At Lancaster Friends School, we know that learners learn best when they feel safe, valued, and loved. LFS uses an expeditionary learning (learning through exploring) philosophy that includes learning through inquiry, reflection, collaboration, and service. Our child-centered, query-based curriculum promotes critical thinking skills, respectful discussion and group work, reflection, and connection to the broader community and world. Across all subject areas, we include and focus on figures and information representing the full diversity and citizenship of the world. Historical and contemporary justice for all groups is emphasized in the materials we use and the lessons we teach.
Quakers are seekers of truth. The philosophy and curriculum of Lancaster Friends School (LFS) encourages students to be truth seekers.
Friends Council on Education notes that Quaker schools help students to become truth seekers through inquiry based learning in the sciences, the arts, and across the entire curriculum. All LFS students and staff attend weekly meetings for worship. During shared silence, students are encouraged to quiet their thoughts, reflect inwardly, connect with community spirit, and share as they are moved. Through quiet reflection, dialogue, and service learning, students practice the skills needed to become successful seekers of truth. Friends' education affirms the values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equity, and stewardship/service and are integral to curriculum planning and community building. Lancaster Friends School is in a care relationship with Lancaster Monthly Meeting, which provides spiritual support and guidance.
Physical and Health Education
Physical Education provides intellectual stimulation and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge, and behaviors for physical activity and physical fitness.
Daily physical education can provide students with the ability and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime. Students are encouraged to move their bodies through dance, yoga, meditation, and organized sports in a non-competitive, spirit building way, and games from many cultures. All body types are respected and celebrated as our continued culture of caring in our school. Students learn about their bodies and minds focusing on personal wellness and autonomy. As students grow, physical education becomes more challenging and health education becomes more nuanced. Focus is on personal growth and respect for the strength of bodies.
Health education (HE) provides information and skills that are critical throughout life; it empowers students and encourages agency over their health. Health literacy provides tools and knowledge to help learners make healthier decisions and to be successful in their endeavors throughout their lives. Students explore safety and first-aid; food and nutrition; weight management and exercise; communication skills, decision making, and mental health issues.
Of course, health education includes healthy, age appropriate sexuality education. Sexuality education is integral to comprehensive health education. Younger students begin with topics such as characteristics of family, friendship boundaries, and safety. Older students have access to current and accurate sexuality information, as well as continued opportunities to ask questions, participate in discussion, practice communication skills, refusal skills, etc. Trauma informed presentations of sexuality education and intentioned modeling of non cis- and hetero-normative language is important in an education that emphasizes and strives for equity and inclusion.
Lancaster Friends School seeks to develop well-rounded students, and makes the arts a priority.
The art curriculum emphasizes developing visual skills and exploring a variety of media, including painting, collage, 3D design, photography, and digital media. This allows students to develop a wide collection of skills that encourage them to recognize their artistic capability and appreciate the uniqueness and diversity of art. Each spring, all students will submit their work and participate in the All-School Art Show, open to all community members.
We work with the inherent musical ability every child possesses. We engage with music playfully, adding to our knowledge and skills through listening, moving, creating and performing. We apply our understanding of historical and cultural context to the music we are familiar with as well as new genres, including exposure to music from around the world. By applying our intellect, emotion, and technical abilities we experience interactions which are a source of joy for the individual and a source of connection within the group. Musical literacy and artistic inspiration and expression are explored in all grades. Students may also elect to participate in Chorus as well as Band and Strings Ensemble beginning in Grade 4. All students participate in the Winter and Spring concerts.
Social Emotional Learning
Social emotional learning (SEL) is Integrated into daily activities, interactions, and lessons, as well as supported by the Quaker practices & testimonies.
For example, calling teachers by their first names demonstrates mutual respect. Students are valued and listened to in a variety of ways. Class meetings are an opportunity for students to voice any concerns, be heard, listen to each other, problem solve, and take ownership of their experience, relationships, and environment at school. Regular mindfulness activities and Meeting for Worship allow students opportunities to connect with their spirit and inner voice.
In addition to these practices ingrained in our daily lives, students will benefit from Anti Bias/Anti Racist curriculum as guided by the Learning for Justice ABAR framework. This curriculum encourages a strong understanding of personal identity, the value and appreciation for others, and advocacy skills for justice for ourselves and others.
In addition LFS will use the resources from the Toolbox Project. These “tools'' allow students to manage emotions and relationships, make good decisions, and be self-aware. The concrete and visual reminders help students keep these practices accessible and give educators a common language around SEL. These skills can help students have a more positive attitude about school and learning, reduce emotional distress and aggressive behavior, and improve academic skills.
Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that connects academic curriculum to community problem-solving, and provides students with authentic experiences in working with others to build more just and peaceful communities.
By providing opportunities within the curriculum for students to identify and act on issues to witness and understand the needs of others, we hope to instill in LFS students critical social, emotional, and cognitive skills, and prepare them for a life that includes service. Toward this end, the school uses an approach to service learning in which students learn to: identify a problem in their community; prepare to act on that problem through research and collaboration with community partners; develop a plan and take meaningful action; and reflect on their experience and what was learned. Through this approach, students demonstrate mastery of new insights and skills, while exercising compassion, social responsibility, and care for humanity or the natural world.
Mixed-age Classrooms by Design
Classes with multiple ages allow for an authentic community where students learn from each other.
One of the special features of our school is what is often called mixed-age classrooms, or composite classes: having two or more grades in the same classroom.
There are numerous benefits to these educational environments. Older children benefit from more leadership opportunities, building self-esteem through being a role model to younger classmates. Younger children aspire to do work like the older children in the class and appreciate having older friends to whom they can go with questions. It allows the mixing with a wider range of children than they would have otherwise, building a more authentic community. Having mixed-age classrooms fosters environments that are more like real-world scenarios or communities children may encounter later in life - from high school classes with multiple grades to workplace teams in which individuals of all ages collaborate.
Students benefit academically as well; they are more likely to find work that suits their ability with a wider range of educational material, and collaborative work can happen when students at different stages of learning help each other and resolve differences in understanding. Students also benefit from having the same teacher for multiple years, creating a stronger relationship. A less competitive academic atmosphere is fostered when there are students learning at a variety of levels.
Here are some comments from parents in praise of this arrangement:
“It allows kids to learn from each other and lets 1st graders learn from the 2nd graders.”
“The 2nd graders learn how to lead and how to be patient. Kids learn to experience different sides of their personalities, that resist the labels people impose on children. This lets them try on different roles of leaders and followers. Also, in some areas Finn was a little advanced, so in 1st grade he profited from being with 2nd graders.”
“Vertical groups give a student an advantage by being able to mentor the younger kids. My daughter in (the) 4th through 6th class learned to appreciate the 4th graders very well. The school has so many opportunities to learn from different perspectives and experiences.”
Lower School (K-5)
Utilizing rich and varied experiences in the classroom, school, and community, LFS elementary students develop inquiry, reasoning, problem-solving, and communication skills. We know that students love to experiment and explore issues that have personal relevance. They learn best by doing and by being fully engaged in the learning process.
At LFS, we recognize the differences in learning styles and focus on each child's unique physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth. Guided by Quaker values, the curriculum is flexible and can adapt to students' and teachers' interests and needs. Our expeditionary learning (learning through exploring) philosophy includes learning through inquiry, reflection, collaboration, and service. The child-centered, query-based curriculum promotes critical thinking skills, respectful discussion and group work, reflection, and connection to the broader community and world.
Our curriculum emphasizes historical and contemporary justice for all groups. Across all areas, we include and focus on figures and information representing the full diversity and citizenship of the world. As early as pre-school, children are aware of their peers' differences. Studies show that children have established their racial beliefs by age 12. This makes addressing issues of race and other biases an essential component of early elementary education. Teaching and learning about race begin with the children's observations. Utilizing children's innate sense of fairness and justice, students examine social justice issues that emerge from their own processes of making sense of the world.
To take a more in-depth look at the Lower School curriculum areas, click here.
Middle School (6-8)
The Middle School years are a period of tremendous growth for students, both personally and academically. During this time, our students take increasing responsibility for themselves and their learning. We offer a balanced curriculum based on best practices. We also recognize that all experiences, not solely the academic subjects, are educational. Students advance from LFS confident in their academic and interpersonal skills, prepared for the opportunities of high school and beyond.
Early adolescence is a time for active exploration and problem-solving. Students develop their knowledge and skills through collaboration, creativity, innovation, and critical thinking. It is a time for students to integrate what they're learning into their lives while at the same time taking responsibility in the global community. Our student-centered, query-based curriculum promotes critical thinking skills, respectful discussion and group work, reflection, and connection to the broader community and world.
Personal relationships, community building, and commitment to social justice are central to this growth. Each individual's worth is recognized and upheld while our Quaker values continue to inspire students' social, emotional, spiritual, and academic development. Students take active roles in the community addressing social justice, environmental and other issues.
To take a more in-depth look at the Upper School curriculum areas, click here.