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william penn charter school

re inventing

classic


william penn charter school

re inventing

classic


william penn charter school

reinventing

classic


classic: timeless. original. valuable.

a classic education has always been about gaining the keys of knowledge to unlock any door. In short, access to the world. The difference at Penn Charter is that along with classic academic keys, we give students a Quaker moral compass to guide them and friends of all backgrounds with whom to travel and explore the world. We integrate the power of arts and athletics into a vigorous academic experience. We give students a culture of service and leadership in which to grow. Classically educated, only better.

A one-of-a-kind education that will change a student’s life forever.

timeless original valuable


a history of access

When you walk through Penn Charter’s red doors, there’s a reason our formal-looking school suddenly feels down to earth. Penn Charter was founded not for some people but for all people. It was one of the first schools open to children of all religions and races, one of the first to educate girls and to offer financial aid. It was a school for the public at a time when public schools didn’t exist. Today, families from more than 100 zip codes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, from all cultures, faiths and means, are at home here. Penn Charter works hard to make sure that talented students from all income levels have access to Penn Charter. History is often a reliable indicator of the future. This school was founded for the new world, and that is as true today as it was in 1689. We encourage families looking for a superb education for their children to walk through our doors. They are open to all. William Penn’s Charter William Penn Charter School is the oldest Quaker school in the world, established in 1689 by William Penn. The school that William Penn founded was different from schools elsewhere. Penn wanted his school to offer a new kind of education that would prepare young people to be teachers, merchants, builders and farmers, as well as political and professional leaders. Penn knew that Pennsylvania needed leaders of high moral character, so his school was to include classical languages and literature, not to make preachers of its students but to help them visualize and create an ideal society. William Penn

1689

1700

1800

The First “Public” School

The Treaty Elm In front of the school stands a direct descendant of the great elm tree under which William Penn is said to have signed a treaty of friendship with the Lenni Lenape. Just like that tree, we are deeply rooted in time-honored human values of mutual respect, equality and community that are not open for compromise. This is who we are. As one of our teachers has said, “That’s what I like about coming to school every day. I know that there are some things here that will always be open for improving, but there are some things here that will never change.”

2 | william penn charter school

William Penn’s unique concept was to create a school of “arts and sciences” open not only to the wealthy but also to students of limited means. The fifth oldest school in the country, Penn Charter was among the first to offer: education to different religions (1689), financial aid (1701), education for girls (1754) and education for all Betsy Ross races (1770). Betsy Ross, AfricanAmerican abolitionist and businessman James Forten, and Roberts Vaux, the man who led the movement for a public school law in Pennsylvania, were all students of the original Penn Charter.

Boys from All Backgrounds In 1874 a group of schools operating under the original Penn Charter consolidated as a private all-boys college preparatory school, but the original school’s public school roots had a lasting impact. Throughout the next century, boys of all faiths and economic backgrounds continued to come together at Penn Charter. Need-based financial aid often made this possible. One alumnus from the class of 1961, an academic star and student leader, speaks for many alumni of his generation when he says: “Without the imagination and gumption” [of a Penn Charter donor] and “the moral and financial help I got to attend the school, I would not have gone on to attend Harvard, and I wouldn’t have had the career and the life I’ve had.”


Academic Prep for Non-Penn Charter Students For more than 40 summers, Penn Charter’s College Prep program has made the school’s resources available to Philadelphia public school students with dreams of college. The program is directed by Penn Charter faculty. And, in recent summers, Penn Charter has hosted two additional programs: Breakthrough Collaborative, for underserved high school students, and Steppingstone, which prepares high-achieving, low-income fourth and fifth graders for private school and higher education.

City and Suburban Families

Access for the Youngest

Penn Charter was originally a downtown urban school. The search for a campus that could accommodate the academic and athletic needs of an ever-growing student body from a broader and broader radius stretching west and north of Philadelphia and even into New Jersey took more than 50 years. The school’s location on School House Lane was worth the wait. We have a green, wide-open campus that is still in the city. That’s appealing to a lot of different kinds of families who come here from all over and feel comfortable.

There are many definitions of access. In the fall of 2008, Penn Charter opened its doors to the youngest of students. It’s not every day that we get to add a new grade and two dozen students. The program for four-year-olds builds on Penn Charter’s tradition of Quaker education as well as best practices in teaching and learning for young children. The philosophy: Children learn best when they feel safe, loved and respected. Project-based learning engages the passions and interests of our school’s youngest minds.

1900

Today’s Student Body At the start of its fourth century, Penn Charter is more diverse than ever. More than a third of our students receive financial aid; more than a quarter identify themselves as students of color. Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Protestantism are all represented, and many of our families blend different religious backgrounds. As one graduating senior said, “It’s extraordinary: An amazing college prep education surrounded by all different kinds of people.”

