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Curriculum

Teachers work in collaboration, with support from Academic Dean, Tracie Mastronicola, and Middle School Head, Andrew Salverda, to develop and deliver a challenging and joyful learning experience.

  • We strive for our curriculum to be “narrow and deep.” Our preference is to do fewer things and do them well.
     
  • We focus on building the traits of great learners—tenacity, patience, self-knowledge, collaboration and the willingness to take risks. We emphasize process as much as product, building each student’s work ethic and self-evaluative skills through engagement in challenging problem solving.
     
  • We integrate our curriculum as thoroughly as possible. Each middle school grade has guiding questions that all disciplines work to connect to in meaningful ways.
     
  • We weave service into the lives of our students, putting learning and understanding into action, and helping students use their natural affinities to identify and serve community needs. We foster reciprocal relationships with organizations in our neighborhood and city, and we work to bring the concept of stewardship to life in our school building, neighborhood, city, and beyond throughout the year.
     
  • We mindfully develop responsibility and integrity in our students’ lives. We understand that the knowledge, skills, and wisdom necessary to live rich and balanced lives come from information, perspective, practice, and the opportunity to learn through experience.
     
  • We encourage students to continue trying new things in middle school—in sports, music, art, drama, and in each academic discipline we invite students to experiment, tackle new skills, make new commitments, join new activities, develop new friendships, and learn the rewards that come from stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
     
  • We are comfortable talking about complex ideas—politics, religion, spirituality, privilege, diversity—and help students listen deeply, find resources, articulate their thoughts and feelings, and develop both individuality and a deepening commitment to community.

Advisory Program

The purpose of the middle school advisory program is to support the academic and social/ emotional development of our students. The program strives to promote positive social and academic behavior and growth, increase self-awareness, and encourage good decision making in our students. It also provides students with adult advocacy to monitor and support their progress throughout the year.

The role of the advisor in the lives of Friends School students is enormously important. Effective growth—whether it is social, emotional, moral, or intellectual—often takes place in the context of an interpersonal relationship. Students understand that their advisor is aware of their progress throughout the year and serves as their advocate. While student-led conferences are set times for advisors to communicate with parents, advisors also have regular, less formal conversations (via phone, via e-mail, or in person) with parents when issues of concern arise or appreciations need to be expressed. Students keep academic portfolios throughout the year, which the advisors help them manage and reflect upon.

Trips

Trips are a critical part of the Friends School experience. Whether it is walking around our neighborhood in the Mission, chatting in Spanish with host families in Nicaragua, or backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains—students are stretched and challenged in new ways, all the while learning deeply about themselves, each other, and the world. Middle school sees the continuation of our outdoor education curriculum, which starts in kindergarten. Beyond the appreciation of and connection to nature, our trips have deep ties to our curriculum and put our Quaker values in action through Worship Sharing, reflection, and service.

At Friends School, we believe that these trips have the greatest impact when students understand that travel is a privilege, trips cost a lot, and raising funds only increases the pleasure and learning on each trip. This creates a sense of ownership of the trips, and students raise funds for their portion in very creative and entrepreneurial ways.

Silent Reflection

Meeting for Worship, a time set aside for silent reflection, takes place once each week. Middle school students gather together with the full school community, with their classmates, or with their younger “buddy” class, and settle into a period of quiet. On trips, students enjoy extended periods of silence in nature, allowing them to center themselves, activate their senses, think through the most important things in their lives, and listen deeply to the voice within. The practice of reflection has personal and intellectual value, and fosters students’ social/emotional development and academic growth.