Checking in with Virtual Service Learning and Civic Engagement at BFS
Since the transition to Virtual School, the Office of Service Learning & Civic Engagement has organized meaningful virtual opportunities for students to continue their social change efforts with community partners and with each other across divisions! Here are some exciting highlights:
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, NAACP Director of Environmental and Climate Justice Jacqueline Patterson shared this video message for our school community. On April 29th, a special opportunity was then offered to 8th-12th grade to engage with Jacqueline via Zoom about the intersections between environmental justice, climate justice, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building on Lower School Earth Week efforts, as part of the May 1st Marvelous May programming, 55 Preschool-4th Graders participated in a virtual Environmental Action offering featuring a 3C Green Life Team PSA, and feedback from Upper School students, as well as engaging in an interactive “Waste Audit” activity with 12th grader Milly B to learn about the 5 R’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot – and brainstorm creative ways to repurpose what we find in our spaces that might otherwise get thrown away.
As part of their Service & Justice curriculum, on May 6th and May 13th, 9th graders will participate in virtual workshops with community organizers from El Puente, a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the holistic engagement of its members in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action. The first session will focus on organizing around inequities and disparities in public health and wellness as well as COVID-19 community actions. The second session will engage students in creative arts – Theater of the Oppressed, Poetry for the People, and the Sound of Revolution – as an avenue for their activism.
May 11th-15th will be Criminal Justice Week for the 7th grade! The activities planned will continue to serve the themes and time periods studied throughout the 7th grade curriculum. 8th grade student leaders will share a presentation, including this video, and discuss their experience advocating in Albany to end solitary confinement in NY State. Students will learn from a panel of speakers working within the system – BFS family members who serve as a federal judge, a criminal defense attorney, a police officer, and a physician at Rikers Island. They will participate in workshop sessions with community partner organizations including JustLeadership USA and the HALT Solitary Campaign, and they will hear from Innocence Project exoneree Huwe Burton and a staff attorney who is the uncle of one of our 7th graders! Students will learn from the experience of those most impacted by the system and see how they can support efforts to make positive change.
Student members of the All-School Service Learning & Civic Engagement Committee are creating the BFS Student Task Force for Community Action, a virtual space for 7th-12th grade students to come together to discuss the changes in our communities as a result of the current pandemic, potential actions they can take, and their visions for the way forward in the future. They’re creating this forum where students can share ideas and build capacity to help our communities in this time of crisis. Through a series of weekly Zoom conversations on Wednesdays at 2PM, they will connect to engage with community partners and create plans and strategies to continue our engagement in our communities.
For this year’s Brooklyn in Solidarity efforts as well as the culmination of the 9th grade History curriculum, BFS will partner with Brooklyn Public Library on the 28th Amendment Project, inviting Brooklynites to help draft the 28th amendment to the Constitution. We will hold a Virtual Town Hall for BFS 7th-12th graders and students from neighboring schools on May 27th at 2PM. Through this online forum, students will give voice to the most important issues facing our communities today and discuss how the U.S. Constitution supports or hinders contemporary society. Ideas put forward during this virtual town hall will be sent to Framers, who will draft our Constitution’s next amendment. While the result will not be a legal document, the amendment will reflect the aspirations and will of the people.
Horizons at BFS, an organization partnering with BFS that supports learning and enrichment for public school students, is seeking volunteers to support their elementary school students with homework help and online learning. Horizons students are currently working from home, virtually, and many need assistance with elementary level reading, science, history, math and also Spanish! Volunteers will work with each student for 1 – 2 hours per week in a Zoom virtual study hall. If you’d like to volunteer, please fill out this online form.