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.

African Studies in Kindergarten

March 1st, 2018
Category: News

Kindergarten’s thematic social studies curriculum is often inspired by the students’ interests and is enriched through involving students’ family members as resources for learning. The class’ most recent study of Africa was sparked by one student’s expertise and experience of living together with his family in Ethiopia over the last school year. Sami’s dad Ermias, who grew up in Ethiopia and Eritrea, shared stories, photos and videos, as well as musical instruments and traditional Ethiopian foods with the class. Georgia’s aunt Colette, PMFS `96, shared photos from her visit to Rwanda and told Kindergartners all about silverback gorillas. On Tuesday, Kindergarten welcomed members of the modern dance company Danse4Nia, who led the students in an African dance and storytelling workshop. Our students loved acting out Anansi folktales, playing their own homemade instruments, dancing, and singing the welcome song “Funga Alafia Ashe Ashe.”

Ermias Sharing with Kindergarten (left) and Colette Presenting to Kindergarten (right)

Dancing with Danse4Nia

Learning to Trust and Discover Through a Fourth Grade Circus

February 26th, 2018
Category: News

Adults think of childhood monsters as frightening elements of the external world””the monster under the bed, something lurking in the closet that can be banished by daylight or the warmth of a cuddly blanket. Believe!, this year’s circus from Plymouth Meeting Friends School’s Fourth Grade, explores the idea that sometimes, the things that we are most afraid of are part of ourselves.

Every year since 2003, PMFS’ Fourth Grade class, under the direction of Will Starr, has performed in a Circus. From unicycles and silks to tight-rope walking and juggling, the performance is filled with all sorts of traditional circus acts, but the skits go far beyond the basics of that. This year’s production, Believe! tells the story of The Sailor, who is unsure of her own abilities, and lacks the confidence to take risks or stand up for herself. She and her companions embark on a sailing voyage, finding themselves on an island which they slowly realize might not be deserted after all.

The audience becomes aware that there is a mysterious creature who may be experiencing a struggle of its own. The creature reflects The Sailor’s own ambivalence, and is almost the manifestation of her feelings about her own potential. Is the creature something to fear, or is it something to embrace? Should The Sailor steer clear of risk, or push herself to see what she is capable of?

This tension between safety on the edges or immersing oneself in something unknown mirrors the students’ own path to the Fourth Grade Circus. For fifteen years, teacher Will Starr, now joined by Isa Hahmann, has understood that learning to believe in one’s self is essential to creating a circus. As part of this beloved PMFS rite of passage, Fourth Graders learn unicycle, aerials, and a variety of other challenging circus skills and are also tasked with preparing the stage, spotting each other, and learning to craft a cohesive production.

A performance of high caliber, the Fourth Graders are challenged both physically and creatively to stretch beyond their own imaginings, and to banish any fears and doubts about their own abilities. The result is a spectacular show that highlights not only their newly-found skills, but also their journey to the stage. At the heart of Believe! lies a fundamental truth: that the artistry and self-expression of children has a high value, and that this faith in their achievements can be transformative for performers and audience alike.

Evening performances run Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17, 7:00 – 8:15 pm. To purchase tickets ($7), click here to download a copy of the order form.

Fromage aux Papillons

February 26th, 2018
Category: News

Or “Cheese in Butterflies”

Butterflies Teacher Kate traveled to Paris recently and brought back with her goodies to share with the Butterfly students. In their very own Parisian Café, everyone sampled the colorful macaroons and various kinds of cheese, talking about their different properties. What a lucky class- while they just see cheese and sweets, their teachers are providing an opportunity for students to develop their cognitive skills to observe, notice, and compare.

Brain Breaks for Mindfulness in First Grade

February 22nd, 2018
Category: News

In First Grade, as in all grades at PMFS, students are encouraged to take Brain Breaks to be able to reengage with””or simply begin””learning. As one First Grader said, “Brain Breaks are something we do to get our energy out so we can focus. Like before Math, Jane will give us a Brain Break, like run laps or something, so we can get the job done.” Another remarked, “it lets us get the air out of our bodies so we can learn.” First Grade Teacher Jane has filled a mug with Popsicle sticks, each ascribed with a different idea for a Brain Break. Yesterday, a First Grader drew the “Water Pump Laps” stick. Students promptly left the carpet, lined up at the back door of the First Grade classroom, and ran out back to excitedly do 10 laps around the water pump behind the Emerson Building.

Water Pump Laps in Action

On the topic of the importance of mindfulness, Phyllis has shared the following resources on discussing this abstract concept to children: Mindfulness and the Brain””How to Explain It to Children.

PMFS Mexican Exchange Program Featured in the News

February 21st, 2018
Category: News

A feature on the Mexican Exchange Program and how our Fifth Graders work to build bridges, not walls was published online on Times Herald’s and Montgomery News’ websites. Print publication to follow in the Colonial newspaper (dated February 25) and a Times Herald during the same time period.