2000

TODAY

Visionary Leadership

Girls Excel in a New Era Girls enrolled in kindergarten and first grade throughout the 20th century, but Penn Charter became fully coed again in 1980. The mother of two alumnae says coming to a previously all-boys school may have given her girls an advantage: “My daughters graduated in 2004. It may sound odd, but I think for them it was an excellent education partly because it had previously been all boys. As an all-boys school there already existed the expectation that every student had access to every opportunity — athletics, music, academics, leadership. I think that freed my daughters to challenge themselves, raise the bar and do it all — be softball players, be excellent students and be involved in the arts. That expectation already existed for boys. It comes from this school, and it shifted to both genders when the school went coed.”

Never a school to rest on its laurels, we’re constantly thinking about what’s next. And we’re fortunate enough to have a leader to take us there. Our head of school, Darryl Ford, is one of the next generation of rising stars in independent school leadership. He is also the parent of young children who attend Penn Charter. Ford’s rise to leadership embodies all that Penn Charter has accomplished over the years and the promise of what is yet to come. A graduate of a Quaker school himself with a PhD in Educational Administration, Institutional and Policy Studies from the University of Chicago, Ford was the director of our Middle School for 10 years before becoming head of school. He has said, “What I like about Penn Charter is that with this rich history we could always be looking back, but instead we’re always looking forward.” Where does he see the school Darryl Ford going? “I see our students having additional experiences that really connect them to a global world, whether that’s traveling to a faraway place, or trying to adopt a school and build a school building in Cambodia. Or whether it’s having more connections with people from around the world coming to us at Penn Charter.” In terms of being the first African-American head of the William Penn Charter School, Ford says, “I am happy that I was selected to lead this extraordinary institution because of whatever talents I bring to the table, but I am equally happy that I come into this schoolhouse every day as an African-American man. I am very proud of that fact.” Now that he is a Penn Charter parent, he says, “I have another perspective of just how wonderful our faculty and program are and how exciting an educational institution this place is. My sons come to school excited every day and they come home excited every day. I understand how special this place is even more now that they are here.”

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reinvent classic with us Penn Charter is constantly building on the classic framework. Here’s what that can mean to a Lower, Middle and Upper School students and their teachers. Penn Charter is constantly building on the classic framework. Here’s what that can mean for Lower, Middle and Upper School students and their teachers.

reinvent classic with us


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Reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in high school.

Two-hour English final exams.

Class discussions.

Studying plant life in biology class.

Lower School math, Middle School math, Upper School math.

Teaching students Spanish language and culture.

Writing about the connections between The Catcher in the Rye, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.

Assessing the year’s learning through final writing portfolios that reflect the process of draft and revision necessary for quality.

Class discussions that continue online to teach students to think independently, to teach them how to push and extend what another student has already said and to allow students who are not outspoken in a traditional classroom to have a different medium through which to carry the conversation.

Contributing to biology research on growing edible plants in space at a University of Pennsylvania lab and presenting the work at a national conference of scientists.

Teachers in all divisions collaborating on a pre-K through grade 12 math curriculum.

Teaching Spanish language and culture, beginning in kindergarten.

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Meet Some

reinventors

Penn Charter teachers have been recognized as some of the best in the nation (see page 12). They value the tried and true, which is what allows them to push beyond to create something new. As Antonio Williams, chair of the math department says, “If you don’t accept the fact that you’re constantly learning, being a great teacher can pass you by.” Catherine Ezzo, English teacher, adds, “That is something that always impresses me about my colleagues here. We always ask, ‘What goals are we working toward?’ We revisit our pedagogical thinking. That keeps us paying attention to what’s working and not working, and how the environment is changing, and how students’ lives are changing.” Here are some of the insights this kind of questioning has prompted.

“You can present math in so many different ways, algebraically, numerically and geometrically. If you’re a visual learner, being able to see how math works is priceless. That’s what some of the new technology we’re using allows. You can actually put an algebraic process on the screen and see the value of Y decreasing as it gets closer to value zero but never really gets there. Students buy into it when they can see it, and it helps them think out of the box when they’re trying to put things together on their own.”— ANTONIO Williams

“Right now, my seventh graders are doing a project about immigrants in Philadelphia. I’m excited about what they’re doing, but even as I’m in the throes of that, several of the seventh grade teachers and I have been in conversation about how we can change the project and reimagine it and refashion it. We want it to be even more interdisciplinary. Right now it is primarily a social studies and English project. We will be working this summer to give science and math faculty more ownership of the project as well. We want more players to have more say about what this project is and what it can be. We want it to be of even more value to the students so it can be a peak experience for them during their seventh grade year.” — ALICE BATEMAN


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Staging a class play in elementary school.

Finding a niche as a scholar, artist or athlete.

Independent student community service projects.

Current event debates in middle school social studies.

Learning from textbooks.

Going to school with kids in your neighborhood.

Elementary school curricula driven by subject content.

Working with published playwrights to write a play, and stage it as part of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights program.

Finding a niche as all three.

Connecting students doing independent service projects via an online class for which they read and discuss relevant books and personal essays on service and the city of Philadelphia, sharing insights as they develop and complete their projects.

