Lower School Program

With a strong foundation set in the Early Childhood years, our Lower School students are well prepared for the academic challenges and joy-filled atmosphere of Lower School.

Along with daily opportunities for hands-on learning, experimentation, inquiry and dialogue, students begin the process of building stamina for more independent work in reading, writing, and mathematics. When students end their Lower School years in fourth grade, they have developed a strong set of skills for problem solving and critical thinking, with the ability to work well independently and collaboratively in a variety of settings. 

In addition to core studies in literacy, mathematics, science and social studies (PBL), our Lower School students also enjoy a well rounded experience in the arts and music, physical education, technology, and Spanish. All students in grades 2-8 are provided with personal Chromebooks, and students in Pre-K-1 have access to classroom Chromebooks as well. From art materials, musical instruments, and technology, everyone is taught to be inclusive, welcoming, and to be good caretakers of the community.

Curriculum

Literacy

Skills in reading, writing, grammar, and spelling are introduced, developed, and deepened as students participate in a workshop-based approach to literacy.

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Our goal is to help young students become joyful, thoughtful, imaginative, and skillful communicators and listeners. A myriad of books that represent the people and cultures in our student body can be found in the classroom and online libraries, creating the framework for our program. Students analyze and craft written work in a variety of contexts including opinion writing, informational texts, narrative texts, and fiction.

Through explicit whole class instruction in the form of "mini lessons" and concrete goals that are set during one-on-one teacher/student conferences, every student has ample opportunity to practice important strategies and to progress in their reading and writing skills. Students focus on both the skills and the process of writing, including learning to draft, revise, edit, and proofread as aspects of their craft. We use the Lucy Calkins Units of Study Reading and Writing Workshop curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, Fundations, and Words Their Way, in addition to grammar and vocabulary studies.

Mathematics

Problem solving is at the heart of our mathematics program. Using the Math in Focus (Singapore Math) program, students gain deeper conceptual understanding

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through the use of hands-on manipulatives and the review of diagrams and models. They also practice and review skills and concepts with the personalized online IXL program. Through investigating problems singly, in small groups, and as a whole class, students develop the critical-thinking skills, positive attitudes, and confidence needed for life-long achievement.

Science & Social Studies

Lower school students study a variety of topics in earth, physical, biological, engineering, and the social sciences. Through a combination of hands-on activities in the IDEA Lab

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as well as field trips, visits with experts, and the development of research skills in and out of the classroom, students are able to take ownership and make meaning of important topics and issues. Each classroom’s investigations, steeped in study of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, deepen further into Project-based Learning modules.

Technology

Students in first and second grades are introduced to iPads and Chromebooks with opportunities to research interesting questions and to use our interactive

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online learning programs, Scholastic Pro and IXL. In third grade, the use of technology increases as they experiment with coding, website design, and developing their keyboarding skills for writing. These skills are further honed in fourth grade, moving into specialized technology classes in Middle School.

Quakerism

Lower school students focus on the testimonies of community and integrity — particularly justice, conflict resolution, identity, and the making of ethical choices.

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They also practice reflection, mindfulness, and centering, enhancing their personal connection to silence and our weekly Meeting for Worship. Lower School students learn to listen to their inner voice, allowing it to guide them when solving conflict, hear multiple perspectives, lead their community, or understand their emotions. Throughout their time in Lower School, students become more and more familiar with Quaker beliefs, from learning about the simple lifestyle of Quakers in second grade to exploring and practicing Quaker decision-making processes in fourth grade.

Project-based learning

Through a combination of research and inquiry, students work collaboratively to find solutions to real world problems in the fields of life and environmental sciences,

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physics and engineering, social justice, and the social sciences. This leads them to a place of true intellectual curiosity with advanced skills in critical thinking, oral, written, and artistic presentation.

fast facts

Facilities

The Carol & Terrence A. Farley Building, home to the Lower School and Early Childhood Center, began as a one-room schoolhouse in 1833. On the first floor, first through fourth graders have spacious classrooms each equipped with tables for collaborative work and investigation, large group meeting areas for Morning Meetings and whole class instruction, and classroom libraries with a variety and range of reading selections. Students have many opportunities to work together and independently, with an array of spaces to meet different work needs.

Fourth grade immigration unit

Consulting an expert in first grade PBL

A fashion show conducted entirely in Spanish

A riveting game of tag at recess

Second grade group work conducted via Zoom

Third graders brainstorming about land conservation

Student Life

The Arts & Physical Education

Our Lower School students explore a range of artistic experiences and mediums, from painting and collage to sculpting and building 3D designs out of natural and recyclable materials.

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Art is an important part of the learning process, oftentimes connecting to other academic content areas, and providing opportunities for our LS students to develop new and fun ways to express themselves. LS art also provides many bridges to learn about different cultures and traditions from around the world. 

Physical Education is fun and interactive, providing a balance of gross motor skills development, cooperative team building skills, and mindfulness exercises. Children enjoy a range of activities including yoga, relay races, obstacle courses, and age appropriate games. Sportsmanship, team building and conflict resolution are integral skills that are taught and practiced throughout the Physical Education curriculum.

Reading & Library Visits

Once a week, older elementary students gather to read books and do activities with a younger buddy in a partner class. A school favorite, this program

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fosters excitement for reading and builds long-lasting relationships across grade levels. Our reading curriculum also includes weekly visits to the local Philadelphia Public Library in Frankford, a favorite part of the week for all of our avid readers!

Spanish

Lower School students explore Spanish while listening to books, playing games, and interacting with each other in Spanish through a variety of skits and activities.

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Students learn not just the fundamentals of the Spanish language, but also the importance of other cultures, thinking about different perspectives, and learning to have a broader view of the world. Our program progresses students through Early Childhood-appropriate games, songs, stories, and activities, to Lower School performances, authentic text exploration, and grammar structures important to understanding Spanish on a deeper level.  By the end of fourth grade students are ready to take on the more rigorous Middle School Spanish program at FFS.  

Outdoor education

Lower School students enjoy two periods of recess per day, where they are able to be out in the fresh air, socialize with friends, refocus and refuel.

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Students pack a variety of clothing so they can be outside in all kinds of weather. Our outdoor experiential education program provides hands-on field studies and nature play for students, integrating mindfulness and reflective practices, a healthy lifestyle, scientific inquiry, and environmental stewardship.

Meeting for worship

Each week, students gather for Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House. Meeting begins in silence, so that students can settle and practice reflection.

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When moved to speak, participants are encouraged to share an idea or inspiration with the rest of the Meeting. The Meeting ends when the fourth grade elders initiate a handshake.

Extended day after-school care (optional)

The FFS Extended Day Program is available to students in Pre-K through 4th grades. At Extended Day, students are provided with a healthy snack and then have plenty of time

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to play in The Nest. They then spend time in the IDEA Lab in both teacher- and student-led centers such as arts and crafts, games, construction activities, science, and dramatic play.

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