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Our upper elementary grades are marked by growing independence and applying both new skills and developmental maturities. Third graders are expected to put their hard-earned reading, writing, math, and cursive handwriting skills to work in many subjects, learning more PFS acronyms along the way: AEs, IRLs, POW. Home base is still in the West House, where as many classes as possible are taught in their Science West classroom, creating a transition between the cozy rooms of first and second grade and the fully chime-scheduled fourth grade. Binders in hand, third graders joyously navigate the hallways, and learn collaboratively with the older students in Morning Gathering, literature groups, some subject area classes, and recess clubs. In fourth grade, students move to new advisors, divided between three 4th/5th advisory groups in the Schoolhouse, and take on the expectations of almost 10 teachers, changing rooms almost every period. Technology begins to be part of their school day, with new network computer accounts and a two-year Information Skills curriculum that leads toward keyboarding, Microsoft Word, search engine and PowerPoint competence. Fifth graders build on the multiple competencies achieved in fourth. They are remarkably sure masters of their upper elementary universe, stretch academically once again, and by mid-winter, are looking forward to joining the older students in their sixth to eighth grade world.
 
Throughout these important years, and always at this Quaker school, taking care of each other and ourselves is our primary goal. Each week, these grade levels reserve a class period for discussions and activities about friendships, resolving conflicts, and practicing interpersonal skills. Teachers and advisors remain acutely aware of the unique developmental needs of this age group and create a secure environment for all to learn and play and grow.

CORE CURRICULUM

Daily math classes are lively and supportive communities in which students work collaboratively with one another to further everyone’s confidence and the development of critical computational, cognitive, and communication skills. The mathematics curriculum at Princeton Friends School aims to give students an appreciation for the beauty, history, and value of mathematics. Within the course of a Princeton Friends School education, students learn numeration, operations, geometry, measurement, statistics, algebra, and applications, as they gain the ability to use each method with mastery and insight. Mathematics instruction is differentiated. Teachers not only deliver whole-group instruction on basic concepts and skills, but also draw from many resources to provide students with open-ended assignments that provide challenges at many levels simultaneously. Even in the higher grades, manipulatives and our Problem of the Week program supplement standard texts such as Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley’s, McGraw-Hill’s Mathematics, and the University of Chicago’s Algebra and Advanced Algebra.

Language in all of its manifestations lies at the heart of the Princeton Friends School curriculum. 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 daily activity. Most important, across the language arts curriculum, individual voice is honored as students are offered choice in their independent reading and literature selections, in the topics and genres they pursue in writing workshop, and in the stories they choose to learn during Storytelling Week. It is this voice that Princeton Friends School students carry with them as they journey out into the world.

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Beginning in second grade, students participate in writing workshop three or four times per week. Here they are introduced to all aspects of the writing process, from generating topics of personal relevance and organizing their ideas through various pre-writing exercises, to working a piece through multiple revisions to a final edited and “published” copy. Teacher-directed mini lessons at the beginning of each class introduce students to the writing process and the craft of writing itself, including strategies for identifying and brainstorming a topic, steps in the process of carrying a piece through several drafts, techniques for peer conferences, and elements of effective writing. At the conclusion of each writing assignment, students present their work in a variety of ways, including reading it aloud to an intimate or all-school audience, publishing and archiving it both digitally and in hard copy, and – if they are so inclined – sending it out into the world for broader review or competition. As students spiral through the writing process month after month and year after year at more advanced developmental stages, the depth and sophistication of their writing increases. Reflecting on their work at the end of each major project, students develop a sense of themselves as writers.

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.

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In the 3rd through 8th grades, students meet three periods per week for science – two of those periods scheduled back-to-back to allow for extended laboratory experiences. In general, lab periods involve an activity, model, or experiment to engage students in the “doing” of science, while the third class involves more content-oriented instruction designed to illuminate the topic currently under investigation.

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In the 3rd through 8th grades, students meet three periods per week for science – two of those periods scheduled back-to-back to allow for extended laboratory experiences. In general, lab periods involve an activity, model, or experiment to engage students in the “doing” of science, while the third class involves more content-oriented instruction designed to illuminate the topic currently under investigation.

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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. Since the early years of our school, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish have been the two languages offered, starting in pre-kindergarten.

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In order to function effectively in the 21st-century school and workplace, students must know how to access and evaluate information, manipulate data, synthesize ideas, and creatively express one’s findings and conclusions through a variety of media.  The library, technology, and information skills curriculum at Princeton Friends School supports each student in developing the following attitudes, habits, and competencies.

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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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Problem of the Week (POW) problems are fun to do, and each one illustrates an important concept in math or an important moment in math history. Pascal's Triangle is a typical example, as it begins with just adding whole numbers, and its repetitive nature and rapid growth often fascinate younger students. Yet this same problem offers older students an opportunity to work on binomial coefficients, combinations, and advanced topics in number theory.

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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. The Taking Care program encompasses four intertwining threads: Knowing Oneself, Knowing One Another, Care of Oneself, and Care of Others. 

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In keeping with the Quaker commitment to environmental stewardship, Princeton Friends aims to instill in students an awareness of our connectedness to the natural world and a sense of responsibility for its well-being. 

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"We do not grow by entering either the meetinghouse or the classroom with the aim of proving ourselves to be right or in possession of more knowledge than others. Rather, we grow only to the extent that we approach each of these experiences with a hope and an expectation of being transformed, combined with a willingness both to learn from others and to contribute to their learning."

-Jane Fremon, Founding Head of School
"Readings on Quaker Pedagogy