Deep research of contentious policy issues in which students play out various sides in a round-table discussion and learn that complex issues are often oversimplified into pro and con or liberal and conservative sides.

Learning from teachers who write the textbooks.

Going to school with kids from all over.

Using research in neuroscience, child development and education to retool curricula and learning support, resulting in differentiated instruction that respects diverse learning styles.

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Studying geography in middle school.

Learning about sine curves in trigonometry.

Music appreciation class.

Studying immigration through Ellis Island.

Painting self-portraits in kindergarten.

Physical education that takes place in a gym.

Learning from knowledgeable teachers.

8 | william penn charter school

Using real-life geographer’s tools (handheld global positioning systems) to complete campus scavenger hunts.

Learning about sine curves by charting your life’s course — the highs of vacations and commencements, the lows of disappointment and loss — as a sine curve, and analyzing what that process has taught you about math.

Studying the music industry and the history of rock ’n’ roll.

Increasing global fluency by researching historic and contemporary immigration to the U.S. from all over the world; bringing in outside speakers with first-person immigration stories; field trips to Philadelphia neighborhoods that have large and diverse immigrant populations.

Integrating art, math, language arts, fine motor skills, cultural awareness and social studies into a self-portrait project. Students mix different paints to create a hue that matches their complexion. Students learn that they are more than “white,” “black,” “brown,” “yellow” or “red.” They make discoveries about what is the same and different about individuals and their families.

Rock climbing, canoeing, yoga classes and lifelong wellness skills that recognize that, after college, most students will no longer play team sports. So what do they need to know about body alignment, nutrition and activities they can continue into adulthood to remain fit and healthy?

Learning from knowledgeable teachers who are friends and mentors.


“Elementary school social studies reports are a classic, but we’ve learned to complement written reports with additional approaches that bring out multiple intelligences. We’ve found that drama brings out something in kids that we don’t necessarily see come out in paper and pencil. So a few years ago, we started doing a play where we design scenes around some aspect of their research.”

— Naveena Bembry

“White students are very used to being asked to read books by authors of color and to think about them from ‘the other’ perspective. If they’re thinking in those terms, that means they’ve learned about this dialog in a particular way. They’re not thinking, ‘What is my experience? How can I think on my experience and how that plays into the conversation and dynamic about race?’ So, in terms of a classic education, I’m thinking about reinventing that whole experience, and flipping it around.” — Catherine Ezzo


All Three

Aca d emic s • A rt s • At h letic s The combination of the three A’s — academics, arts, athletics — and the decisionmaking values of a Quaker education create an experience uniquely Penn Charter. It’s a rare thing to find a school that cultivates intellectual, artistic and athletic depth equally well. Too often the three A’s are pitted against one another. Penn Charter recognizes the worthiness of each. The interplay of the three A’s within each student’s education leads to strong, creative, resilient and flexible people — people who are able to adjust, reposition and be ready for any opportunity that comes their way. Dear Students: Success at Penn Charter is all about reaching beyond yourself and testing new waters. You engage, you challenge yourself and you gain a certain level of achievement. To do that, you explore — new foreign languages, new sports, new clubs. Because of the great mix of academics, arts, athletics, clubs and service opportunities we have here, when you test those waters, you will not only achieve, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

reinventing classic | 11


We are a school with nationally recognized

teachers and students in science, arts, history, literature, music, writing, mathematics, languages and theater. We have a proud history of championship athletics with graduates who

spaces in all three of our

go on to be NCAA recruits,

hallmark A’s. Our teachers

Olympians and professional

have been recognized for

sports stars. Students here

excellence by the White

have mentors and programs,

House Commission on

and state-of-the-art

Presidential Scholars,

and Williams. Sixty-eight

the National Board for

percent of Penn Charter

Professional Teaching Standards, colleges and

12 | william penn charter school

teachers have been

like MIT, the

commissioned

University

to compose

of Chicago,

works for the

Danny’s Fourth Grade Experience Spanish Language Arts Social Studies Library Music Health P.E.

degrees. These

universities

3 A’s in Lower School Morning Meeting Math Science Art Lunch Recess Computers

teachers hold advanced

After School Enrichment: Tuesday and Thursday: Sports (baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer or softball) Wednesday: Handbell choir, cooking, mosaics, animation, drama, guitar, dance, poetry or origami


London Symphony

12 attained recognition for

Orchestra and Chorus.

excellent performance on the

They are Fulbright Scholars and recipients of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and

the National Science Foundation. They have

been named teachers and coaches of the year by organizations

as varied as the global engineering and electronics company Siemens, to Philadelphia Area Spanish Educators and the

recent National Spanish

athletics. In recent years, Penn Charter students have been recognized as national

Examination. In one

year alone, 19 fifth grade

merit scholars and received

writers won recognition in

top honors on AP

the Philadelphia Young

examinations in

Playwrights contest and in

subjects ranging

a five-year span, 14 students

from Latin

finished in first place.

to Art History

Students have won honors

to Chemistry. More than 60 percent

in Model UN, Mock Trial and Math Counts, and

of the students studying

placement in programs for

Spanish in grades 8 through

future leaders and scholars.

