Lower School Program

First to fifth grade students love learning at FFS and thrive in the nurturing environment of the 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 after fifth 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 performing and visual arts, physical education, technology, health and wellness, and Spanish language. All students have access to classroom Chromebooks and learn to safely and appropriately use all kinds of technological tools. Everyone grows to embody inclusivity, a welcoming attitude, and the desire to be good caretakers of the community.



Skills in phonics, reading, writing, grammar, and spelling are deepened and developed, as students participate in a workshop-based approach to literacy. Our goal is to help young students become thoughtful 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 curriculum, 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 the setting of 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 Units of StudyReading and Writing Workshop curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears, Foundations (Phonics), Words Their Way, and numerous fiction and non-fiction books as resources for our studies.


Problem solving is at the heart of our mathematics curriculum. Using the Math in Focus (Singapore Math) program, students gain deeper conceptual understanding through the use of hands-on manipulatives and the review of diagrams and models. They also practice and review skills and concepts with a personalized online program. Through investigating problems individually, in small groups or as a whole class, students develop the critical-thinking skills, positive attitudes, and confidence needed for life-long achievement in mathematics.

Project-Based Learning (Science & Social Studies)

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, physics and engineering, social justice, and the social sciences. Our students use inquiry-based processes to foster their curiosity and problem-solving skills, and to gain an appreciation for in-depth investigation. They experiment with objects, materials, and phenomena that allow them to build the foundation for understanding basic science concepts and humanities themes. In our local Frankford community, students investigate neighborhood and community problems to meet our goal of enhancing understanding and civic awareness and city pride. Through a combination of hands-on activities, building, and experimentation in the IDEA Lab as well as field trips, visits with experts, and the development of research skills in and out of the classroom, students 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 through Project-based Learning modules.

2023-24 Themes

Grade 1: Ecosystems, Biomimicry, Transportation

Grade 2: Birds and Insects, Harlem Renaissance, Sound

Grade 3: The Brain, Energy and Consumption, America’s Resources - National Parks

Grade 4: A Thriving Earth, Immigration, City Planning

Grade 5: Inclusivity and Accessibility, Weather and Climate Change, Nature and Survival


Students in first and second grades are introduced to iPads and Chromebooks. In third grade, the use of technology increases as they experiment with electronics, website design, and developing their keyboarding skills for writing. All students are assigned individual Chromebooks for use during the school day. These skills are further honed in fourth and fifth grades, moving into specialized technology instruction in Middle School. All students have use of the School’s laser cutter, 3-D printer, electronics components, film-making and graphic design equipment, and maker materials.


Lower school students focus on the testimonies of community and integrity, as well as social justice, conflict resolution, identity, and ethics.

They also practice reflection, mindfulness, and centering, enhancing their personal connection to silence. Lower School students learn to listen to their inner voice, allowing it to guide them when solving conflict, lead their community, and 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 the younger grades to exploring and practicing Quaker decision-making processes in fourth and fifth grades.

VIsual Arts

For young learners, the process of making art is most important. They experiment with a wide range of materials and techniques, from architectural and perspective drawings to sculpture and sewing, focusing on developing a creative process of their own. As they delve into the work of artists around the world, they make human connections and learn about the similarities and differences in different cultures. Our students develop a lifelong appreciation for and understanding of how art enriches the human experience.


The Lower School music and performing arts program is designed to inspire creativity and a life-long appreciation of music. Our students sing, improvise, read and write music, play rhythm instruments, and do dramatic play. There are numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year, including participating in the annual school musical theater production. Using a vast array of percussion instruments, as well as xylophones and glockenspiels, keyboards, recorders, guitars and ukuleles, students in the Lower School are exposed to many types of instruments and have plenty of opportunities to practice and perform.  Our students become confident music-makers, showcasing their skills in twice yearly performances, in the All-school Musical and during assemblies.

Physical Education, Health and Wellness

The Physical Education program exposes students to an array of skill mastery and athletic opportunities, as we guide them to find joy in pursuing an active lifestyle.

With a mixture of individual, partner, and team play, each unit emphasizes the underlying social-emotional and stress-relieving benefits that movement can bring to our lives. Students gain a respect for the rules, a spirit of collaboration and sportsmanship, and develop a desire to play for the love of the game. More advanced units, including dance, yoga, and team sport strategy round out the curriculum and prepare students for team sport and problem-solving units emphasized in our Middle School program.

Students also participate in weekly investigations of health and wellness, engaging with age appropriate topics that foster good physical and mental health.


Lower School students explore Spanish while listening to books, playing games,  doing skits and activities, and interacting with each other in Spanish. 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.  Our Spanish instruction often connects with the themes and topics students are studying across the curriculum, such as math, telling time, learning about weather patterns, and friendship. Feeling comfortable is an important component in acquiring language and we make sure to encourage students to be bold, take risks, and learn from their mistakes in all of our Spanish classrooms. By the time students reach Middle School, they have a solid foundation of basic vocabulary and conversation and are ready to take on the more complex studies of the language.

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


Lower School students enjoy two periods of recess per day, where they are able to be out in the fresh air in all kinds of weather, to socialize with friends, refocus, and refuel in the schoolyard, at the Nest, or the park.

Fourth grade immigration unit

A fashion show conducted entirely in Spanish

Consulting an expert in first grade PBL