Service Learning

Sidwell Friends School aims to graduate students who are actively engaged in the world and think critically about what is going on around them, who ask about the root causes of injustices, who have the tools to act on their ideas, and who are empathetic, collaborative, and reflective.

Our service program embraces the Quaker values of justice, peace, community, stewardship, and equity. These ideals are taught through a lens of critical service learning, an approach that helps our School community engage responsibly and intentionally with the global community.

Students and faculty in PK–12 collaborate with local and global nonprofit organizations that focus on a range of social justice issues. We aim to serve our community partners while also working toward specific academic learning goals and providing opportunities for student reflection and lifelong action.

Quakerism has taught me to care for others, to help other people at all times. ... It made me think about how other people’s lives affect my life and how my life affects other people’s.– 10th Grade Student

Food Justice

  • Lower School students cut vegetables for Martha’s Table each week.
  • Lower School makes food for Bethesda Cares and, twice a week, shares food from lunch with the program.
  • Lower Schoolers made placemats and decorations for the Martha’s Table Harvest Dinner.
  • Fourth graders work with William Penn House to help build community gardens.
  • Middle Schoolers participate in the Oxfam Hunger Banquet each year.
  • Middle Schoolers take part in an overnight immersion experience at Heifer Global Village.
  • Middle School students work in the community gardens at William Penn House.
  • Middle School students volunteer at Food and Friends.
  • Ninth graders partner with Martha’s Table and McKenna’s Wagon.
  • The Upper School Parents Association bakes pies at Thanksgiving to donate to Martha’s Table.

Lower School students cut vegetables each week.

Literacy Justice

  • A 4th grade literacy justice group organized a spare-change drive at the Lower School. With the proceeds, students purchased 85 books to augment the nonfiction section of the Kimball Elementary School library.
  • Lower School students built, painted, and installed a Little Free Library at the front of the school to help make books accessible to the wider community.
  • Middle School and Hearst Elementary School faculty members collaborate on several initiatives: Middle Schoolers work directly with Hearst students in their classrooms, assist Hearst teachers, and learn together with Hearst students. The two schools also run a joint food drive for a local nonprofit.
  • Two 5th grade classes hosted “Walk for Water” Day to raise awareness about education gaps worldwide.
  • Upper School students tutor children from a local public elementary school through the Kid Power tutoring program.
  • For their 60-hour community service graduation requirement, many Upper School students work with Rosemount Center and other education organizations.
  • Upper School students pursue literacy justice through the Jamaica Library Project.

Upper School students pursue literary justice through the Jamaica Library Project.

Immigration and Refugee Issues

  • Middle Schoolers took part in a Minimester trip to the Texas-Mexico border to learn from and work with recently arrived migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and Mexico.

Students walk the Texas-Mexico border.

Racial Justice and Criminal Justice Reform

  • An Upper School student club held protests and created solidarity bracelets for all to wear in support of Black Lives Matter.
  • Upper Schoolers learn about racial justice through a course entitled History of Black Liberation in the Americas.

Students from all divisions perform in the annual Black Student Union Production.

Environmental Justice and Climate Change

  • Lower School students learn about sustainability first-hand through the Green Team recycling program.
  • Lower and Middle School students grow herbs and vegetables in on-campus gardens for use in the school cafeteria.
  • Middle School students may spend Minimester at the Teton Science School, an outdoor environmental science program located in Grand Teton National Park.
  • The Upper School Environmental Studies class studied the Dakota Access Pipeline, researched why it is an environmental justice issues, heard from a Native American teacher who had traveled to the protest site, and thought about how they can get involved.

A Middle School student examines a pine cone at the Tetons Science School during Minimester.

Gender Equity

  • Middle School students research the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal on achieving gender equality and think about solutions they can implement in their own communities and the world.
  • Upper School students may take a course on women’s and gender studies.
  • The Upper School Female Empowerment (FEM) Club focuses on gender equality issues.

Upper School students and faculty participate in a lunch discussion during International Women's Day.

Homelessness and Root Causes of Poverty

  • Fourth graders sort and organize donations at A Wider Circle, an organization with a mission to end poverty.
  • Fourth graders raise money and organize a donation drive for A Wider Circle.
  • The Middle School also participates in service events in partnership with A Wider Circle.
  • For their 60-hour community service graduation requirement, Upper School students work with N Street Village, providing services to women facing homelessness.
  • An all-School service event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day focused on the issues of homelessness.

Speakers during an all-School service event discuss homelessness.

Health Care

  • Upper School students volunteer in hospitals and other health-related organizations.
  • Upper School students engage through art with older adults at assisted living facilities around the DC area.
  • Upper School students and Sidwell Friends employees donate blood for the Children’s National Medical Center.

Two students donate blood during the twice-annual blood drive SFS sponsors for the Childen's National Medical Center.

Upper Schoolers serve our School as well as the broader community.

All Upper School students complete 60 hours of off-campus community service before they graduate. In addition, each student provides valuable service to the School through weekly work program assignments. Students lead admissions tours, sort mail, tutor their peers, collect recycling, shelve books in the library, and take part in other tasks that support the School community.