Written By: Agatha Andrews
We knew from our first visits to Plymouth Meeting Friends School (PMFS) a decade ago that we had found a gem of a school, and the intervening years have only confirmed that impression. From the expansive grounds, creative curriculum, and long-tenured faculty, to the nurturing environment and engaged families, PMFS has everything we were looking for in an elementary school for our children.
Plymouth Meeting Friends School is a pre-K (ages 3 &4) through 6th grade Quaker school on the beautiful grounds of the Meetinghouse at Plymouth Meeting, just a 10-minute drive from Chestnut Hill. The classroom buildings and play areas are dispersed around the grounds, which allows the youngest children to have protected spaces of their own and allows older children to experience a campus environment, in which they move about outdoors, going from the beautiful art studio, to the science lab, the gym, the music room, the library and back to their main classrooms. There is also plenty of outdoor play time, with two recesses each day.
The school is small and nurturing, with around 20 children in each grade. There is a head teacher and an assistant teacher in each grade, and a corps of remarkable “specials” teachers for Spanish language, science, art, drama, music, and more. The faculty are dynamic, creative people who bring their many talents and interests into the classroom, and who are so invested in the school that turnover is extremely low.
Project-based learning is central to the children’s experience at PMFS, and by the later years, they are doing independent projects of considerable scope, with written elements, artistic elements, powerpoints, and oral presentations. The children develop excellent planning, research, and writing skills, become poised and confident presenters, and show a deep excitement about learning.
Each year in the upper grades is anchored by a central experience that engages the class as a team for much of the year. In fourth grade, that experience is a circus performance: the children study circus arts throughout the year and then put on an impressive performance with unicycles, juggling, stilt-walking, acrobatics, clown skits and much more. In fifth grade, the central experience is an exchange with a school in Mexico, in which PMFS children travel as a class to Cuernavaca and stay with host families for two weeks and then host their Mexican buddies in return. In sixth grade, the students begin in October to prepare to perform in a musical in May, under the guidance of the extraordinary drama teacher, an award-winning writer of musicals for young people. These are life-changing experiences, building the children’s confidence and independence, as well as giving them memories to last a lifetime.
But this richness of curriculum is only a part of the story of what makes PMFS so special, because what families love most about the school is its spirit of nurturance, acceptance, and community. PMFS is grounded in the Quaker values of simplicity, respect for self and others, nonviolent conflict resolution, and honoring the gifts of each person. These values are conveyed both implicitly and explicitly, creating an atmosphere of warmth and emotional safety in which children flourish and families feel valued as community members.
We now have an alum and a fifth-grader, and it makes us all sad to think that in only a couple of years our family will graduate from this remarkable community.
For more information, contact Sarah Sweeney-Denham, Assistant Head & Director of Admission, 610-828-2288 ext 226
Editor’s Note: This is GAP’s fifth school review. You can find reviews of The Miquon School here and here, Greene Street Friends here, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy here, and Project P.L.A.Y. here. We have more reviews coming in the next few weeks. If you’d like to write a review about your child’s childcare, preschool, or school, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org