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What Attending a Friends School Is Really Like

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With Philadelphia’s Quaker roots, it is no surprise that this region remains home to many Friends schools. A Friends school experience is a unique, holistic educational experience that is rooted in Quaker beliefs and values. It meets each student where they are and values their individual and collective voices while enhancing their strengths and expanding their understandings of their world. Developing critical thinking skills and encouraging living with purpose and awareness is woven into every aspect of a Friends school experience.

For an inside look at what makes this education so valuable, we talked to Matthew Sharp, head of the nearby Haddonfield Friends School in Haddonfield, New Jersey, about the central tenets of an HFS education. Here are the three things parents should know:

The Quaker S.P.I.C.E.S. underly the curriculum.

Although students do not have to practice Quakerism to attend a Friends school, they can expect to learn more about its five core values, or S.P.I.C.E.S: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Stewardship. The Quaker S.P.I.C.E.S., also known as testimonies, underpin the school’s mission. At Haddonfield Friends School, students from age 2 through eighth grade rely on these themes while learning and interacting with each other, Sharp says. These central values guide cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution throughout the day, whether it’s in the classroom or on the playground.

Once a week, the school community also gathers at a traditional Meeting for Worship to reflect on a thoughtful query, based on the S.P.I.C.E.S and presented by the eighth grade students. Quaker Meeting provides space for  quiet contemplation and encourages open sharing, no matter your religious beliefs.

Students pursue flexible, inquiry-based learning.

Thanks to smaller class sizes, HFS students can dive into project-based learning experiences they’re passionate about, Sharp says. For example, fifth grade students interested in implementing more environmentally sustainable practices kickstarted a recycling project for the entire school. They contacted the facility’s cleaning company and changed how the campus handles waste and recyclables. Students also collected old T-shirts to remake into dog toys, some of which went to the school’s own service dog. So although teachers develop and follow grade-level curricula, the freedom to expand on each topic allows children to dig deeper into various topics and interests. This flexibility helps students develop the confidence, critical thinking, and creativity celebrated at HFS.

Haddonfield Friends School students

Head of School Matthew Sharp with Haddonfield Friends students. / Courtesy of Haddonfield Friends School

There’s an active commitment to social responsibility and community service.

Even from a young age, Haddonfield Friends students learn how to put their words into action, On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, for example, the children dedicate their morning to various service endeavors at school instead of staying home for the day. Past volunteer projects have included organizing a coat drive for immigrant children, partnering with nonprofits in Camden, and serving residents at a nearby Ronald McDonald House. Throughout the year, second graders bond with “grand-buddies” at a local assisted living facility. Middle schoolers venture even farther into the world, with sixth graders tagging horseshoe crabs during an environmental studies trip to Cape May. Eighth grade students embark on an annual class service trip to Costa Rica, where they have refurbished playgrounds, donated school supplies, and shared their English and Spanish speaking skills with Costa Rican students. No matter the cause, HFS students learn how to make an actionable difference through stewardship and service to others.

Learn more about Haddonfield Friends School and schedule a tour today.