A PFS middle school education is stimulating and exciting, challenging and rigorous, yet also responsive in pace and assessment to individuals’ different learning needs and styles. PFS middle school students are immersed in language’s structure and conversational music; challenged on many levels to think out problems and interpretations on multiple levels and from many angles, whether in math, Problem of the Week, science, Central Study, or literature; and personally and individually invited to explore as deeply and broadly as each is able, through conversation with teachers, formal research, projects, experimentation, and independent study. Assessments of students’ work and performance, while present throughout the school, become increasingly visible as students gradually develop a deep and independent sense of themselves as learners. As oldest students in a thoroughly mixed-age environment, 6th through 8th graders are offered opportunities to be older partners of youngest children, to be class leaders and role models in every aspect of school life, to sit as Head of Meeting at Settling In, and to design and run activities for the whole school community, such as our Halloween festivities and Elf Week. In late fall, the whole group participates in a two-day leadership retreat, the aim of which is to generate a sense of community across grade levels and to develop leadership attitudes and skills.

Beyond the leadership opportunities offered to the entire group of 6th through 8th graders, we recognize that the 8th grade experience represents an important transition between Princeton Friends School and whatever high school a student chooses to attend. In light of this, a number of academic and extracurricular activities are scheduled into the 8th grader’s calendar year. Eighth graders spend the second half of the fall term preparing annotated portfolios of their work, including samples of their writing in various genres, reproductions of pieces of their art, and examples of their work in math, science, Central Study, and world language. These portfolios, designed to be shown at independent school admissions interviews, represent a wonderful culmination of students’ Princeton Friends School career, whether or not they are applying to independent high schools. These portfolios are showcased at an evening reception for parents and faculty in early December. Finally, 8th graders spend the final weeks of the school year preparing their departing remarks for their Moving On celebration in early June. Year after year, the entire community gathers on a Saturday afternoon to hear the individual voices of our graduating students as they reflect on who they have become and what they will take with them as a result of their Princeton Friends School education.

With this broad reach of social and intellectual paths for exploration and self-discovery, students make themselves ready to become successful high school students, leaders, and community members in a gentle, yet inspiring, way.

Core Curriculum

List of 8 items.

  • Mathematics

    Daily math classes at PFS 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. 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. Geometry and Algebra II are occasionally offered for those students whose math skills have carried them along at a faster pace in their earlier years.
  • 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.

    Princeton Friends School students read actively for comprehension and pleasure. 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. In Central Study, U.S. History, 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

    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. A critical tool for third through eighth graders is the writer’s notebook, a journal in which students collect reflections, impressions, and images from their own lives, respond to prompts issued by teachers, cull and develop seed ideas that emerge from their free writing, and develop material for more structured writing projects. 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.
  • 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.

    Sixth through eighth 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.

    Finally, within the context of each year’s theme, students receive instruction in important research skills that begin in the primary grades and increase in complexity over the years. This culminates in the 7th and 8th grades with an extended research project designed to develop important skills such as choosing a topic of personal relevance; locating, evaluating, and citing sources; note-taking and the avoidance of plagiarism; sorting and organizing information; preparing an outline; writing, revising, and editing a research paper; and citing sources within a text. Students graduate from Princeton Friends well prepared for the academic expectations they will encounter in high school.
  • U.S. History

    In addition to their work in Central Study, 6th through 8th graders participate in one class per week that, regardless of the year’s theme, focuses on U.S. history and current events. Over the course of three years, students gain a familiarity with basic United States geography, history, and government. Each year contains a major trip: sixth graders spend three days in Williamsburg and Jamestown; seventh graders spend a day in Philadelphia at the Constitution Center; and eighth graders visit the United Nations.

    Through readings and discussions, 6th-8th grade students engage in the big ideas, dynamics, relationships, and ethics surrounding the following major topics:
    • the driving forces that led people to North America during the 17th and 18th centuries, the causes of the American Revolution, and the framing of the U.S. Constitution;
    • the Bill of Rights and its application to contemporary Supreme Court cases;
    • the history and impact of the institution of slavery on U.S. History;
    • the historical events leading up to the Civil War and through Reconstruction;
    • major events in 20th-century U.S. history, including World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Women’s Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement;
    • the structure and operation of our federal, state, and local governments.
     
  • Sixth and Seventh Grade Science

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

    Sixth and 7th graders dig deeper and grow as scientists as they learn about earth’s natural features, how they have changed through time, and the science and force of natural disasters. As part of this unit students investigate natural and human drivers of global climate change and its effects – from the historical to the present day – on the environment and earth’s resources. Classes delve into chemistry in a variety of ways, including a study of matter and chemical reactions, an examination of elements, minerals, and rocks, and an overview of mining and its environmental impacts. A unit in biology covers basic genetics through plant biology, cell cycles and the effects of disease, and local and global ecologies, animals, and adaptation. The Stony Brook and Institute Pond is a focal point as we conduct biological assessments during the fall, winter, and spring. While working through this material students learn about cartography and how it can be utilized to display scientific information, and they also design an ecology atlas for use by the greater PFS community.
  • Eighth Grade Science

    Our Princeton Friends School science program puts a world of scientific inquiry, discovery, and delight into lessons that are relevant – and inspiring! 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 8th grade curriculum starts with physical science, investigating the laws of physics through several hands-on projects and labs. Much of our early work is on bicycles, which encompass several physics topics and enables students to physically connect with and creatively work through the material. Students also design, build, and test tracks and models that demonstrate the content. Next is chemistry, which includes the study of chemical reactions and the chemical changes that occur in our natural environment. Students examine environmental case studies and work to develop new ideas and proposals for solutions. Each student is responsible for creating a research project based on his or her interests and creative capacities that is presented to the school community. Class content and discussions help prepare students for their transition to high school science.
  • 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 6th through 8th grades, classes meet four times a week. Conversation, reading, and writing skills are stressed.

    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 8 members.

"The point is not merely to challenge students - after all, harder is not necessarily better - but to invite them to think deeply about issues that matter and help them understand ideas from the inside out."
-Alfie Kohn, "Progressive Education: Why It's Hard to Beat but Also Hard to Find"
A progressive, Quaker day school welcoming students in Pre-K through 8th grade to our historic Princeton campus nestled in the woods.