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

List of 8 items.

  • Mathematics

    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 and Literacy

    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.

    Beginning in the third grade – after an initial few weeks of shared reading within advisory groups – literature study is conducted in mixed-aged groups that are created as students select (with parent and advisor guidance) from a list of novels relating to the year’s Central Study theme. In these shared reading groups, students receive instruction in close reading techniques and the formal elements of a text, and they practice age-appropriate comprehension, recall, and interpretive skills. Through regular and ongoing class discussion students are asked to respond to the texts they read, to support the opinions they put forth, to listen to the viewpoints of others, and to hold multiple interpretations simultaneously. Culminating projects provide students with an opportunity to synthesize ideas and themes from their literature selections in personally meaningful ways.

    Literacy is also woven into all aspects of the curriculum through course-related reading of nonfiction material, as well. In Central Study and science classes particularly, reading assignments are selected that will further students’ understanding of the content of the course and reinforce concepts introduced in class. In addition, through exposure to written instructions in a variety of contexts – from math lessons and Problem of the Week instructions to directions in language arts workbooks, students across the grades practice learning from the written word and develop the ability to process and follow directions.
  • Writing

    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

    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.

    Third through fifth graders take a Central Study class three times a week, and instruction is rich, varied, and highly experiential. Teachers gather print and video resource materials, plan field trips and related activities, and develop coordinated units of study that support the theme’s broad concepts while developing essential skills in geography, map-reading and mapmaking, reading and listening for information, notetaking from readings, discussions, oral presentations, and films, gathering and evaluating sources, conducting research, critical thinking, and expository and creative writing. 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.
  • Third Grade Science

    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.

    Each year begins with a review of the principles guiding all scientific disciplines, after which the focus shifts to developmentally-appropriate units in life science, physical science, and earth science. Content within each unit follows specific recommendations of the National Science Education Standards, while each unit is also approached through the lens of the year’s Central Study theme. An inquiry-based approach allows students to develop problem solving skills as they formulate questions and hypotheses, plan experiments, systematically record observations, interpret and analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate their results. Project-based and hands-on learning are part of this approach, as well as the integration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math education. Mathematical application plays an important role as students determine the reasonableness of estimates and measurements using a variety of instruments. Class discussions invite students to raise questions about the world around them and to discover that science is not merely a collection of facts, but a process of thinking about and investigating the world in which we live.

    Units of study include buoyancy, the structure and properties of matter, soil and plant structure, rocks and minerals, sound, forensics, consumer science, simple machines, and the physics of race cars. Physical science content will include exploration in sublimation, evaporation, condensation, colloids, polymers, volume and mass. Scientific Process plays an integral part here as students develop strategies and skills for information gathering and problem solving using appropriate tools and technologies. Students create their own science journal that shows a clear record of observations, and summarizes and communicates findings in a succinct and understandable way.
  • Fourth and Fifth Grade Science

    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.

    Each year begins with a review of the principles guiding all scientific disciplines, after which the focus shifts to developmentally-appropriate units in life science, physical science, and earth science. Content within each unit follows specific recommendations of the National Science Education Standards, while each unit is also approached through the lens of the year’s Central Study theme. An inquiry-based approach allows students to develop problem solving skills as they formulate questions and hypotheses, plan experiments, systematically record observations, interpret and analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate their results. Project-based and hands-on learning are part of this approach, as well as the integration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math education.

    Mathematical application plays an important role as students determine the reasonableness of estimates and measurements using a variety of instruments. Class discussions invite students to raise questions about the world around them and to discover that science is not merely a collection of facts, but a process of thinking about and investigating the world in which we live.

    The curriculum spans multiple branches of the natural sciences, including earth science, biology, physics, and astronomy. Studies within the earth sciences include earth’s cycles, local habitats, and the transfer of energy through ecosystems. Students become meteorologists as they learn to interpret weather patterns and maps, and trace chemical and physical atmospheric changes on our planet through time. In the field of biology, students study plant growth, structure, and reproduction by investigating local fauna and ecologies. Students will also look at different types of animals that live locally as well as those from around the world, including investigations of physical characteristics, evolution and adaptation, roles, and so forth. This connects to an ongoing field study of our woods ecology, which occurs throughout the school year and builds the students’ understanding of the unique and important natural environment in which our campus is situated. An introduction to physics includes work with simple and compound machines, Newton’s Laws of Motion (with an emphasis on rocket building), and electricity. Finally, students head to space during an astronomy unit, learning about the formation and development of the universe and the celestial bodies within, as well as recent developments in this evolving field.
  • 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. Since the early years of our school, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish have been the two languages offered, starting in pre-kindergarten.

    For our older students, we recognize that practice is key. In 3rd grade, students meet twice a week for either one or both languages. In 4th grade, students are asked to choose between Chinese and Spanish for further study, at which point classes begin meeting three times a week. In 6th through 8th grades, classes meet four times a week.

    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.
  • Library and Information Skills

    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. In fourth grade, students take a weekly, double-period Library and Information Skills class. In fifth grade, students take a weekly Information Skills class.

    The library, technology, and information skills curriculum at Princeton Friends School supports each student in developing the following attitudes, habits, and competencies:
    • to ask questions and to take initiative in pursuing answers;
    • to locate and cite print, audiovisual, and online resources using catalogs and other bibliographic tools;
    • to differentiate current, authoritative, and reliable sources from biased, out of date, or misleading information;
    • to think creatively and construct knowledge through the use of multiple sources;
    • to present one’s findings in a variety of written, oral, and visual formats;
    • to effectively use online opportunities (class blogs/websites) for extending class instruction and dialogue in Central Study, literature, and science;
    • to develop confidence with a variety of common software applications, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop, and InDesign;
    • to continually learn new ways of using and adapting technology;
    • to appreciate both the opportunities and challenges of the information age, and to practice legal and ethical behaviors.
"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, "Readings on Quaker Pedagogy"

Our Faculty

List of 11 members.

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