National Football League.

Several of our faculty have written or contributed to textbooks used in schools around the country. Our faculty has presented to national conferences and invited other teachers here to observe innovative use of technology, interdisciplinary teaching and differentiated instruction.

Working with these brilliant and talented teachers, our students achieve great heights in academics, the arts and

3 A’s in Middle School

Hailey’s Seventh Grade Experience Sharped Flats (a cappella ensemble) practice

English Social Studies Living Environment

QUADS* Band Soccer (fall) and Lacrosse (spring)

Homeroom Spanish Assembly/Meeting *Seventh grade class that integrates the study of Quakerism, art and for Worship design, and service learning

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Our filmmakers are

reported that they enrolled

finalists in regional and

at one of their top-choice

national film festivals,

colleges. Penn Charter is

and our musicians perform

athletics to help them reach

a nominating school for the

not only with each other

their first-choice college

country’s most prestigious

but with select ensembles

or university. Whether our

undergraduate scholarship

throughout the region. Our

students excel in academics,

programs, including the

Quakers Dozen chorus has

the arts, athletics or all three,

Morehead-Cain Scholars

sung in cathedrals in Italy

every student learns from all

Program at UNC Chapel Hill

and plazas in Spain. In a

three here, and they receive

and the Jefferson Scholars

recent five-year span, student

an extraordinary education in

Foundation at the University

athletes won 16 Inter-Ac

the process. Penn Charter’s

of Virginia. Here are some of

league championships

unique program is one of the

the colleges and universities

in eight sports (football,

reasons our graduates thrive at

attended by the most graduates

water polo, basketball,

top colleges and go on to make

during a recent five-year span.

baseball, track and field, field hockey, softball

an impact in every field. About 50 percent of each senior

and swimming).

class is accepted at one of the

And during a recent

country’s most competitive

eight-year span,

colleges or universities as

more than 25 percent of each

defined by Barron’s college guide and, perhaps more

graduating

important, 92 to 94 percent

class has used

of each recent senior class

3 A’s in Upper School

Steve’s Ninth Grade Experience Spanish II

Foundation Arts*

Physical Education

English

Charter Singers (choral ensemble)

Upper School Jazz Band

Algebra II Study Hall Advanced Biology

Ancient and Medieval Wrestling (winter) Civilizations Track & Field (spring)

*Interdisciplinary course combining visual arts, music and theater 16 | william penn charter school

For a complete college matriculation list, please see the supplement at the back of this publication.

Brown University (9) Cornell University (8) Drexel University (6) Franklin & Marshall College (8) George Washington University (9) Harvard University (6) Lehigh University (11) New York University (5) Northwestern University (6) Pennsylvania State University (16) Princeton University (7) Temple University (8) Trinity College (9) Tufts University (8) University of Chicago (5) University of Colorado (7) University of Pennsylvania (67) University of Pittsburgh (10) University of Vermont (10) University of Virginia (5) Ursinus College (8)


a quaker moral compass to find your way As a Quaker school, we talk about equality a lot, and yet we know that attending a school like Penn Charter is pretty rare and special. By the very nature of the education that you receive in an independent school such as PC, and because of the opportunities and preparation for leadership positions you encounter, you’re not equal. So how do you balance that? Quaker values and the actions they naturally lead to — respect, responsibility, building community, questioning, seeking diversity, stewardship, service — give our students a reality check.

These values are about informing who our students are as developing adults and who they are becoming. We want our students to be people who can use the Quaker values they learned at this school to inform their decisions when they’re owners of companies, or when they’re forming economic policy, or when they’re making a decision to defend a client, or to give a job or to provide someone with a chance. As one Penn Charter parent said, “The school has a gentle way of going about it, but kids understand that what you do and who you are mean something.”

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w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

RESPONSIBILITY

Living Up to High Expectations in a Community Based on Trust w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

RESPECT

Finding That of God in Everyone If Penn Charter is a building whose foundation is cast of Quaker values, then respect is our cornerstone, the direct result of seeing “that of God in everyone.” The deep level of respect people here have for one another translates into incredible student-teacher relationships. It translates into students wanting to deliver on their assignments in the most creative ways they can. The comfort students feel to take academic risks and to establish strong friendships comes out of the respect we have for every person in this community.

