Community Service

Ethical Culture Fieldston School’s founder Felix Adler said, “the mind guides the hand,” and ethicalpractice and theory come together in the Upper School’s comprehensive Community Service Learning program.

Intentional, informed, and engaged community service learning has long been a tradition at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. A dynamic part of the Ethics Department, practice and theory come together in our comprehensive Community Service Learning program, often referred to as the action arm of the Ethics curriculum. Felix Adler referred often to the idea of “diversity in the creed – unanimity in the deed.” This idea, that there are a variety of approaches directed toward a common commitment to active engagement, is a living foundation at the core of Community Service Learning program.

Students honor the school’s commitment to service, stewardship, and an active public purpose through a community service learning graduation requirement. Our program offers a rich and varied approach to service in the community. Both intensive course work and community service advising prepares the student to meet the graduation requirement and his/her own sense of community commitment by offering ever-increasing and challenging involvement in the service world.

Based on a student’s interests and availability s/he can choose one from several paths. Some students choose to pursue individual placements with non-profits and community-based organizations throughout the city to further their interest and learning in a particular area. Others participate in a variety of service learning courses that move students from merely exposure to full engagement in the community. Here students explore, in community with each other, volunteers, faculty, and program staff the theory, approaches, and social context of community needs.

Whether an individual placement, or a course of study, all service opportunities have elements of preparation, action, and reflection in their work. The level of student interest and availability will dictate which path a student chooses to pursue. Courses offer both small group and team approaches to service work and a variety of commitment levels from 1-3 years. Our most advanced courses offer an opportunity for students to teach critical elements of service engagement to younger students and the Fieldston community at large.

All service learning leadership opportunities contribute to a lived awareness of identity and identity contingencies for students. A critical learning element is to guide students as they increase their personal attention to living as engaged, purposeful, and aware community members. Regardless of the path a student takes, service at Fieldston has several goals that undergird our unique and active commitment to community work.

  • To develop enduring and mutually beneficial relationships w/ larger community
  • To form honest, balanced and equal partnerships w/ our participating agencies (i.e., follow Principles of Good Practice, our service recipients define the services needed and the mode of delivery)
  • Fieldston provides preparation, skill development, critical reflection, and in depth education to students, thus enabling them to be effective service providers and contributors to the community’s social justice objectives
  • To continually enrich the program by learning about our community and actively developing community connections and placements for students.