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Community Engagement and Service Learning

At San Francisco Friends School, an integral part of our curriculum is engaging with and learning from our local community. As a Quaker school, we know that a true sense of belonging comes from the actions we take as stewards. Through queries and reflection, we hope that our students learn that responsibility is part of being a member of a community. All around us, community organizations foster civic participation, support people in need, fight for social justice, and strive to create a better world. We believe it is critical that our students be part of these efforts.

We see service learning as vital to living our Quaker mission. It is a critical part of our social-emotional curriculum, helping students to develop empathy, compassion, and kindness for others. Ultimately our goal for this work is to raise students’ awareness of the world around them, and inspire positive action. Service learning enriches the overall learning experience for students, teaches civic responsibility, and strengthens our communities.

Teachers at each grade level work with community partners to design service learning experiences where students learn to serve in partnership and with purpose. Here are a few examples of grade level projects driven by authentic, reciprocal and sustained relationships created with local partners. You’ll notice that as students get older there is more room for their “voice and choice." This developmental shift allows for creativity, ownership, and further opportunities to “Let their lives speak.”

Grade Organization Project Curricular Connection Frequency
K Mission Neighborhood Health Center Gift and snack bags Community study Year-long
1st Francis of Assisi Senior Center Dancing with residents Understanding differences, building relationships Weekly sessions for 12 weeks
2nd SPCA Fundraisers and pet adoption Care for animals, responsibility, advocacy Year-long
3rd International Rescue Committee Collection drives, photo project Immigration and advocacy  Year-long
4th Mission Head Start Spanish reading buddies with preschoolers Speaking and reading Spanish and mentoring Year-long
5th Valencia Gardens and Francis of Assisi Senior Center Games with senior residents and oral history drama productions Drama productions and class them of relationships 2nd Semester
6th Recology E-waste collection drive Exploration of waste (food, water, and electronics) in our school and homes Year-long
7th Determined annually District exploration of issues that matter to students Meeting with district supervisors to share ideas for improvements; learn about ways to impact our neighborhoods. Year-long
8th Determined annually Student-driven project tied to homelessness study Action project based on research of homelessness in SF Year-long with culminating trip to Sacramento

Service Learning: A Snapshot

1st and 5th Grades: Francis of Assisi Community

Located right behind our school, Francis of Assisi Community is a residence for fixed and low-income senior citizens, with residents representing the four corners of the globe. Our students have worked closely with our neighbors on a variety of projects including a 12-week collaborative dance/movement class with 1st Grade, and an oral history/drama production in 5th Grade. Both projects connect children with seniors in meaningful and memorable ways.

“At the Frances place I felt a little shy. Because it was my first time being there. When I entered the place I saw a lot of smiles on the seniors faces I also felt compassion about Melinda because she was in a special kind of wheelchair.”
– SFFS 1st-Grader

Third Grade: International Rescue Committee

For their study of immigration, 3rd-Graders look closely at why people leave their home countries and why people are drawn to new countries. This study sets the stage for their work with the International Rescue Committee, a group that supports refugees as they transition from “harm to home” and settle in the United States. Through organizing a toiletries drive and a walk-a-thon fundraiser, Friends School students learn about the struggles refugees face and the important work of the IRC.

"Imagine that you were fleeing your country. Most refugees are adults but some refugees are kids. That might help you imagine what it feels like. When you travel from your country to a safe country you can bring only one suitcase. What would you put in that suitcase?"
– SFFS 3rd-Grader