Announcing Our New Head of School!

November 1st, 2018
Category: News

Dear Friends,

The PMFS School Committee is pleased to announce the appointment of Brenda C. Crawley to be Head of School starting July 1, 2019. The Search Committee enthusiastically recommended Brenda, observing that she is a highly engaging and committed educator with over 30 years of independent elementary school experience as a teacher and administrator. Equal in importance for the Search Committee is that she is a person of infectious energy and a true lover of life.

The School Committee feels our community is blessed to have such a talented and experienced leader join us as Head of School.

Brenda came into our search process with an impressive resumé. She is a Cum Laude graduate of Manhattanville College with a Bachelor of Music, and a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Johns Hopkins University – Carey Business School with an MS in Organizational Development. She has served in her current position as Head of Lower School at Sandy Spring Friends School since 2011. She was previously Head of the Lower School at the McLean School of Maryland where she began her career as a Music Teacher. She is a regular presenter on a variety of subjects relating to early childhood education, as well as race, inclusion and diversity. Brenda currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her wife Ellen and their two sons, Jonathan and William.

Brenda also impressed members of our community during her two visits to PMFS. Here are some representative comments which were shared with the Search Committee:

“Brenda is a proven leader with clear convictions, a terrific personal style that is welcoming and filled with humor, and solid experience in Friends education.”

“She showed an ability to gather groups, communicate effectively, think critically, and show such a positive (and funny) spirit.”

“I loved hearing her thoughts on where a child is developmentally. She knows where a child should be at different stages of their elementary years, but also knows that some students need more help than others.”

In addition to finding Brenda compelling and knowledgeable, the School Committee members were impressed by her ability to identify and articulate areas where PMFS is strong, as well as places where there are opportunities for growth. Equally impressive was her ability to engage with the many different parts of our community in meaningful conversation around these topics.

Of course, there is more to a candidate than first impressions.  The Search Committee also invested significant effort in talking with Brenda’s references and visiting Sandy Spring Friends School to see Brenda in action, and to talk with people who work with her every day. Comments from Brenda’s current school community show they are just as impressed with her as we are:

“She is the best administrator I have ever worked with.”

“Brenda rebuilt trust at our school. She calls people to do their best and holds them to growth.”

“She is brilliant with parents — clear, direct, loving and kind. ”

“Incredibly hard working, collaborative.”

In light of her many gifts and skills, the impact she has had on her current school community, and the impression she made in her short time at PMFS, the School Committee embraced the Search Committee’s recommendation to appoint Brenda as our next Head of School with enthusiastic, united approval.

In accepting our offer, Brenda said “With open arms, an open mind and an open heart, I joyously accept the honor of leading the Plymouth Meeting Friends School community.”  In that same spirit of openness and joy, we invite all of you to join us in welcoming Brenda to our school community as the next Head of School.


Tom Hoopes, Clerk of School Committee

John Gilliland, Clerk of Search Committee

Plymouth Meeting Friends School: A History of Social Justice

July 3rd, 2018
Category: Alumni News, News

Did you know a PMFS alum led the effort to recognize women physicians?

Dr. Hiram Corson (1804-1896) attended PMFS as a boy. He became a practicing physician and a tireless advocate for women in medicine. He also founded the Montgomery County Anti-Slavery Society, and his house was part of the Underground Railroad. You can actually search digital copies of the diaries he kept starting in 1827!

Dr. Corson writes about medicine, abolition, temperance, the unrest leading up to the Civil War, and the war itself. Page through three full volumes at

Here is an excerpt from January 1890 in which Dr. Corson celebrates a success for women in medicine, when the first woman doctor was hired at a hospital in Staunton, VA:

Excerpt from the diaries of Dr. Hiram Corson, January 1890.

Excerpt from the diaries of Dr. Hiram Corson, January 1890.

In July of 1874, he wrote of the funeral of a childhood friend he knew from school at Plymouth Meeting:

Excerpt from the diaries of of Dr. Hiram Corson, July 1874.

