Preschool through 12th grade that exemplify the progression of our C.A.R.E. approach to service learning and civic engagement school-wide.

Grounded in our Quaker values, service and civic engagement have a long and rich history at Brooklyn Friends
School, stretching back well over 100 years. In 1982, Brooklyn Friends became one of the first schools to develop a community service program and curriculum as a requirement for graduation. Since the creation of our Service Learning Office in 2013, this community service model has evolved to incorporate ethical and social values into the curriculum from the first day of Preschool until Upper School graduation.

We have a social justice approach to service learning grounded in Community, Accountability, Reciprocity, and Equity (C.A.R.E.). This approach encourages students to see themselves as agents of change, partner with organizations and leaders in the community, and use the experience of service and civic engagement to respond to inequities and injustice impacting the human community, animals, and the environment.

A Social Justice Approach

  1. COMMUNITY: expanding our school world beyond the classroom to connect with others and see ourselves as members of a larger social fabric who can work to make a difference

  2. ACCOUNTABILITY: understanding and taking responsibility for how our actions impact others and our environment

  3. RECIPROCITY: building ongoing, authentic relationships grounded in mutual respect and admiration where we do with rather than for

  4. EQUITY: being led by those most impacted by the issues we seek to address to apply a collective vision for fairness and justice and ensure that everyone in the community has what they need

What are the Core Principles of Service Learning?

service venn

Service Learning & Civic Engagement is designed and implemented on both a division-wide and school-wide level. Our faculty engages students in selecting areas of concern to explore more deeply, such as homelessness, the elderly, the environment, hunger, health, and literacy. Students reflect on all their experiences through a process of investigation, preparation, action, and demonstration. They develop the knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make a difference in the civic life of our communities.

This culminates for 11th and 12th grade students with the Creativity, Activity and Service Program (CAS), which encourages students to share their energies and special talents while developing awareness, concern, and the ability to work with others within Brooklyn Friends and in various agencies in our wider community. Service learning and civic engagement opportunities across the grades emphasize building accountable, reciprocal, community relationships that are grounded in equity.

“Our commitment to fostering and actualizing a socially-just world is unwavering.”

Crissy Cáceres, Head of School

Frequently Asked Questions

As defined by the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, service learning is an approach to teaching and learning that integrates meaningful service experiences with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.

The primary distinction between service learning and community service is that community service can take place without an understanding of or connection to the underlying issue.

Take, for example, the community service experience of volunteering for a day at a soup kitchen. This same experience evolves into service learning when students first gain important context by learning about the level of poverty in the community before they serve – engaging in the five stages of investigation, preparation, action, reflection, and demonstration.

Furthermore, critical service learning takes place when students examine why this level of hunger exists in the richest country in the world – interrogating systems of inequality as well as distributions of wealth and power in their communities. Tania Mitchell differentiates between traditional service learning and critical service learning in the diagram below from her article Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models:

Critical versus Traditional Service Learning

Included here are some examples of ways in which service learning grounded in C.A.R.E. manifests in our classrooms with our youngest students. You will also find some helpful language that adults can use with young children about how to make a positive difference in their classrooms, their communities, and the world.

We do not require that students fulfill a specified number of service hours. Instead, we believe in fostering an intrinsic motivation to engage in service and promote the quality of life in the community through both political and non-political processes. We encourage student voice and choice while integrating a range of opportunities and encouraging students to participate in meaningful experiences that draw on their passions and interests.

The PAT Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee works in collaboration with the Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement and the All-School Service Learning Committee to raise awareness about BFS service learning throughout the parent body and to connect parents and families to service learning opportunities in the BFS community and the broader community. The aim of the PAT Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee is to serve as a bridge and involve the parent body of BFS in the school’s commitment to incorporate ethical and social value into the curriculum through service learning. The PAT Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee Co-Chairs are Lil Amatore, Ellen Langan, and Sabrina Rodriguez.

The All-School Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee was created to bring together a group of administrators, faculty, parents and students engaged in the evolution of school-wide service learning at Brooklyn Friends School. The Committee functions both as a visioning group and a decision-making body, as we articulate and clarify the purpose and integration of service learning school-wide. We aim to build confidence and competency with the core principles and implementation of service learning while connecting our conversations with what is happening for our students both within and outside the classroom. The All-School Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee is clerked by Natania Kremer, Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement.

GO HERE to see our extensive and verified list of BFS Community Partners and learn how you, your students, or your family can become involved and make a real difference in the community. From the American Friends Service Committee to the Wounded Warriors Project, there are more than 50 nonprofit service organizations we have identified that are seeking community volunteers and support.