Making decisions “in the manner of Friends” can be challenging at first but teaches valuable life lessons. Issues are not voted on and the majority does not rule. Everyone is involved in a decision, as when the entire senior class chooses commencement speakers. Sometimes this takes time, as people share their opinions and passions and strive to see the merits of other points of view. Eventually, most groups reach a “sense of the meeting,” often referred to as “consensus.” This doesn’t mean that all are of one mind but rather that all agree that the solution is the best for the community.

w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

BUILDING COMMUNITY The Strengths of Each, the Strength of All

Of all the Quaker testimonies, perhaps none is more visible at Penn Charter—in classrooms and meeting rooms, in hallways and on playgrounds and playing fields—than community. Penn Charter runs somewhat counter to popular culture because it promotes reflection. Looking out for oneself and seeking instant gratification doesn’t forge a great community. As one of our students explained, “I really feel everyone’s ‘light’ is recognized. Everyone has a role to play. It’s not like the top students are viewed as the best here. Different people are recognized for what their individual talents are. I don’t know anywhere else that’s really like this.”


w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

QUESTIONING Being a Seeker of Truth

A Friends education includes a lot of questions. Quakers believe that truth is something that we need to keep seeking, something that unfolds over time in what is called “continuing revelation.” Acknowledging that no one knows everything, teachers challenge students to figure out what to ask as well as how to answer. As a result, students not only learn how to devise good questions but are not afraid to ask them, preparing them for college success and a lifetime of learning. Along the way, our students naturally learn that some questions are hard. Sometimes there’s more than one right answer or more than one way to get to an answer. That’s not only accepted but expected.

w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

STEWARDSHIP

Caring for Ourselves and Others, Our Environment and the World Most often used to refer to concern for the environment, stewardship actually involves a caretaking approach that goes beyond going green. “Taking care” is a way of being that is integrally connected to the other Quaker testimonies. When a Lower Schooler makes a new classmate feel welcome, that is stewardship. When a Middle Schooler sings at a retirement home, when an Upper Schooler helps at a local homeless shelter, that too is stewardship. And when students design their own fund-raising projects to support two schools in Cambodia, that is stewardship.

w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

SERVICE

Every Day Is a Day of Service w i l l i a m p e n n c h a rt e r s c h o o l

DIVERSITY

Embracing a Multifaceted Understanding of Diversity Many schools today strive for a diverse student body and faculty to enrich the educational experience. For Friends schools like Penn Charter, that effort is rooted in the core Quaker belief in equality and the belief that there is “that of God” in everyone. Penn Charter is intentionally a community of students and teachers who bring backgrounds and experiences that are different from one another’s to form our community. We push each other’s thinking and interests. We push our ability to get to know each other for the wondrous complexity of who we are.

As early as pre-kindergarten, our students learn about community service and service learning. What’s the difference? Community service is a contribution we make to the community with a sense of good will. Service learning represents an engagement in social issues with an educational component. An array of courses in all grades incorporates service learning: in kindergarten, growing earthworms as a fund-raising activity that connects with a study of our natural surroundings; in Middle School, partnering with a local charter school to develop student leaders; in Upper School Spanish class, collaborating with second graders at a nearby public school to write bilingual storybooks. We don’t think of service learning and community service simply as our students going out to do good work, because that is only the beginning. It’s really more about informing our awareness of the world and developing our commitment to improve it.

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inside penn charter

From the outside Penn Charter is a stately school, but what is it like up close? What is it like when you open those red doors and enter? Discover what goes on within these walls.

Welcome inside.


Fifth grader s le and bold co arn to paint with flu id line lors, à la G eorgia O’K eeffe.

llPlaying at A ic. School Picn

work ders ts. h gra r Fourt guage A n on La

Lower School Penn Charter’s Lower School curriculum is a program of cognitive and character development rooted in a rich knowledge-base of research that tells us how young children learn best. For example, we know that children learn better when ideas are connected. Consequently, interdisciplinary or “thematic learning” in which teachers apply one theme in reading, writing, math, art and social studies is integral to our program. We know that learning is

Recess in one of Lower School’s two playgrounds.

enhanced when new ideas progress from the concrete to the conceptual, and that children learn by doing — so, many of our Lower School activities are hands-on. Because

Third graders conclude Roots & Routes unit with naturalization ceremony.

we know students can learn from each other, we emphasize collaborative learning in which students have partners or work in groups. As a result, while learning to read and write and perform mathematical functions, students also learn to communicate and cooperate. They learn to ask questions, think critically, write effectively, listen carefully, and put all those pieces together.

s collaborate Second grader

tivity. on a science ac

Pre-K’s themes focus on “Connections” and “Exploring New Paths.”

d First graders an er mentors in the Eld m and Child progra bags prepare toiletry s. for the homeles

After-School Enrichment Program softball.


Middle School “B reakfast with Your Child” for stu dents, parents and caregivers.

social studies Sixth graders in ming visit to co up for re prepa borhoods as igh ne hia elp Philad ods Project. rho bo igh Ne part of

Eighth grad ers on memoirs working for upcomin g Memoir Ce lebration. team of track Members with coach. in check

Middle School Middle School is a unique time in the life of a young person, a time of tremendous intellectual, physical and emotional growth. Penn Charter’s program brings three key elements together: an age-appropriate curriculum, a faculty devoted to teaching 11, 12, 13 and 14 year-olds through these challenging years, and a facility designed specifically to support our curriculum and learners. Students begin immediately to undertake tasks calling for more personal organization, study

, costumes and Sixth graders working on lines Festival. blocking for Shakespeare

skills, critical thinking, and independent and group work. Our curriculum reflects a department-based program enhanced by cross-curricular themes and projects with true intellectual weight. These hallmark projects foster important habits of mind such as healthy risk taking in the sixth grade Shakespeare project, empathy in the seventh grade immigration project, self-reflection in the eighth grade memoir project. Students also select enrichment activities from choices such as Middle School Play and Stage Crew, Video Yearbook, Jazz Band and Writings on the Wall, the online literary magazine. Eighth graders depart Middle School with a deeper awareness of their own abilities and interests, fully prepared for the demands of Upper school.

