Plymouth Meeting Friends School
2150 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
Next Open House: Wednesday, October 19, 9:30 – 11:30 am — Click here to RSVP
I am not exactly sure how it happens but once you turn off of Butler Pike and pass through the walls of Plymouth Meeting Friends School the sounds of the busy road disappear. Before me sprawled a simple and beautiful 11 acre campus for grades Pre-K to 6th.
If you are a parent that is familiar with the school landscape in the Philadelphia area then you know that schools are categorized as public, private or independent, progressive and so on. As you can guess from the name, PMFS is a “Friends” school. All Friends schools are different. During my visit it quickly became apparent that PMFS is a mix of what I love about progressive education combined with a Quaker education, which I am less familiar with.
Progressive schools have their students outside as much as possible and in every kind of weather, use nature as much as possible as a teaching tool, allow for fluidity in their curriculum based on the student’s interests or needs, and focus tremendously on the student’s emotional well-being and ability to effectively go out into the world with confidence. This combined with the values of the Quaker education which focus on conflict resolution, community, the ability to be still with one’s thoughts, and social justice make for a really powerful education.
The campus is a mix of old and new buildings. I could easily go on and on talking about how beautiful and tranquil the campus is. It is something you notice right away. The students are surrounded by nature and history on this sprawling campus. The classrooms are drenched in sunlight, bright and happy. Student artwork fills every room. All grades move through the campus during different parts of the day to attend special activities and lessons. PMFS has dedicated buildings for art, gym, and music. Recess is clearly a highlight for the kids on PMFS’s large central playground, complete with massive climbing trees and a Gaga Pit (dodge ball). Students also have the opportunity to explore other natural and man-made play areas through the campus. I am afraid I won’t be able to do it justice so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
What stood out to me:
The students and teachers knew I was coming to visit. Every classroom had a designated greeter that shook my hand, introduced themselves, and explained to me what they were working on. The students were friendly and outgoing.
Spanish classes are offered Pre-K through 6th grade.
The 5th grade trip to Mexico at PMFS is a big deal. The trip is a cultural exchange where PMFS students visit the Williams School in Cuernavaca, Mexico for two weeks. The students from the Williams school also come to the U.S. and stay with PMFS students for two weeks. Starting in Pre-K the school incorporates an understanding of Mexican art, culture, and language as much as possible. I love that the 5th grade trip gives the students something tangible to work towards and apply what they have been learning. For PMFS this trip is not something they check off a box. The school has been doing this cultural exchange trip for 46 years.
Social justice and the ability to effectively debate a view point is a big focus at PMFS. Teachers are working with students to bring current events into the classroom in a way that I have not seen before. They want to education them on other cultures, languages, and how when an issue happens in one part of the world it should affect all of us. Last year 6th grade had a project that involved a scale model of what it was like for a refugee to travel with and plan for their family. The math behind fitting your family in a room, getting supplies, rationing those supplies, and so on. I don’t know about you, but I never was challenged in that way in 6th grade. PMFS is pushing and challenging its kids in dynamic ways.
The program, the staff, and the teachers at PMFS work really hard to bring a quality education to their students in addition to helping them develop into their own person. They want to prepare their kids for how to deal with others in tough situations. I don’t always think parents understand how huge that is. All day long as adults we are managing issues, “putting out fires,” and getting “rubbed” the wrong way by other people both professionally and socially. I know as a parent I want my boys to grown up and handle tough situations with confidence and do their best to do the right thing for themselves and the others involved. Effectively handling conflict is at the cornerstone of Quaker education.
I had a great visit to PMFS and I can understand why its students, parents, and staff are so proud of the school.