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Here’s how we begin every day. With music or a quiet signal, we move into morning circle on the rug. In silence, we settle our bodies and our minds and open ourselves up to a new day. We then greet each other and our teachers by name, share our hopes and questions, and spend time getting to know our friends and ourselves. Then, and only then, the school day begins.
 
The work of our youngest students is hard. There’s so much to learn – the symbols and sounds of language, the puzzle and pattern of numbers, the feel of a pencil, the finger grips of tricky scissors, the way we use our feet to lift our swing up to the sky. We practice moving our bodies through a small space, flicking a math spinner, sharing a box of colored pencils, and helping a friend. We begin to understand the difference between home and school, circle time and chair time, inside voices and outside voices. Most of all, we learn that school is fun, sometimes challenging, and that kindness, truly, is our daily gift.
 
Like the sensory beings we are, we use everything to learn about our world – our fingers and toes, manipulatives like frogs and bugs and cars, our woods and fields, our so-very-curious minds, and each other. We watch monarchs grow from the tiniest caterpillars to fragile-winged marvels that can fly hundreds of miles. We jump for joy when our tadpoles suddenly sprout legs. We learn that letter symbols magically turn into words which turn into books and poems that make us giggle and feel and imagine.
 
There will be a time when we will become third graders with binders and schedules, IRLs, and POWs. We know we will get there and be wonderfully prepared for the next stage of school. But for now, we will build our strong foundations, step by gentle step, hand by friendly hand, running, leaping, wondering, reveling in the process that starts off as that tiny caterpillar and sends us on as mighty fliers, ready to embrace the world.

My first meeting partner’s name was Hannah. I worshiped her; I thought she was the bee’s knees, the bear’s overalls, and the cat’s pajamas. I remember asking her what it was like to be an older kid, and she replied “It’s fun, but it’s hard. We always have to make sure that we are acting appropriately so your class can turn out great, too.” I had no idea what that meant because I had no idea what it meant to be a leader. Now, as I am upon my last day at Princeton Friends School, I hope that the younger grades see this 8th grade class as I saw my elders.”

-Tara D., class of 2010

CORE CURRICULUM

In the first and second grades, students encounter mathematical ideas and problems in the weave of everyday life in the classroom, whether as part of daily work with the calendar or schedule, or integrated with various science or Central Study activities. Formal instruction is scheduled for forty-five minutes to an hour each day, Monday through Thursday, and focuses on developing students’ understanding of key concepts while nurturing problem-solving skills in the context of real-life applications. Topics covered include basic counting, identifying two- to four-digit numbers, recognizing number patterns, understanding place value, sorting and classification, measurement, graphing, money, time, the calendar, estimation, addition, subtraction, and basic geometry.

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Throughout every day at school and across the grade levels, reading, writing, listening, and speaking are fully integrated across the subject areas and woven into every child’s day. In the first and second grades, students receive daily instruction in phonics through the Fundations program – an application of the Wilson Reading System designed for classroom use. 

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In the 1st grade, the children keep Capture the Day journals, combining illustrations and words to document high points of each day. Midway through the year 1st graders are issued response journals through which they correspond with their teacher once or twice a week. Writing workshop is formally launched in 2nd grade, during which students receive instruction in the writing process, practice writing in various genres, meet with one another for feedback on their work, and read their pieces aloud to the whole group. Students are encouraged to use “invented spelling” as the first step in developing conventional spelling, and they consult the word wall to locate high-frequency words. As part of their writing program, 1st and 2nd graders compose poems for the all-school poetry anthology and write memories of the year to read to their parents in June. Throughout the year, 1st and 2nd graders engage in a variety of writing tasks related to their work in other subjects.

Central Study is the changing interdisciplinary theme that unites the PFS curriculum each year. This theme lies at the heart of our academic program, and is introduced in age-appropriate ways to every student in PreK through 8th grade. Chosen by the faculty each year, the theme aims to present the world to students through a particular lens, so that geography, history, science, literature, art, math, music classes and more become an integrated picture of human experience.

First and second graders' Central Study instruction is rich, varied, and highly experiential. Teachers organize units and activities that support the theme’s broad concepts while developing essential skills in geography, map-reading and mapmaking, and reading and listening for information from discussions, oral presentations, and films. Projects are designed to provide students with multiple entry points into the material under study, and simulations and dramatic replay encourage them to inhabit for a time the lives and experiences of others. Periodically throughout each year events are planned that bring the entire school together around the launching or culmination of a particular unit of study, providing opportunities for students to connect with one another around the common theme. Among many others, past themes include: Journeys, H2O, Food for Thought, Cultural Chemistry, Work & Play, and Voices.

Our Princeton Friends School science program puts a world of scientific inquiry, discovery, and delight into lessons that are relevant – and inspiring!

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Princeton Friends School is committed to educating its students for global citizenship, and world language study is integral to that mission. Studying the language and culture of other countries gives PFS students a broad understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of the world and of the differences that exist among peoples and nations. Early exposure to world languages, combined with ongoing and explicit opportunities for students to experience the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of our immediate school community, encourages them to engage with the world in powerful ways.

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SPECIALS

Vocal music is woven deeply into the fabric of life at Princeton Friends School. On Friday mornings and at all major school events, we use music to bring the community together, drawing our many individual voices into one voice. The songs that provide a sense of continuity and connectedness within our community tell stories, integrate with our Central Study or history units, engage our sense of humor, and carry enduring messages that connect with the school’s Quaker underpinnings.

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Deep engagement with the visual arts is a critically important aspect of the Princeton Friends School experience. Including studio art for all grades, graphic design for 7th and 8th grade students, and a variety of arts elective classes offered for 3rd-8th grades, the PFS art program engages students’ natural curiosity and imagination, offering time, space, and resources for individual exploration.

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At Princeton Friends School, we believe in play of all kinds. In the Beginning School through 2nd grade, children spend a great deal of time outdoors at the playground, on the swing set, and in the woods. Through unstructured playtime, supervised and guided by their teachers, they develop skills in running, climbing, swinging, and ball play. 

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As critical as Princeton Friends School’s academic program is in preparing our students for success in their lives, even more important is the school’s commitment to instilling in children a strong and positive sense of who they are as individuals and social beings. 

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At Princeton Friends School, we love to read! From Beginning School through 4th grade, this love for reading is nourished by once a week Library classes.

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During Explorations, children use classroom materials in self-directed ways. Whether they are building with blocks, creating with arts and crafts materials, or sharing toys and games, students follow their interests and discover new ones, organize their materials, and develop problem-solving skills. 

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