Letter From the Head of School
You know it when you walk in the door. This is a Friends School and Lansdowne Friends School is a rare and wonderful place.
Lansdowne Friends School ~ Right Here, Right Now
Lansdowne Friends School serves children from three years through sixth grade. This is the most important time in a child's life and Lansdowne Friends School is the best place for any child to learn and grow - right here - right now. We provide many opportunities for children, staff and parents to KNOW, BE and DO in profound and genuine ways because we are a small Friends elementary school with committed professionals who know what they are doing. We embrace the joys, richness and challenges of a diverse population and we are grounded in Quaker values.
At Lansdowne Friends School each member of the community is known and can participate fully in the life of the school and in their learning. Participation helps individuals thrive and makes our community a vibrant institution. Genuine, experiential learning can be offered and managed in a small school. For example, older students construct raised beds for younger students to plant and tend their strawberry patch. Musical productions, such as "A Year with Frog and Toad" and "101 Dalmatians" are student productions from start to finish and wonderfully presented to a packed houses. Children experienced all aspects of producing and performing a show expressing their creativity, solving problems, and conquering opening night jitters together.
Lansdowne Friends School teachers know students' strengths and gifts as well as needs and challenges. They differentiate instruction so students can work hard, and reach their full potential. Our curriculum is organized by themes, and students and teachers make inquiries and learn together. Projects are designed and presented in ways that draw on student interests, strengths, talents and needs and are assessed in ways that reflect authentic learning. A recent A Tree Inquiry Day is a good example. Students did an in depth inquiry of trees with their teachers in their science classes and with Paul Grobstein from Bryn Mawr's Center for Science in Society, which is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant. The students prepared stations for guests to actively learn about plant cells, root systems, and measuring tree height with a clinometer. They each adopted a tree on the campus and created and displayed an herborarium of their tree. Students thoroughly understood the concepts they were sharing because of the hands on experiences with these concepts in many ways. They were so enthusiastic and confidant in their knowledge. It was a wonderful example of authentic, genuine, joyful learning enjoyed by students, staff and guests.
Meeting for Worship and Worship Sharing are times when we formally and intentionally stop, get centered and "be." We still our hearts and minds in order to listen to our inner selves and when that inner voice is led to share those big thoughts, we stand and speak our truth to the group. It is one way we nurture the spirit. Being still in Meeting for Worship is difficult for children and the skills are carefully scaffolded and deliberately taught. We begin all business meetings and staff meetings in Silence so that our work is grounded.
Lansdowne Friends School is fertile ground for personal growth. Safe space, time and attention are given to interpersonal skills and self-knowledge. At LFS members of this community can be who they are and are given time to reflect on themselves and their actions and to seek the truth individually and collectively. Members are accepted and valued which allows healthy risk taking, problem solving, conflict resolution and opportunities for growth through experimentation with different personas, interests and talents.
Teachers apply principles and strategies of Responsive Classroom, a social curriculum which helps children take responsibility for their behavior, learning and materials. It sets the stage for individuals to learn to operate as a member of a group and to wrestle with the tension between the wants and needs of the individual and the good of the group. Time and energy are devoted to helping children sort through confusing feelings and behaviors and to be strong advocates for themselves. Right from the start our youngest students are encouraged to "use their words" to express what they need and to listen to the words of their classmates as they learn to resolve conflicts. Through the years children learn to care for themselves and for each other and to be supportive allies.
Members of the Lansdowne Friends School Community develop a "can do" attitude by offering opportunities for meaningful participation, emphasis on process and child centeredness. Whether it is a new and interesting inquiry such as our all school theme on Iraq, a problem to be solved such as feeding the homeless or a job to be done such as student access to computers, LFS students, teachers and parents have many opportunities to step up, get it done and experience the satisfaction of success...and nothing breeds success like success.
Speaking of success I am proud to say that Lansdowne Friends School is accredited by Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS), which is a member in good standing of the National Association of Independent Schools Commission of Accreditation.
The PAIS team commended us for a rich thematic curriculum developed by dedicated, passionate teachers, our small caring community grounded in Quaker values and a deep knowledge of children, our Greening Young Minds project and exciting outdoor learning spaces, partnerships with institutions of higher learning, improved security, enhanced relationship with the Meeting and our strategic planning process and initiatives. Now we need to keep moving forward on our initiatives such as forming a technology working group to do some longer range planning and to keep reviewing our curriculum map. We are charged with taking the steps needed to turn our plans into action and results. Lansdowne Friends School is the kind of community that will get it done. It's the kind of place where two mothers who had never led Parent Group business meetings were asked to serve. They said yes and are doing a wonderful job and taking pleasure in their success. It's the kind of place where a School Committee who had never done a capital campaign dove in and ran a marvelously successful campaign to "green" our campus. Now we are ready for the challenge of our next campaign to make our strategic plan a reality. It's the kind of place where children learn to design their own projects and plan their work.
Graduation celebrates the deep levels of knowing, being and doing at Lansdowne Friends School. Year after year our graduates' speeches illustrate their strong self images seeing themselves as serious students, confidant in their abilities and ready to tackle the next step in their educational careers. Year after year our graduates enter their new schools well prepared. LFS students excel and have been honored in academics, the arts, and sports. Our graduates keep coming back, giving back to the school they love. Just look at the Annual Report to see how many alumni give back. Nolan Borgman from the class of 2002 found another way to give back. He fulfilled his high school service project at Lansdowne Friends School and wrote to his supervising teachers, "I succeeded in giving back and simultaneously rediscovered my roots. I have always loved Lansdowne Friends, but as I look back on it with slightly more mature eyes I see exactly why it is so special: teachers like you." You only need to come to homecoming and hear the stories shared by our alumni from the 40's to the 90's to 2009 about the value of a Lansdowne Friends School's education in living a life with integrity: from lives of important accomplishments in the world to everyday kinds of lives having an important impact on others.
Lansdowne Friends School is the best place for your child right now because together we KNOW, BE and DO in very real ways. Our attention, talents and energy are directed at early childhood and elementary school aged children. We are not distracted by secondary school issues nor are our students overshadowed or upstaged by older students. We are designed for young and elementary aged students physically, socially, academically and spiritually to fulfill our mission to engage, challenge respect and care - right here and right now.
~ Susan Stone, Head of School
You don't have to be a Quaker to appreciate the Quaker values at Lansdowne Friends School. My children learned respect for hard work, self-esteem and caring for and cooperating with others. Children of all backgrounds come here and they learn to work and play together peacefully. I love this school!
~ Non-Quaker parent of three alumni