Before sc ho Ensemble ol: Practice for Jazz , Chamber B Singers an and, String d Sharped Flats.

After school: Middle School Homework Club and Sanctuary (an open, relaxed space), and club meetings.

Middle School Da y of (Day ends with sha Service. ring and video of the day ’s good work.)

Sixth grade art students study perspective by drawing a city block.


Writing Cent er Peer Tuto r training.

Boys a Capella, Girls a Capella and Quakers Dozen practice before school. ). wn here r try (sho Chemis n to Compute P A s: o h Classe troducti Novel, Frenc In : ll a h e ian g. Down th ing, The Russ c/Songwritin m usi Program , Electronic M Level V

Upper School What would it mean to work at the edge of what you already know? To step out beyond the safe answers and the talents that have always come naturally? To pursue ideas with real depth? At Penn Charter it might mean collaborating with wheelchair-bound students to design, develop and patent a beach wheelchair. You could find yourself applying music theory to arrange your own trio of a cappella pieces, or you might suddenly see the logic of quantum mechanics, when, at first, every concept had eluded you. Ours is a Vigorous college preparatory program rooted

usical k for 6:15 m Sound chec mances. or rf pe se showca

in the breadth of the arts and sciences as well as new fields of inquiry and skills such as environmental issues, global awareness, commitment to community and technology. In Upper School, students continue to own here). Classes: Ceramics (sh Latin, Also happening: AP ry, Art of Crafting the Short Sto an Studies, Caring: Issues in Urb king. Documentary Filmma

see how ideas overlap across disciplines and how one area of study can inform another: Greek literature becomes more meaningful when seen through an archaeological lens. Pythagorean theory explains the emotional effects of music. The personal narrative can be told in the language of trigonometry. A multitude of leadership opportunities, sports, arts and other academic enrichment activities also allows students to stretch beyond their natural talents and inclinations. It is a curriculum designed to be as effective as it is engaging.

Classes: Adv anced PreCal happening: Bioethics, C culus (shown here). Also om AP U.S. Hist ory, Englan parative Anatomy an d Physiology d and Fran Acting for ce in the M the Stage; , id Art, Archa eology and dle Ages, Chemistry.

Teacher and student volunteers in South Philadelphia working on volunteer mural painting project.

Mayor M ichael Nu tt campus as 60 Up er on per voluntee rs help w School ith Special O lympics. the


Lower School (Pre-K to 5)

The pre-kindergarten, a light-filled space designed for playing and learning, has two classrooms, an arts studio and a large activity room that can be used as an indoor play space. Located on The Oak Road adjacent to campus, the pre-K has a full kitchen and an outdoor play area. The Lower School building has 20 classrooms; a 10,000-volume library; mobile computer lab; woodshop; art room with kiln; music room with piano, handbells and Orff instruments; two playgrounds; and a multipurpose room for assemblies, plays and some physical education. The building uses wireless technology, and each classroom is equipped with a SmartBoard.

Middle School (6, 7, 8)

The Richard B. Fisher Middle School is 45,000 square feet and has 13 classrooms, three science labs, a mobile computer lab, a music and drama room, and a two-story assembly and performance space. The building uses wireless technology, and each classroom is equipped with a SmartBoard.

On 44 acres in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, minutes from Center City, the Main Line and the suburbs, you will find our green campus with pre-kindergarten, Lower, Middle and Upper Schools operating in four separate buildings, each designed to meet the unique needs of its students.

Upper School (9-12)

The division encompasses more than 130,000 square feet of wired instructional space, including a 23,000-volume library and online subscription databases for science, art, music, history, health and literature, as well as current newspaper and magazine resources and photo archive. Thirty classrooms, each with a SmartBoard, include five newly renovated and enlarged science laboratoryclassrooms and three art studios — one each for visual arts, studio arts and ceramics. Choral and band rooms, a computer laboratory, and a 550-seat Meeting Room complete the space.

New Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts

The new center features the 650-seat Earl and Pam Ball Theater; state-of-the-art sound, lighting and technology; a MIDI keyboard lab; a band room and practice studios; and a chorus room that will double as a recital hall. The facility is the first green building in East Falls. The design features a green roof that absorbs rain, and cupolas to provide natural ventilation and save energy.

Athletic Facilities

Nine playing fields; seven tennis courts; a synthetic, six-lane oval track; a five-lane competitive swimming pool; three gymnasiums; a new squash center; and a field house equipped with a state-of-the-art training facility and fitness room.


timeless skill set Self-reliance, healthy risk-taking, leadership and a sense of responsibility to use one’s individual strengths and talents to contribute to the world are the direct result of the skills students develop here. It is a timeless skill set that endures, grows and sustains each graduate successfully throughout his or her life.

