The Middle School years at Spence provide a perfect opportunity to build on some of the big ideas about service that were learned in the Lower School—serve locally first, create reciprocal relationships when serving, and define the help you give with the person or organization that needs help. We incorporate into our advisory program service projects at each grade level. By partnering with a different NYC nonprofit at each grade level in Middle School, we help our students not only understand the myriad and complexity of issues present in our great city but also introduce them to deeper questions about the causes of these issues and how individuals and organizations with power can either ignore or fight against these issues. Through our Middle School service-learning program, we teach students to use their understanding of their own identity to engage multiple perspectives that are different from their own and to use this learning to serve better.

Service Learning by Grade

List of 4 items.

  • Grade 5

    The Grade 5 service-learning project is connected to the humanities curriculum in that the foundation of the project is preservation of stories. Our partner, the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, expressed a need to record their seniors’ stories as well as gather the stories of its community. Grade 5 students spend 3-4 weeks meeting with seniors, interviewing them and gathering visual materials to help bring their past to life. Students hear stories and learn about the lives of various elders who come from very different backgrounds and communities. The end product is the delivery of individual scrapbooks containing stories and memories, and the reflection on how this project benefited each of the seniors and the students.
  • Grade 6

    The environment is the focus of the service-learning project in Grade 6. We impact our environment every day, in ways we see and in many ways we don’t. Throughout the year, students think about ways to help impact the environment in positive ways by conserving, reusing or rebalancing negative impacts we have made. Our partner organization, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, needs support to responsibly care for and preserve its natural park areas. Students engage in planting and restoration projects such as weeding invasive plants and planting trees. The Grade 6 science curriculum includes the study of gardens and waste, which supports the work we do in our service learning.
  • Grade 7


    One in four children in New York City lives in a household lacking sufficient food. The Grade 7 service project focuses on hunger in our city by working with New York Common Pantry (NYCP) to teach students how to do their part to reduce hunger and food insecurity. Students research the myriad reasons so many people are food insecure in our city and nation, ranging from large food systems and institutions to personal and individual struggles with employment or health. Students build upon their Lower School experience bagging food for the pantry, and take a more active role by meeting clients, taking their orders and filling grocery bags. To prepare for this, they discuss the intersection of race and hunger, and why obesity and hunger are closely linked. 
  • Grade 8

    Room to Grow is a nonprofit organization that strives to provide support and resources for low-income families who are expecting a baby. Its New York City branch is located in the Flatiron district where personnel work with families for the first three years of the child’s life, providing support from staff and social workers; offering supplies such as books, toys and clothing; and sharing general guidance on child-rearing. Grade 8 students visit the Room to Grow NYC quarters in advisory groups to help clean and sort toys and clothing as well as organize bookshelves. Students plan to expand their efforts by increasing their book, toy and clothing donations, providing more on-site service and helping out with Room to Grow’s annual drive events.