Students dive deep into topics such as immigration, biomimicry, water conservation, equity, city planning, and the rights of people and other living things. Along the way, they build skills in research, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Students lead their own learning, collaborating with their peers, receiving guidance from teachers, and practicing personal accountability to help them progress from point A to point B.
FFS students are cognizant of the steps they took — never just doing a project at the direction of their teacher — and they truly engage with the whole process and take ownership over the concrete actions they took to reach the finish line.
Our two-floor IDEA Lab serves as the physical home base for our Project-based Learning initiative. Students embrace challenges, work collaboratively, and come up with real solutions to address the needs of a rapidly changing world.
By incorporating the UN Sustainable Development Goals into our curriculum, we have set the stage for our students’ long-term success in understanding their responsibility towards people and our planet. This principle is fundamental to our mission and essential to living our Quaker values.
An important aspect of this initiative is the formation of partnerships with people and organizations who are working on the same issues that students are exploring in class.
Not only do our students see what action looks like, but they come to understand the connection between learning in the classroom and the local services and initiatives within the Greater Philadelphia area. We want them to know that every action taken can build a better future for life on Earth.
Our service learning leaders at FFS are interested in building long-term projects with organizations and we welcome your ideas for partnership.
If you are connected to an organization who would be a fit for our service learning or project based learning programs, please let us know!
Coordinator of Project-based Learning & The IDEA Lab
Students are taught how to collaborate with others and to communicate effectively by asking questions, thinking critically, and listening carefully. Our students leave Frankford Friends School well-equipped for high school and beyond — prepared to let their lives speak in the pursuit of lifelong learning, a commitment to social justice, and service to their communities.
This active immersion engages them in literacy and critical listening, so that they will be ready to write and speak in Spanish in advanced high school courses. Students interact in varied ways with the language and are offered multiple opportunities for different types of output and production.
Our Pre-K through Fourth Grade classes learn Spanish two days per week using memory tools, color, songs, and patterns to increase their vocabulary. They play games and do skits that will help increase their ability to have practical conversations and gain confidence in learning a new language. Our Spanish instruction connects with the themes and topics students are studying across the curriculum, such as math, telling time, learning about weather patterns, and graphing. Feeling comfortable is an important component to acquiring a language and we make sure to encourage students to be bold, take risks, and learn from their mistakes in all of our Spanish classrooms.
In grades 5 through 8, students learn using a more formalized process, including reading novels in Spanish and immersing themselves in language through intensive study five days per week. Using a communicative language methodology, our students continually develop the four skills upon which language acquisition is based – writing, reading, listening, and speaking. Grammar skills are also built upon and enhanced through games, readings, and songs so that our graduates enter high school with a high level of proficiency in Spanish.
Classes practice their skills during school trips to Spanish restaurants, in Skype sessions with native speakers, and by filming and recording themselves. Digital tools and resources broaden the span of student listening and speaking skills that can be practiced at home at the students’ own pace. The Middle School Spanish classroom library is stocked full of Spanish language novels, graphic novels, and other reading materials collected over the years.
Additionally, students learn about current events and the culture in Spanish speaking countries and engage in discussions aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals with their classmates in Spanish.
When a soloist stands up to perform their first solo in Jazz Band, we want them to overcome their nervous jitters and achieve a new victory that will make them feel proud. Beyond the spotlight, we use group instruction to guide students to be active participants and contributors in their ensembles. Performers learn to center themselves in a group, listen to those around them, and contribute to the larger community.
By balancing both individual and collective modes of expression, we build a stronger sense of creative confidence in our students, so that they can be well-rounded leaders and collaborators in every future endeavor.
The Lower School music program is designed to inspire creativity and a life-long love 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. In the fourth and fifth grades, students sing in their own choir and learn to play a stringed instrument (violin, viola, or cello) provided by the school.
In grades 6-8, middle school students can elect to join and perform with a variety of advanced music ensembles: Orchestra, Handbells, Choir, and Jazz Band. String students attend classes in small groups, with individual attention during this crucial stage of musical development, and also in large groups, where they learn to be present and listen closely to the other musicians around them.
The process of making art is most important as young students work to develop the ability to prepare a project. Our youngest friends listen to read-aloud stories as a starting point to their projects and to understand core concepts. Older students experiment with a wide range of materials and techniques, from architectural and perspective drawings to shading and color, and use tailored investigations to focus on developing a creative process of their own.
As students advance, projects become more complex. In Middle School, our fifth graders keep a dye garden and visit the Fiber Arts department at UArts, where they observe and experiment with natural dyeing and weaving. In sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, students tackle advanced observation tactics, creating portraits by using only one of their senses. Interested middle school students can also opt to take a portfolio preparation class to work on more intensive pieces and receive individual feedback on their work.
Through 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 a desire to play for the love of the game.
All class periods incorporate a psychomotor, locomotor, and game-play exercise to ensure that students are receiving a well-balanced mixture of instruction, movement, and guided play. Our youngest friends focus on individual skill-building to improve their manipulative, tracking, and balance before expanding to faster, partner-based ball passing activities in the Lower School grades. More advanced units on dance, yoga, and team tag strategy (defense vs. offense) round out the curriculum and prepare students for the team sports and problem-solving units emphasized in our Middle School program.
Middle School students spend time in Physical Education learning about Paralympic sports. Through empathy, reflection, and discussion, students discover ways to respect and celebrate the athleticism of people with disabilities. They start by simulating the challenges experienced by people with disabilities and then play their own adaptive games like wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, and seated volleyball.
The Fitness elective class meets with our school coach twice weekly to develop advanced cardiovascular endurance, speed, and muscular strength. Students learn to develop their own individual training programs, set goals for themselves, discuss various muscle groups, and begin building a toolkit of techniques for a life-long desire for fitness. It is our hope that this approach will lay the groundwork for students to seek out activities in high school and as young adults that bring them lasting wellness and success.
In the fifth and sixth grades, our curriculum begins with studies of the body, brain, and nutrition, while our seventh and eighth graders discuss a wide-ranging selection of social and emotional topics — sleep and stress management, peer pressure, drug and alcohol prevention, healthy relationships, and depression and suicide. Through proactive support and instruction, we’re building resilient individuals who are comfortable navigating and advocating healthily for themselves in high school.