Excerpt from the diaries of of Dr. Hiram Corson, July 1874.

It’s wonderful to know the place that we know as PMFS was a central part of work for peace and social justice a century and a half ago.

1912 PMFS teachers past and present

Experiential Early Childhood Open House June 1

May 29th, 2018
Category: News
Friday June 1, 8:30 – 10:00am 
in the Butterfly Pre-K Classroom

Bring your little ones (children ages 2-5) and come play with the Butterflies, our Pre-K 4-5 year olds. We would love to share some of the creative, playful adventures we are up to here at PMFS in our Early Childhood Program.

From 8:30 to 10:00,  partake in some of the guided free play, art projects, and outdoor explorations our children get to experience every day. Meet our inspiring Pre-K teachers, learn more about our program, and experience for yourself how we inspire in our little ones a lifelong love of learning.

RSVP here. Contact Lael with any questions.


Spread the word about the Strawberry Festival!

May 23rd, 2018
Category: News

We can’t wait!

Everyone is excited about the Strawberry Festival! The kids can’t wait and neither can the parents.

We know families are busy preparing for this event in many ways–making shortcake, preparing salad for the Mexican food booth, or bringing books to sell by the armload. Thank you!

We’d like to ask your help to spread the word, so we get a terrific turnout.

3 ways you can do that:

  1. Say you’ll attend on the Facebook event, then share with your friends!
  2. Post a flier in your local coffee shop, co-op, or community center: PDF version here and JPG version here.
  3. Send quick reminder texts to friends and family, encouraging them to attend. (We recommend sending followup texts with strawberry emojis every few days leading up to the festival! LOL)

Thanks for helping us make this 82nd annual Strawberry Festival the best yet!

The 48th Mexican Exchange Program

March 15th, 2018
Category: News

After two weeks, our Fifth Grade Exchange students are on their way home as we write these words. In the past week alone, they have toured the world-famous National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, climbed a mountain to view the pyramid at the top and valley below in Tepotzlan, written speeches in the shadow of the 16th Century Cathedral in Cuernavaca, and, oh yeah, taken part in daily life with their Mexican host families.

Fifth Graders, accompanied by Leann, Genevieve, and Joyce, departed Thursday, March 1 for two weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico, for Part 2 of the intercultural exchange program, now in its 48th year. Students see this as a time to connect with their buddies, who were in Philadelphia last month, and their host families””but we know it offers so much more. Experiencing similarities and differences between families and cultures firsthand, stretching themselves to communicate and make connections, being flexible and adaptable as new situations occur, this group of students is embarked on an adventure that will develop their minds and spirits and be something they will never forget.

Read on to learn more about the many facets of their adventure.

The 48th Mexican Exchange Program

Friday, March 2

Welcome Breakfast at Williams School and El Rollo Water Park
The Williams School hosts all of the families, students, and teachers who are participating in the Exchange Program at a buffet breakfast in one of the school gardens. Teachers, students and representatives from both the Williams School and Plymouth Meeting Friends School give welcoming speeches.
After the breakfast both Williams and PMFS students depart from the school for a trip to El Rollo. El Rollo is a water park in Cuernavaca filled with lots of water activities. Chaperones are visiting for the first time, but previous PMFS Fifth Graders have visited with their host families.

Saturday, March 3

Located in a suburban area in the southern section of Mexico City, Xochimilco traces its history to Aztec times. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was built on an island in a lake. Canals were the main arteries of transportation. In Xochimilco are the last remaining canals dating from the 15th and 16th Centuries.  The area is called The Floating Gardens which originally were the Aztec chinampas, gardens constructed of soil packed with mud and stakes. Willow trees planted on the gardens took root in the lake bed and the gardens became permanent plots. Xochimilco has become a tourist destination with colorful boats, called trajineras, that are poled through the canals. Mariachis, food vendors, and flower and rug sellers market their wares, while local residents transporting their goods travel up and down the canals. At the end of the main canal is a market with hand-made regional crafts.

