Service Learning

Service learning is the glue that connects the realities of the outside world with classroom learning at our school. We give our students the tools and empathy necessary for life-long civic engagement, and root our service program in the richness of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam - repairing the world. Brandeis students learn to connect their Jewish identity to active service in their community and the world at large.

Through this innovative program, students develop projects that both support communities and connect to our academic curriculum, absorbing the lesson that to learn is to serve, and to serve is to learn.

Service Learning in Action

We teach, foster and support integrity, kindness and service in all our classrooms and activities, and specifically through initiatives such as:

  • Middle School Service Elective — a group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders who meet for two hours each week to volunteer at a senior home, reflect through writing about their service, learn about Jewish service through the SPARK (Jewish Funds for Justice) curriculum, and serve as the writing and editing board for the Service Writers publication. They also assist with school-wide service events.
  • Green School Initiative — Students play an active role across grade levels in identifying ways to increase composting and recycling education and participation, reduce energy use and make meaningful progress on the school garden. Leadership comes from the lower school and middle school student community board.
  • School Helpers - Middle school peer tutors are trained to assist other BHDS students in a variety of subjects during study hall and after school. Aftercare volunteers are trained by the athletic department as Sports Leaders to score BHDS sports games. Eighth grade students help in lower school classrooms as Peer Helpers twice a week.
  • Purim Tzedakah Project — K-8 students participate in tzedakah, or righteous giving, to local organizations and pressing causes during Purim through our own shook marketplace. Students bring in toys, games and other things from home to be sold at the shook to raise money for each class to make give tzedakah to an organization connected to what they are studying in school. Students also have the opportunity to purchase items from the shook to donate in the form of Mishloach Manot, gifts to be given to the Parca, a Bay Area organization that serves people with developmental disabilities.
  • Student Community Board Leadership — Student community board representatives in the lower school and middle school lead the implementation of projects and education for school-wide service initiatives, education and greening the school.
  • Student Writing Contests — Examples include writing a poem inspired by the Presidential inauguration that allows students to experience how poetry can be both personal and political, and a photo essay contest in which students identify a problem they’ve noticed and describe a solution. Winners are awarded gift certificates to KidsGiving2Kids, a philanthropic website designed for kids, and have their work published on the school website.
  • Connection with Partnering Schools in Israel — students communicate about social justice and environmental issues and projects with students at Hagome and Eynot Yarden schools through visits, mail, video and over the web.

A Sample of Our Community Partners

Alemany Farm
Alma Via Retirement Community
American Jewish World Service
Coyote Point Museum
Heifer International
Jewish Family and Children’s Service/
Tenderloin Outreach Project
Jewish National Fund
Matnas in Netanya
National AIDS Memorial Grove
Presidio Trust
Project Open Hand
Ronald McDonald House
San Francisco Department of the Environment
San Francisco Food Bank
San Francisco Recreation and Parks
SPARK/ Jewish Funds for Justice
Special Olympics
The Jewish Home

Service Learning News

  • Students Plant Trees in a Hands-on Tikkun Olam Project

    Posted October 31, 2013

    On Tuesday, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students participated in a creek restoration project with STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed). The project involved planting four types of trees -- Big Leaf Maple, Valley Oak, Coast Live Oak, and California Buckeye. Students worked throughout the day to dig holes, plant the trees, and then fence the areas in to protect from deer. One student remarked that it took a lengthy period of time to plant one tree; "Imagine how long it takes in nature!"... MORE PHOTOS

  • BHDS Supports Artisans One "Pulsera" at a Time

    Posted June 5, 2013

    By selling one beautiful handwoven bracelet at a time for two weeks, our Spanish and seventh/eighth grade elective students recently raised $1,725 for The Pulsera Project. This non-profit organization was created to support young artisans from Nicaragua by providing better opportunities for them and their families. The proceeds will not only provide three full months of fair trade employment, but will also send a member of their artisan cooperative to college classes for a full two years. "Thanks to our BHDS community for supporting a cause so connected to our school's values...and for wearing your 'pulsera' with pride!" said teacher and project coordinator Ximena Bervejillo.


  • First Grade "Steps Up" to Beach Cleanup

    Posted May 23, 2013

    This year, our students learned about the importance of the ocean; studied the harmful effects of plastic and garbage on the sea birds, sea mammals and humans; and integrated their classroom learning with hands-on experience by cleaning up McNears Beach in San Rafael, alongside parents and teachers. Through this project, our first graders reinforced classroom learning about environmental responsibility, and lived the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or "repairing the world"...

  • Second Grade Donates 174 Pounds of Shavuot Produce to Marin Food Bank

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Our second class collected 174 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to offer during their Shavuot-inspired second grade Tefillah and then deliver to the Marin Food Bank to serve the hungry in our community. "Our second grade class learned to recognize and be grateful for the bounty of our land--and then use it to help our community," said Beverly Pinto, Judaic Studies coordinator...

  • Third Grade Explores Issue of Homelessness, Donate Lunch

    Posted May 1, 2013

    As part of their classwork, our third grade students created a list of things in their community that they would like to change - and the most important one to them was homelessness. "We've had a lot of discussions about the challenges of homelessness and what we can do to help - and we also researched organizations that specifically work to alleviate the issue," said third grade teacher, Cherise Sorenson. As a result, a representative from Homeward Bound, visited BHDS recently to answer questions. Students "doubled up" on their usual lunch and donated one lunch - with personal notes and decorations - to the families living at Homeward Bound...