At Carolina Friends School, service learning is an important part of the curriculum from Early through Upper School. Service learning enables our students to deepen their experience of the values of harmony, equality, simplicity, and community that are so important to a Friends education, and to helping to shape the world in which we want to live.
At our 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, longtime Upper School teacher Jamie Hysjulien shared this reflection about how we try to do meaningful service at Carolina Friends.
It's no surprise that Early School students collect food supplies for local shelters and food banks, but their work does not end there.
Durham Early School students learn about the call to service that was felt by civil rights activists in the 1960s, and in January they engage in their own peace march on Ninth Street, ending at the Regulator Books, where they listen to a story about Martin Luther King, Jr.
When Campus Early School students conduct an audit of trash around main campus, and they learn that (counter to their expectations) the oldest students are not maintaining the cleanest campus, they assume the responsibility of writing a letter to Upper School and presenting it at their Group Collection, promoting better stewardship.
Several of their interest and discovery groups on Friday afternoons allow them to engage in service learning, whether that means helping with landscaping or creek maintenance, or helping to build a "storybook café" outside the Lower School library.
In Lower School, students have daily jobs, which rotate weekly.
All Lower School students share responsibility for the raised-bed gardens near the soccer field.
Middle School students share in the maintenance of the Middle School and engage in service learning in their classes, advisee groups, service days, and Exploratorium sessions at the end of the year. They might take a cooking class that focuses on outreach, or they might work in the community greenhouse and garden; they might build picnic tables or patio/deck areas, or clear trails on and off campus; and they might participate in service at a number of community agencies during their service days. An advisee group might have a burrito sale to raise money to give holiday gifts to needy families.
One of the most important parts of Middle School is the Afghan Sister School Partnership, part of CFS' response to 9/11, in which Middle School students exchange diaries, artwork, and photographs with students at the Topchi School in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan. Thanks to the efforts of the Afghan Sister School parents, Wednesday pizza lunches in Lower and Middle Schools allow us to raise money to send supplies to Topchi School. Classes and Exploratorium sessions invite students to create crafts that can be sold to support this and other projects dear to Middle School students, who have a keen sense of social justice.
Upper School takes students out into the world as they engage in adventure and service learning.
The End-of-Year Experience takes them to Newton Grove in Eastern North Carolina, where they work with farmworkers and their children, and as far as Trinidad, Costa Rica, or the desert Southwest.
During the year Upper School students engage in service days at local community agencies.
Each Upper School student earns two community service credits a year, through courses like Tech Theater, Construction/Maintenance, Yearbook, or Teaching Assistance.
And they too have their daily jobs - and the students of Campus Early School to answer to if they're not as vigilant as these young friends deem right.
That's what community is for.