Learning at Brandeis

Experiential Learning

Our athletics program is designed to help student-athletes develop the tools necessary for healthy competition, teamwork, lifelong personal growth, and self-fulfillment. We teach our players to value self-discipline,  perseverance, and grace in winning and losing.

Brandeis offers a variety of seasonal teams (including basketball, volleyball, and cross-country) that are open to all those who wish to compete. Our outstanding coaches serve as role models, exemplifying the kind of behavior and leadership skills we strive to instill in our students. Our aim is to provide student-athletes with experiences that enrich their time at Brandeis while reinforcing our mission to inspire them to lead lives of learning and purpose.

Service Learning

Service learning connects classroom learning to the world outside of Brandeis. Our students acquire the skills necessary for empathetic, lifelong civic engagement, rooted in the richness of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam–repairing the world. Brandeis students embrace the understanding that giving back and making a difference in meaningful, productive, and powerful ways is central to our community values of integrity, kindness, and service. Through service learning, students are able to act upon these and other Jewish values in ways that contribute to their local community, to Israel, and to the world at large.

Service learning encourages Brandeis students to think critically and make choices as they collaborate with one another, their teachers, and local organizations. Students of all ages develop projects that foster connections to their local communities and deepen their understanding of the needs in the world around them. Service learning initiatives at Brandeis include:
  • All-school Volunteer Day—students in kindergarten through eighth grade engage in a day of service, with students participating in a variety of age-appropriate service projects. For example, students create birthday cards for Project Open Hand, make sandwiches and put together lunch bags for St. Anthony's Foundation, spend a week collecting clothing and shoe donations, tend to a local community garden, and work with Meals on Wheels and the SF-Marin Food Bank on a food drive.
  • Middle School Service Elective—a group of middle school students, trained by the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, works one-on-one with elementary school students at a Title 1 public school. Students reflect on their experiences as tutors and talk about the role of education and literacy in Judaism.
  • Connection with Partnering Schools in Israel—students communicate about social justice and environmental issues and projects with students at Hagomeh and Eynot Yarden schools through visits, mail, video, and over the Web.
Examples in the classroom include these and more:
  • First graders participate in the SPCA Puppy Dog Tales Program, in which they read to a dog. At the end of the year, the class hosts a read-a-thon to raise money for this SPCA reading program. The program was also featured in the fall 2016 issue of the SPCA newsletter Our Friends.
  • For 20+ years, eighth grade students have helped create Seder Sacks for Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ holiday outreach program, packing essential Passover foods for those in need.

Seventh Grade Tzedek Project

In the seventh grade, students participate in the Tzedek Program, which combines service learning with philanthropy.

Recognized on a national level by inclusion in the book The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber, this project is designed to help students gain deep knowledge of the Jewish mitzvah of giving tzedakah and about the different needs that exist in their community and the world. Seventh grade families pool together resources that would otherwise go toward purchasing b'nai mitzvah gifts for each student and instead create a class fund to be used for philanthropic purposes. In recent years, the fund has reached $30,000! Armed with the knowledge they’ve learned in class and in talking with many organizations, seventh graders make educated philanthropic decisions, all through a Jewish lens. The project culminates with the students allocating grants to nonprofit organizations that they themselves have explored and championed throughout the project. This is a key seventh grade project that integrates all academic subjects with our Judaic studies curriculum and our students' personal experience and values, to impact the world at large in a very real, tangible way.

In December 2016, our Brandeis Tzedek Program was featured in Ron Lieber's Your Money column of the New York Times. Click here for the article. Lieber describes our program as "best school-based giving program I’ve ever encountered."

Israel Trip

In eighth grade, students travel to Israel for two weeks of unparalleled experiential education. This trip is a powerful culmination of our students’ time at Brandeis, as well as a lasting experience to carry with them as they continue their journey as leaders in high school and beyond. Many of our graduating students have described the Israel trip as the highlight of their years at Brandeis, having been a direct experience of what they have learned during their years at our school. It is a time for our students to experience a place where the biblical stories, Hebrew language, and history (both ancient and modern) that they have been studying comes to life. This trip is a culmination of many aspects of our students' experiences at Brandeis—incorporating inquiry, identity, history, spirituality, language, and community. The eighth grade Israel trip has become an important part of the fabric of the Brandeis educational experience.

Middle School Retreats

How do you translate what students learn in the classroom into real-life applications? By giving them the opportunity to get out of the classroom and apply their knowledge to real-world situations, of course! 

At Brandeis, we offer programming at every grade level in order to give our students the chance to learn through doing, observation, and interaction. From field trips all over the Bay Area to our capstone eighth-grade trip to Israel, experiential learning is designed to complement and reinforce the lessons and concepts that our students are learning in class.