The journey that children take through the PMFS program is filled with both small, meaningful moments and memorable milestones. There are numerous traditions that students consider to be uniquely Plymouth, those central experiences that build for children as they anticipate, learn through, and reflect back on them for many years. Middle School alumni ride the unicycles they learned for the circus. High school and college age alumni join easily in singing the school song when they return for the Thanksgiving Program. Adult alumni keep in touch with the “buddies” they were matched with during their Mexican Exchange.
What do our students gain from collaborative projects?
They develop confidence, understand the power of working together, and experience the satisfaction of hard work that pays off through sustained effort and attention. They gain the courage to stretch themselves and take risks to learn and grow. They learn how to bring their best to both their individual work and a group goal, whether it’s reading a book with their reading buddy, organizing a school-wide collection of supplies for refugee families, or sharing their designs and prototypes at an Invention Convention.
Each student builds their resilience and independence through a coordinated series of class overnight experiences. PMFS overnights extend in-class learning and themes. From the First Graders’ excitement at their first sleepover to the Sixth Graders’ reflections on that they take with them from their Plymouth journey while sitting at a final campfire, students stretch themselves under the care of teachers.
First Grade: 1 night, On Campus
Second Grade: 2 days, Cabin Camping
Third Grade: 3 days, Wallops Island
Fourth Grade: 4 days, Washington DC
Fifth Grade: 2 weeks, Mexican Exchange
Sixth Grade: 2 trips, Outdoor School
Head of School Brenda calls them “Reading, weeding, and Meeting” buddies, as each class at PMFS is partnered with another grade to foster cross-grade relationships, encourage community building, and nurture understanding of people outside one’s peer group.
Kindergarteners anxiously await time with their Fifth Grade Reading Buddies each week. Third Graders joyfully share the book each has written, the results of their first official research project on an Ocean Animal, with their Pre-K buddies. First Graders enter the Meetinghouse expectantly, looking for their favorite spot next to their Sixth Grade buddy. Second and Fourth Graders gather for a service project. Activities vary, and the bonds grow throughout the year.
Campus Exploration and Stewardship
Ask any kindergartener about studying the Mary tree in Nature class. Talk to a Fifth Grader about why we compost, and how to do it well. Talk to a student in the after-school Beekeeping Club. Ask a Pre-k’er which puddles are best for finding little bugs to show the Science teacher.
They will all tell you, in their own words, how 11 acres provides the backdrop for a lifetime of memories and care.
The culmination of a family heritage research project, this luncheon is attended by Third Grade students and their families. Some Third Graders come dressed in their family’s traditional clothing. Students not only prepare and share a family recipe, they also present family stories to the luncheon guests, in this first formal speaking presentation.
At three performances in March, Fourth Grade students put on a polished show for a packed house, complete with unicycling, juggling, skits, songs, wire walking, and trapeze (and more!). Many months of physical preparation are obvious, but equally important is the collaboration and planning that have gone into students’ writing the various skits, imagining the set, and breaking down physical challenges into manageable pieces.
Mexican Exchange Program
Pennsylvania (two weeks hosting) & Cuernavaca (two weeks) – Fifth Graders participate in intercultural exchange program with students from Colegio Williams de Cuernavaca; the program is now in its 51st year. Students from each school take turns traveling, living with a host family, and being immersed in the daily life of another culture for two weeks. While forging lifelong connections, this unique fifth grade program successfully challenges children to permanently view themselves and the world differently. As guests, students notice similarities, view and celebrate differences, and differentiate trends from isolated happenings. Students grow as hosts too, as they identify and develop life skills such as empathy and putting someone else’s needs first. PMFS prepares students for this exchange throughout their years at school, from Spanish classes that steadily increase a child’s communicative abilities, to art classes that celebrate Mexican culture, to an intentional series of overnights.
Collaborating with peers and adults, Sixth Grade students learn to constructively critique themselves and others through an experience that is both process and product driven. The full-scale musical showcases students’ growth, training, and achievement in both theatrical and musical arts, giving Sixth Graders opportunities in acting, singing and dancing, as well as in collaborative set and costume design, stage, and props management. Read more about the Musical (it just doesn’t fit here!)
At Plymouth, each Sixth Grader is the graduation speaker. Their final writing project at PMFS is to create and deliver a speech that reflects on their experiences and how events have shaped them as community members, learners, thinkers, and risk-takers.
See more about how PMFS supports our student with transitions and where kids go after Plymouth at Transition to Seventh Grade
“In a way, that’s what Plymouth is trying to teach us: that the strongest communities are made up of individuals who know themselves and are not afraid to show it.”
What if your child could have…?
Freedom from Standardized Testing
At PMFS, we foster students remaining inquisitive, thoughtful, self-motivated, joyful learners. Our teachers craft engaging and challenging curriculum, and measure progress through their interactions with students and through meaningful activities. With standardized tests, we can’t learn what kind of student we have; we can only see what kind of tester the student is at the moment of testing. We can’t learn what motivates a child to learn more, what learning style they have, or what their passions and interests are.
Knowing that these types of tests will be part of our students’ lives as they move forward in their education, we believe it is valuable for students to practice them. Fourth and Fifth Graders are given standardized tests, but PMFS only compares the results to the student we know so well. At PMFS, we show children that learning time takes priority over these limited assessment tools.
Freedom to Grow at Their Own Pace
Children learn at various rates and in various ways. Sometimes children benefit from extra support or further enrichment for their developing skills. At PMFS, we are able to provide our students with strong integrated and supplementary learning support, whether in the form of targeted remediation or thoughtful enhancement when the need arises.
How are students usually identified for learning support?
As part of our Educational Care Team, our Learning Specialist works closely with teachers, through ongoing consultation and targeted student assessment, to ensure that our students’ learning needs are met. The learning specialist supplements teacher observations and benchmark assessments with a brief school-based evaluation and makes recommendations. Often, the next step is setting up a support plan in consultation with the child’s parents and teacher.
When does learning support take place?
Learning support can span one or more school years or just a few months, all depending on students’ needs. Learning support can begin at any time during the school year. Students continuing with a learning plan from the previous school year pick up their work in September or October. Younger students are often identified for support a bit later in the school year once academic needs become apparent.
Learning support during the school day can take many forms: from pull-out sessions of 20-40 minutes in small groups with the learning specialist, to a pull-out individualized program of study, to a “push-in” model of classroom-based support with an extra instructor, to a specialized plan sometimes involving targeted home study.
No matter the support model, solid partnerships with families are key to positive outcomes for students.
“Plymouth means (and is) a lot of things. Plymouth means to me a school. Plymouth means to me a community. Plymouth means to me a friendship that will last forever.”