Education is abuzz with the importance of giving children tools for the 21st Century, to prepare them for an increasingly global society. What is required in preparation for participation in such an interconnected world? Surely a solid academic foundation… and also a sure sense of self, the ability to connect, communicate, and think critically, and flexibility and perseverance to solve problems collaboratively. These are the roots of the Quaker educational philosophy that are at the heart of the Friends elementary educational experience.
The Plymouth experience is shaped by the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship (commonly referred to by the acronym SPICES). Without prosletyzing, the PMFS program highlights how working towards these ideals stengthens each person and the interconnected groups we influence.
Meeting for Worship
Respect for truth, honesty, and integrity, as well as a celebration of the uniqueness of each person, drives the teaching and life at PMFS and is central to our weekly practice of Meeting for Worship. Meeting brings together all Kindergarten through Sixth Grade students, faculty, and staff on Thursday mornings from 8:30 – 9:00 am for reflection, sharing, and listening. Early Childhood Program students attend on occasion. Families are invited and encouraged to join weekly Meeting for Worship.
The Quaker belief that there is that of God, or an inner light, in each person is evident in Meeting. Being together in silence creates a sense of wonder. Everyone in Meeting has an important role, whether by sitting in reflection or by standing to share a realization that was discovered in the silence. Shared ideas rise from and fall into the quiet, so that all can consider carefully the messages.
Twice a month, as part of Meeting for Worship, students are invited to respond to a query written in rotation by each of the grades. Once a month, the query is presented to the full community gathered in the Meetinghouse, and once a month the community meets in small cross-grade groups to respond to the query in a time known as Worship Sharing. Meeting for Worship and Worship Sharing help deepen children’s capacity for reflection as well as build confidence in sharing their voices.
Our community is a diverse one, with people from many different faith traditions and value systems. The Quaker core values of peace, equality, stewardship, and respect are universal values, and our worship practice of simple, shared reflection is one that is inviting to all.
The capacity to sit still, to wait patiently, to pay attention, to recollect oneself, are spiritual as well as practical skills in learning and in daily life. To sit still and pay attention are skills for the scientist, the social worker, teacher, therapist, and healer. By learning to listen and see accurately, we can also learn to wait for the evidence to take coherent shape before we act. We can learn to value accuracy, intellectual independence, truth-telling and personal integrity.
John Fothergill, in “What is the Role of Quaker Education in a Time of Terror?” (Lacey and Sweeney-Denham, 2002)