Luke Grade: 1

On Leadership: When you’re being a leader like the captain of a football team, don’t yell at the players. To be a leader, also, you would have to have all the players out in the field, so that if the ball comes to you, if you don’t stop it, somebody else can stop it. On Being Inspired: Art is inspiring me to do something that I really want to do. I don’t know if you know what these are, but when I go home today, I’m going to get all my Bakugan (a game and collection of creatures similar to Pokémon) and bring them to the basement, open them up and then draw them on paper.

reinventing classic | 27


Elisabeth

On Learning: I like decimal points and fractions. I like our Egyptian studies. I really like art and science, and all the specials, especially PE. We do swimming in the spring – that’s our PE. We learn different techniques like breast stroke, so I really like that. I also like reading different stories, too. Right now, we’re reading Toothpaste Millionaire.

Grade: 2

On Leadership: In the room, sometimes kids get out of control when the teacher is out or something, and then you have to try to do what the teacher asked you to do, and then some other people will do that too. And then it goes all the way down to everybody.

On Future Plans: I want to be a chef or an artist. I am good at both and both are about creating and trying new things. I cook every night and I am always changing recipes and creating my own.

On Self-Reliance: Sometimes you have to think about what you want to do, and what’s best for you in school, because sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to work out. So you have to be calm and try to do what you want to do instead of getting all angry.

On Penn Charter People: They’re kind. They push me to do what I need to do to succeed. They’re different from other people. They always help. They care about me, and that will help me succeed in life.

On Talents: I’ve been here since kindergarten, and all the teachers have something special that they do, and they’re good at. Then all my friends have stuff that they’re good at. There’s this one kid in my class, he’s the best at drama. He can really act. I’m good at reading because I love books. I like mysteries, fairy tales and nonfiction. I’m also good at art.

Demetrius Grade: 7

On Trying New Things: Making new friends is something that I might not have tried at another school because I was afraid, or nervous. Because at some schools, they make fun of you maybe just because you’re smart. I think that everyone likes to welcome newcomers here. Also, I would say playing a new sport or doing something like this interview — at another school, I might not do it. Here, I really don’t have to worry because everybody respects my opinion.

Jamillah Grade: 4

On Leadership: Don’t follow people just because they’re doing something cool. Maybe you can do something cool too, but in a different style. Blindly following someone is kind of like plagiarism.

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On Helping Others: You can use your own strengths here to help other people. A lot of people think that I can dance, for example. They say, “Can you teach me how to dance?” And then I will show them a dance move that they can use for that song. Or, when you go to someone’s house and they need to clean up before they can play. If you do it together it goes faster. Without even noticing, you help people.


On Future Plans: I would really like to go to the NBA. But if I don’t go to the NBA, then I would like to become an entrepreneur. I’m not sure on what subject yet, but I think that I’ll get that as I go along in life. I like the idea of being an entrepreneur because it’s leadership, you’re in control, basically. You have power, but I don’t really want to say power because of what the world is coming to when it comes to power, like war, things like that. Another way that I think about power is that you can lead not only yourself, but others, into a great situation.

Cathryn “Cat” Grade: 9 On Leadership: Listening is the key. You need to know the people you’re leading and be able to connect with them. You need to be able to recognize the similarities you have, the differences. As you listen, it becomes more evident what it is that needs the most addressing, the most help. Then you can lead. On Self-Reliance: Having the confidence and the self assurance that you can go out into the world and do well is self-reliance to me. You can use what you’ve learned over the years. You’re smart enough to realize from your own mistakes and from the mistakes of others, and with that, you can apply it to the situations you find yourself in. I think Penn Charter teaches self-reliance in that you get to see what you believe, but you also get to see what others believe because your own beliefs can only take you so far. In terms of academic self-reliance, they really give you options here. When you leave, you will know how to take care of yourself in your studies. In other schools, generally, they just try and teach you one way and to stick with it. Here, you can explore and see the best way you learn, and with that, obviously, you’re able to do more and succeed much more. On the Differences at PC: It’s the social aspect of what I’ve been able to achieve here. The people, the Quaker morals and beliefs are the backbone of the school, and it reflects in the students. So just the experience of seeing the kindness of people here, the teachers who are willing to help, all the different things that really make this an enriching environment that was lacking at my old school. You couldn’t see as much of the genuine goodness in people as you can here. I know Penn Charter offers trips to Rome and other fun experiences that I wouldn’t have gotten at my other school, but it’s not so much that.

Being able to learn every day, getting to know people better and how we help mold each other into what we’ll become eventually. In and of itself, Penn Charter is a great experience. On the Future: In some way or another, I want to proactively affect other people’s lives. I’ve thought of all different things. Sometimes I think I want to be a psychiatrist — seeing how and why people think the way they do. Sometimes I think I want to be a lawyer. Mock Trial definitely played into that. But I know, with what I have learned here, the gifts I’ve received from the people around me, I want to be able to take those and help other people with them. I really do thank Penn Charter for that because they’ve done a lot in one year to really fuel that drive.