The class spends an hour and a half on a boat traveling through the canals. During this time, they are serenaded by mariachis and then by marimba players, all on trajineras. The students are able to imagine how the Aztecs must have felt on the canals. Finally, they have time to browse through the outdoor crafts market with their teachers. As this is the first Saturday, the Williams School students come with us.

Sunday, March 4

Sunday with the Family
The weekend day revolves around family interests. This is a time for the friends to know each other better and to spend time together with the family. It is also a time for the students to learn more about the family customs and the neighborhood where they live.

Family activities may include having lunch with relatives, playing soccer with friends, dining in a restaurant, going to the movies, bowling, touring Cuernavaca or neighboring towns, swimming at a club or a family pool, going to a museum in Mexico City and/or inviting friends over to play. Most families live in houses with gardens (yards) and communities that are surrounded by walls. Children play, ride bikes and skate in these gated and walled-in areas.

Monday, March 5

Mexico City””Casa de los Amigos, Huerto Romita, and Secretaría de Educación Pública (Education building)
Parts of this trip are new this year. We will start by visiting the sembradores urbanos, the urban garden, at Huerto Romita. There will be a tour and a small project to help out the garden depending on what is needed.

After eating our packed lunch, we will head to Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education Building). Here are housed some Diego Rivera murals. From there we will head back to Casa de los Amigos where we will spend the night. First, we will have a tour of the Casa and hear about their different programs. We will walk to a local restaurant for dinner and we will tour the Revolution Museum, which is a treat. It gives a great view of the city.

Casa de los Amigos, a Center for Peace and International Understanding in Mexico City, was established as a nonprofit organization in 1956 by the Quaker community in Mexico, and its work continues to be rooted in Quaker values.

  • Each Sunday there is a Quaker meeting for worship and a potluck each Sunday evening for friends of the Casa. Through its programs, community space, and social and cultural activities, the Casa promotes peace with justice, fosters understanding between groups and individuals, and supports the human dignity of every person.
  • The Hospitality Program refers to the Casa’s community space, events, and activities, library, and social-justice-oriented guest house. The work that volunteers do in this program is the sum total of all the work that it takes to keep the guest house functioning smoothly, plan, and facilitate events, and most of all create, along with the guest, the simple, friendly atmosphere of social concern that the Casa is famous for. It takes a lot of people every day to make it happen, but it’s real magic.
  • The Peace Programs currently are focused in migration and economic justice. These two programs both have other projects connected to the Casa’s guesthouse and projects outside the house. Each committee meets regularly to coordinate work, plans, and progress; study and discuss relevant articles and themes; attend other events in Mexico City related to the programs; and more. The Casa works to treat the roots and realities of poverty and migration in Mexico, make an effort to alleviate the suffering caused, and to create alternatives to both.
  • Click here to read more about this fascinating organization.

When our class visits the Casa, we will be given a tour of the facilities. The students will have a lesson about what is a refugee and migrant and then have a meeting for worship with a query focused on what has just been discussed.

We will sleep all together in the top floor of the building on mats and with sleeping bags that the families have provided for us. We are excited about this piece of the Exchange, which started just last year. There are many reasons this is a great idea and one of them is because of the travel. It will cut out several hours of having to be on the bus and potential carsickness.

Tuesday, March 6

This ancient city was established in 200 BCE. From then until the First Century CE, the population soared and the building of the great pyramids, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun, as well as the Street of the Dead and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, occurred. More developments continued until 450 CE where temples and apartment dwellings were laid out in carefully planned grids, accented by mural paintings, sculptures, pottery, and more. During the period 450 through 650 CE, the city reached the peak of its power and influence in a trading network that reached as far as the Maya region. Around 750 CE, the city was burned and abandoned; by then, Teotihuacan had influenced all of Meso-America.

We tour the site with an English-speaking guide, visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, walk on the Street of the Dead to the Sun and the Moon Pyramids, and visit the crafts market where our students shop with their teachers.

