Learning Through Service
Every year, Friends’ Central students perform more than 20,000 hours of service in the greater community and more than 1,700 hours of campus service.
Community service at Friends’ Central School is part of the School’s identity, culture, and tradition. We believe that caring for our school, local, and global communities serves the guiding testimonies of stewardship, community, peace, and integrity. The program teaches a real world understanding of issues of social justice and challenges stereotypes existing within all of us. As we educate students who will face the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century, it is important that we cultivate the skills and understanding of real world problems they will need to affect social change. Service work creates strong individual and institutional relationships, which in turn strengthen our community and each student's sense of self-worth. Many service projects bring our students into contact with people and situations they might not often encounter – in hospitals, soup kitchens, legal aid organizations, and nursing homes. Gaining confidence and a sense of comfort in these varying contexts, developing empathy and compassion, and meeting challenges with flexibility and good cheer will inform the personal and professional decisions our students make throughout their lives.
In the manner of the Religious Society of Friends, we hope that learning through service will help our students to see that of God in everyone. The School’s commitment to service in each of the divisions is embedded in the curriculum. Through ongoing service projects and reflective discussions, students gain a sense of responsibility for the Friends’ Central community as well as the larger community. It is not enough simply to learn about service in the classroom; we believe that values must be lived. From Nursery children to seniors, our students are eager to participate, learn, and lead.
Upper School students engage in service learning in many ways, through outreach to communities outside our school, within our school community, and through our Upper School student-run Service Committee.
Service Days: are the hallmark of the service-learning program in the Upper School. For our Upper School students, community service and social analysis are partnered. In September, our grade 12 students host panel discussions informing students in grades 9-11 about the work they have done at over 30 not for profit agencies in the prior years. Students then select service projects of interest to them. They then spend 3 concurrent days with a group of 6-10 others students and a faculty member working on a project in one of the following five categories: Early Childhood Education, Environmental Stewardship, Elders and Community Care, Health and Human Services and Hunger/Homelessness/Poverty. The groups spend time in preparation and reflection, in addition to hands-on service work. In May, the same groups return to the same projects for two concurrent days to these same projects.
Upper School students participate in trimester-long campus service projects.These projects give students greater insight into their daily community and provide opportunities for collaboration, teamwork and self discipline. Working with faculty and staff, this program gives students the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of the entire School community.
Dining Hall Co-op
All students are assigned to co-op in the dining hall once a year for one trimester. This occurs the last 10 minutes of a block in which the Upper School students have the option (one they usually exercise) of using the dining hall. Co-op students push in or stack chairs, clean tables and sweep up as much as possible.
This is an attempt to be good stewards of our shared space so that it is usable for others, to aid the people who do the more intense cleaning later in the day, and to take ownership of our presence in the dining hall.
The student-run Service Committee is responsible for hosting monthly events that invite the FCS community to reach out to our neighbors. This long-standing committee gives students with a passion for service the opportunity to lead the Upper School community in endeavors that help to train our focus on those who are on the margins of our society. These events have included fundraisers such as a smoothie sale to benefit AIDS Fund, a car wash to benefit Aid for Friends, and selling pies for MANNA. Additionally, we also do an in-gathering of goods for organizations like Philabundance, Cradles to Crayons and Children’s Crisis Treatment Center.
Our students’ on-going service projects are: tutoring Universal Daroff Students and excess food packing/delivery on Fridays. Each Monday, Katie-at-the-Bat transports twelve fourth grade students to FCS to work with 6-10 Upper School tutors. Each Friday after the last lunch in our Dining Hall, a team of students and teachers work to pack the perishable food leftovers and transport them to the Life Center of Eastern Delaware County.
Learning through service and instilling a commitment to community service is an essential part of life at Friends’ Central School. All Middle School students participate in service projects every Wednesday for about an hour and a half. As we expose our students to a broad range of projects on and off campus, the notion of a world bigger than their own becomes a reality. Our students learn to be comfortable in new and different situations, to find commonalities with people different than themselves and, most importantly, they learn that they can make a difference in the School community and beyond.
Click here to see a list of the Middle School service opportunities.
Friends’ Central's youngest learners are taught the importance of service through action. Our programs introduce age appropriate challenges to our young students and encourage "habits of involvement." Teachers work hard to integrate service work into the curriculum and parents contribute their time to help model effective community service and support the school's efforts.
Many service projects are tied directly to the curriculum. For example, in grade 2, students learn about the difficulty many African families face obtaining clean, drinkable water, and then they take action. On a field trip, students walk five miles to better empathize with the effort some face accessing water, and they raise money to provide a well for a town. Other projects are division-wide. Every first Friday of the month, Lower School students are asked to bring in food to be donated to a local food bank. Students also raise money for Delaware Riverkeepers, an ongoing project geared towards keeping the Delaware River Ecosystem clean. They also donate cleaning supplies to be given to the SPCA, and bring in their excess candy for the Halloween Candy Collection benefitting Youth Service, Inc. Each December, Lower School parents can join their children by volunteering at Friends’ Central’s Hands-on Family Service Day at SHARE Warehouse, boxing food for those in need in our community.