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.

Core Curriculum

List of 6 items.

  • Mathematics

    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. 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 challenge at many levels simultaneously. The Bridges in Mathematics program, a nationally-used curriculum funded by the National Science Foundation, involves the regular use of manipulative materials – popsicle sticks representing the days in school bundled in groups of ten, unifix cubes, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, and more – visual models of numbers and operations, games, and lively interactive activities. As the children develop more abstract conceptual abilities, they begin to translate their work with hands-on materials into numbers and other mathematical symbols and expressions. A highlight of each year is the 100th day of the school year, when students spend the day playing games and participating in activities that celebrate and reinforce the concept of one hundred.
  • Language and Literacy

    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. This highly structured and sequential program introduces students to basic phonemic elements, strategies for decoding, fluency, and the structure of the English language. Through the use of the word wall, on which words are posted and remain in view for easy reference during reading and writing times, students receive instruction in word families, spelling patterns, high-frequency words, and sight words that don’t follow predictable patterns and rules. Instruction is deliberately multi-sensory as students tap out sounds, write letters in the air, and associate letters with pictures and words with colors and shapes.

    Because phonics is only a part of how children learn to read, students also receive regular instruction in reading strategies. Drawing on a variety of curriculum materials, teachers help students learn many ways to read the words on a page. Strategies the children learn include using pictures as clues, using an initial letter to make an educated guess, or skipping a word and reading on. Through the use of puppets, shared reading of big books, and games, teachers model and children practice reading strategies. Teachers meet with students individually on a regular basis to conduct detailed assessments of their decoding and comprehension skills and strategies and to prescribe next steps for individual and group instruction.
  • Writing

    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

    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 1st 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 take a Central Study class once a week, and 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, Earth Matters, Food for Thought, Cultural Chemistry, Work & Play, and Voices.
  • Science

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

    Science in 1st and 2nd grades is organized around selected topics in a two-year rotation. Taught by a dedicated lower school science teacher in one of our two well-appointed science labs, units are designed and adapted to be developmentally appropriate for each grade level within this mixed-age grouping, and connections are constantly drawn among these units, the year’s Central Study theme, and the ongoing mathematics program. Through units such as The World of Insects, Ants Underground, and Soil and Plant Life, students participate in hands-on activities and begin to hypothesize, observe, experiment, record data, and formulate plausible conclusions. Journal writing, dramatization, shared readings, and artistic recreations extend students’ learning. Finally, ample time is spent exploring the wooded surroundings of the school, providing students with regular opportunities to explore first-hand the natural world. A variety of materials and resources are used. Some of these include Delta Science Modules published by Delta Education, Inc., Great Explorations in Math and Science published by Lawrence Hall of Science; University of California at Berkeley, Project Clarion Science published by The College of William & Mary’s Center for Gifted Education, Science and Technology for Children published by the National Academy of Sciences & Smithsonian Institute.

    In the primary grades, science instruction is also integrated into the life of the self-contained classroom. Young children spend a good deal of time observing and discussing the changes that are happening around them – in the weather, the seasons, the woods outside the window, and their own bodies. The natural curiosity of young children provides countless opportunities for discussion of science-related issues, such as the differences between water and ice, the physics of block constructions, and the life cycle of the tadpoles raised in the classroom each spring. Cooking, weighing, measuring, keeping plants – these are all activities that nurture an interest in science in young children.
  • World Languages

    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.

    Recognizing that the young mind is most open to learning new languages, PFS offers both Spanish and Chinese language study beginning in pre-kindergarten. All students in pre-K through 2nd grade are exposed to Spanish and Chinese once a week.  At the primary level, instruction is primarily oral and visual with an emphasis on exposure, comfort, and familiarity.  Songs, rhymes, stories, games, and simple dialogues introduce vocabulary and syntax. As children mature and their abilities to read and write gradually develop, the use of correct grammar and pronunciation become expectations.

    Throughout the grades, language instruction is enriched by activities that facilitate cultural awareness – whether observing specific holidays (the Day of the Dead or the Chinese Autumn Festival, for example), cooking or feasting on traditional foods, hearing folktales, or observing or practicing traditional dance or crafts.  The Chinese and Spanish language programs are showcased within the school community on two occasions – Chinese New Year and the Mexican Cinco de Mayo – when students exhibit their language proficiency through recitations, skits, and other performances. These celebrations also include buffet lunches and (periodically) exhibitions of traditional folk arts.

Our Faculty

List of 3 members.

“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
A progressive, Quaker day school welcoming students in Pre-K through 8th grade to our historic Princeton campus nestled in the woods.