Commercial Real Estate Development Analyst, General Growth Properties On Preparation: “What I appreciate most about my Penn Charter experience can be summed up by one word: preparation. Penn Charter continually exposed us to challenging situations with manageable pressure, developing a unique sense of self-reliance, adaptability and perseverance. After my first semester of freshman year in college, it was remarkable to look back and realize, along with many classmates of mine, that we felt over-prepared for the rigors of college.”

Alyson Goodner OPC ’96 Princeton University

Education Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of teacherplanit, LLC On Self-Reliance: “Penn Charter instilled in me a faith in my own ability and that of others. In elementary school I was identified as a high energy, kinesthetic learner who processed information much better when given the chance to share with others. While most teachers could see this as their nightmare, my teachers such as Ms. Deming and Ms. Carl saw this as an opportunity.

Identifying this early, talking to me about it, celebrating it and successfully finding the right styles of support, led to a middle and high school student who could take charge of her own education. Later at Penn Charter, when I needed support, I knew why and where I should start to look for it. This is an exceptionally powerful skill. Through my life, at Princeton, Oxford, Teach For America, and now as an entrepreneur, every day I come across challenges and have to think about what I need to work through it, who I need to bring into my network to do this successfully, and then to try again. So much of this is a credit to Penn Charter.”

Sterling Johnson OPC ’78 University of Pennsylvania Civil Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers On Resilience: “Surprisingly, it was on the athletic fields that I learned some of my best lessons. Unlike the classroom, where it is possible to go through one’s entire stay without any disappointments or failures, sports has a different set of experiences. On the playing field one can learn to come back from a defeat, learn the benefits of hard work and proper preparation, understand the true meaning of teamwork and its effect on group and individual success. A student can come to understand that sometimes chance — luck, bad bounces, bad calls — is an important factor, and even begin to learn how to deal with uncertainty and its effect on success.”

“I owe this school more than I owe my college and my law school. After my parents, I owe not only who I am but who I want to be to this school.”

Turnaround Marketing Communications

David W. Leebron OPC ’73 President of Rice University

Photography: Michael Branscom

Yale University

Text: Andrea Jarrell

Dain Lewis OPC ’03

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you’re invited

What could a Penn Charter education mean to you? Please visit us to find out. We’d love to meet you and your family and give you a tour. We leave you with a few thoughts about Penn Charter from some of the people who know us best: our parents and students. Parent to Parent

“ I look for reasons to be able to send my kids to the free public schools

that are very good. Every year we reevaluate and every year we find ourselves back here. There is something magical about this place that’s still, after all these years, hard for me to articulate. I look at my children’s growth and how they love to learn. They feel connected. They feel safe. They feel nurtured. And there are so many other factors: the faculty, the curriculum, the diversity.”

“ We moved here 11 years ago ‘temporarily.’ A big part of why we

haven’t left has been Penn Charter. As we look at other cities and different school systems, we realize that we’re so fortunate to be here. The saying on the Lower School front entrance always strikes me: ‘Good instruction is better than riches.’ I know that many families, ours included, are making sacrifices so they can send their children to school here. We do it because we really believe that this education is going to take them some place in the world.”

“ I have an accent . . . diversity is important for me. Many schools give you the talk of diversity, and then you look and you see them at recess, and everybody looks the same. Here, it’s diverse and that’s just how it is. Our kids don’t have friends who are white or friends who are black or friends who are rich and friends who are not. They just have friends. That’s important to us, and I think it will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives.”

“ As a single parent, it was especially important to me for my daughter to be part of a community where she can grow with that community and where I can make those connections as well. I felt that sense of community very strongly here.”

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 P: 215.844.3460 F: 215.843.3939 www.penncharter.com

For student thoughts, please flip to the last panel.


Student to Student “ Really, I take pleasure in almost everything I do here: the sports, the clubs, the classes. The environment of the students and the teachers is just fun to be part of.”

“ I’ve got friends from each grade level. The fact that you can be embraced by

so many people, people from different places, of different ethnicities, of different grades — you really do feel welcomed when you come here.”

“ There are so many activities and events that you wake up really excited for school on so many days. Pep rallies, Color Day, assembly speakers — we have some really inspirational speakers — concerts, theater showcases. There are always things going on that people get really excited about.”

“ The fact that it’s Quaker gives it a different feel. There’s sportsmanship on the athletic field. In the classroom, I definitely feel everyone’s equal. The teachers are there to teach, but they’re also there to gain insight from you. It’s just easy to come here and have different ideas and be able to bounce them off other people.”


3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 P: 215.844.3460 F: 215.843.3939 www.penncharter.com

Reinventing Classic  

The people, mission and history behind William Penn Charter School, the oldest Quaker school in the world and one of the Philadelphia area's...

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