Get more info on this UNESCO World Heritage Site at:

Wednesday, March 7

Las Estacas
Las Estacas is a Natural Water Park, located in the municipality of Tlaltizapán, in the state of Morelos. Las Estacas is about 50 minutes from Cuernavaca. Here the bubbling Yautepec River flows; it is 12m wide with variable depth and crystal clear waters that are rich in minerals. The origin of its name comes from the stakes that were placed on the bank of the river to control the rise of the water and to irrigate the lands attached. We will swim in the river, go on a zip line, and have a meal together with our Williams School friends.

For more info:

Thursday, March 8

Cuernavaca (Ecological Park, Williams School, and Children’s Museum)
The Ecological Park Chapultepec has over 11 hectares of land. This park is located in the heart of Cuernavaca. It houses an environmental museum, a spider monkey habitat, and an aviary. It contains trees more than 250 years old, most notably cypresses, figs, guava, pink pumice, and other species. Students will spend part of the morning exploring the park.

The rest of the morning will be spent back at the Williams School to see the Fifth Graders in their presentation to the school of Mexico Lindo. This will include a song in the auditorium and a group of Baile Folklórico. Students will get to visit the stands run by Fifth Graders and try different Mexican dishes.

After this, we head to the Children’s Museum. Inspired by various educational and philosophical theories of art in art education, the museum is truly a place for kids to explore and have fun. There is a climbing adventure on spider web of tires, a giant iPod, a bubble room, a model of a Van Gogh painting to literally step inside and many more fun things!

Friday, March 9-Sunday, March 11

Long Weekend of Family Activities.
Families plan excursions around or outside of Cuernavaca

Monday, March 12

Cuernavaca””Cathedral, Turibus Tour, and Artisans Market
Cathedral of Cuernavaca: The cathedral was founded in 1529 CE by the Spaniard Hernán Cortés. The facade reflects the 16th Century European Renaissance style. Inside are murals depicting missionaries in the Far East. The garden includes a chapel with a gilded, hand-carved altar, an example of colonial religious art. We talk about the history of the area. Students write their thank you and farewell speeches here. They have their lunches in the Zócalo.

This year, we will be taking a tour on something called a Turibus. It will take us around Cuernavaca. This is new for us this year!

Artisans Market: After lunch, we go to the crafts market, located beside the Palacio de Cortés, where artisans sell their wares. This ends up being a highlight for students to purchase gifts for their families and for themselves. We break up into groups and each group walks around the market with a teacher to practice their bargaining skills and also to view the beautiful handmade items.

Tuesday, March 13

Mexico City
The capital of Mexico, this city is located in the Valley of Mexico surrounded by mountains. After the conquest of the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, by the Spaniards in 1521 CE, construction of the city began. This was the beginning of the colonial period that lasted for three hundred years. Modern Mexico City includes colonial churches and mansions, excavated temples, museums and galleries, an opera house, monuments, a large inner-city park (Chapultepec Park) mixed in with modern office buildings. The main boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma, was modeled in the 19th Century to resemble boulevards in Paris.

The Zócalo: The heart of the city is the Zócalo, the second largest city square in the world after Moscow’s Red Square. On one side is National Cathedral (the largest in North America). The Palacio Nacional with offices of the President is on another side. They’re both magnificent Colonial buildings. In the center is a huge national flag on a tall pole. Nearby is the site where the Aztec Templo Mayor (Great Temple) has been excavated. Archaeological work began there in 1978 after workers discovered an enormous Aztec stone disc. A museum at the site displays artifacts from the excavations.

National Museum of Anthropology: Located in Chapultepec Park, this museum is one of the world’s greatest museums, partly because of its collection of Meso-American artifacts and partly because of its design. Arranged around a large covered outdoor plaza, each room is dedicated to one of the ancient civilizations of Mexico: Olmec, Teotihuacan, Oaxaca, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec. The class has lunch in the terrace outside the museum. With an English-speaking guide, they then tour the Aztec collection seeing sculptures and artwork that they learned about in school, such as the Aztec sun stone, models of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, and the headdress of Montezuma.

