Child in the Chair

July 31, 2020 - By Melissa Carroll, Head of School

Many years ago I attended a conference on curriculum mapping. The presenter, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, placed an empty chair in the middle of the room. She asked us to imagine one of our students in that space and to keep that child at the center of all conversations, questions, and ideas throughout our time together. We were to ask ourselves, “What is in the best interest of this child?” Jacobs emphasized that our success as educators and schools lies in our ability to intentionally prioritize the needs of students over everything else.

At PFS we are doing just that. As a progressive and Quaker School our faculty are authentically open to the possibilities that come with adapting to change. Perhaps that is what distinguishes us from others.

One solution to the challenge of providing safe and healthy learning spaces is outdoor education. PFS is beautifully situated on spacious land that lends itself to a natural learning environment. New research comes out everyday confirming what we’ve known all along: learning outdoors improves executive functioning skills, provides sensory experiences, and improves overall physical and mental health. Open air spaces seem to be the safest for us to interact as humans during a time of Covid.

What an opportunity this presents! Right now, faculty are adapting curriculum to be project-based and conducive to outdoor learning across content areas. Our conversations are bringing to life dreams of an environmental education makerspace, integrated Central Studies and History, and a library on the move. We are reenvisioning our theatre and physical education curriculum to be intentionally interdisciplinary and reflective of the physical, social, and emotional needs of children. We are adapting spaces and places to hold on to treasured community times like Morning Meeting, Settling In, sing-a-long, and Advisory. We are increasing instructional time for core content areas including Math, English, History, and Science because we know depth over breadth matters.

Each of these ideas is taking hold because we are a community focused on “the child in the chair”. I can’t imagine a better time to be at Princeton Friends School.

My best,