From here, we head by bus to Museo de Arte de Popular. It is an institution dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Mexican handcrafts and folk art. Opened in 2006, this museum is a major showcase for Mexico’s folk arts and traditions. Contemporary crafts from all over Mexico are thematically displayed, including carnival masks from Chiapas, alebrijes (fanciful animal figures) from Oaxaca and trees of life from Puebla. The museum occupies the former fire department headquarters, itself an outstanding example of 1920s art deco by architect Vicente Mendiola.

Artisan Market: Located near the MAP (Museo de Arte de Popular), we visit a lovely market filled with crafts and also luchadora masks. A popular stop!

Wednesday, March 14

Tepoztlan and Farewell Celebration 
Tepoztlan: This village, about eight miles northeast of Cuernavaca, is situated in a dramatic valley ringed by volcanic mountains. Many of the inhabitants of this region speak Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. In the center of town is a Dominican ex-convent constructed during the early colonial period. Beside the convent is a market where, on weekends and Wednesdays, local people bring their produce and crafts for sale. Tepoztlan is said to be the birthplace of Quetzecoatl (an Aztec god). There is a terrific park that houses Tepozteco, a pyramid perched on the rocky cliffs, a hefty climb for hikers wanting a spectacular vantage point of the entire valley. We may or may not climb depending on our energy level and the heat.

In the market they walk through the vegetable and meat sections, watch tortillas being made, and observe the large varieties of beans, herbs, and other products. Afterwards they divide into groups and visit the craft displays. They are treated to a local favorite, Tepoznieves, a local ice cream.

When the class returns to school they have the Farewell Party Celebration with their friends: swimming in the Williams School pool (which is used for physical education there), eating a pizza lunch in the courtyard, and finally, once parents arrive, being entertained by a traditional group of mariachis. The day ends with thank-you speeches and flower presentations by each PMFS student to their host family and friend.

Thursday, March 15

Departure Day from Cuernavaca
The class meets at the Williams School, says goodbye to their families and friends, and then takes a chartered bus to the airport in Mexico City. After going through security, the group boards the plane for their destination in the United States, where they will go through immigration and customs before connecting with the flight to Philadelphia.

Update from Building Bridges

March 14th, 2018
Category: News

Building Bridges is a group of PMFS community members who meet to support each other in learning and action around issues about which we care deeply. During this meeting time, members check in about people’s needs in relation to social justice work, as well as share ideas about a collaborative community activity to put our thoughts into action.

At our Building Bridges meeting on last week on March 3 we identified some of our goals:

  • Bring our values as a Quaker school into the world.
  • Give our children opportunities to engage with their larger Philadelphia community.
  • Enhance existing service projects to service learning and social justice opportunities.
  • Be open to diverse political views and perspectives.

We chose as our specific project to start with: deepening the school’s relationship with Historic Fair Hill, a “peace making green space in North Philadelphia, using the burial ground of human rights activists to carry forward their work for justice and peace through greening, school partnerships, and community events.” Click here for more information on Historic Fair Hill.

Our vision, at least to start, is that we would organize opportunities throughout the year for the school community to engage with Fair Hill in a variety of ways. We have identified two concrete projects for this spring and sketched out some ideas for next year.

Sunday, April 29, 3:00 – 5:00 pm at the Heiders’ house

Family garden party with Historic Fair Hill to learn more about the community and HFH’s programs there.
Opportunities for involvement include:

  • Come to the party!
  • Invite your friends.
  • Work on promotion.
  • Help set up or clean up.
  • Contribute refreshments.

Saturday, May 15, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at Fair Hill Burial Ground

Community work day, with a Philadelphia Quaker history tour and taco truck lunch. Kids encouraged.
Opportunities for involvement include:

  • Come!
  • Work on promoting the event.
  • Drive a carpool from school.

Click here to read more. Send any questions or comments to Rebecca HeiderTrina Berk, or Sarah Sweeney-Denham.