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abington friends school

A Powerful Academic Program
An independent, private school curriculum

The Upper School at Abington Friends in Jenkintown, PA offers a wide landscape of learning opportunities designed to inspire, challenge and develop students in intellect, relationships, leadership and inner life.

The academic program is a lively exploration of the ways in which human beings know and come to know the world: as writers, artists, scientists, historians and mathematicians. Students encounter a rich interplay of texts and ideas that grapple with the larger questions of human existence, ethics, purpose, and impact while building deep skills in writing, analysis and research.

In every discipline honors and AP classes are offered, allowing students to choose levels of intensity that match their deepest interests and passions. Course selection throughout Upper School is guided by an academic advisor who will be their college guidance counselor in junior and senior years and a person who knows the student and his or her aspirations well.

That level of adult guidance is also found in the Wilf Learning Resource Center, the four-year advisor program, our world-class research library, and our Center For Experiential Learning, which helps connect students to transformative learning experiences both at school and in the larger world. We live in a resource-rich world of unprecedented opportunity and access. Our goal is to build our students’ abilities to use the resources around them, now, in college and into their adult lives to do high-quality work of purpose and meaning.

Daily immersion in leadership development, in student government, activities, athletic and the classroom itself, builds students’ expectation to be people of active significance and contribution. An environment marked by reflection and a focus on larger questions of meaning and ethics gives moral weight and direction so often missing in schools where children are simply taught to perform to exterior expectations.

At AFS, our graduates leave high school ready to collaborate with and motivate others in meaningful and profound ways. AFS graduates truly “let their lives speak.”


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A Powerful Academic Program

Students receive exceptional academic training that prepares them for their next steps. They study in an environment that empowers them to create, question, challenge and explore. At AFS the work of teaching and learning is vitally important, and we are inspired by the Quaker belief that each student in our care is gifted with remarkable potential.

In 9th and 10th grades, students receive a strong foundation in key academic disciplines, with honors options in history, english, math, science and foreign language. A wide variety of electives are available for juniors and seniors and students may choose from college preparatory, honors and advanced placement courses in subjects across the curriculum. In the visual and performing arts, more than 30 electives are offered. If students cannot satisfy a curiosity through one of the established courses or electives, independent study with a faculty member is usually an option.

In the Upper School our students learn how to produce sophisticated work, have meaningful relationships and take full advantage of the resources around them.

Learn about the educational philosophy at AFS, learn about our teachers and staff and explore Upper School academics on this Back to School Night page.

Relationships Built on Trust: Essential to Fearless, Curious Learning

Students in the Upper School benefit from highly developed layers of support from advisors, teachers and College Guidance counselors. We get to know our students extraordinarily well and nurture strong relationships with them. At AFS, we know and appreciate our students for who they are, and skillfully guide them with a vision for who they may become.

Ninth grade students are matched with advisors as soon as they enter the Upper School, and they stay together as a team through graduation.  This distinctive approach to advising gives a valuable sense of continuity to students and helps forge deep partnerships between students and teachers. Advisors serve as liaisons between home and school, support students in learning how to talk to teachers, and help students choose activities to be involved in as they move through Upper School.

The Jane and Mark Wilf Learning Resource Center offers enrichment and supportive learning programs for students, helping students develop skills of engagement, discernment, initiative, leadership and lifelong learning — all designed to develop resourceful learners who will be well equipped for their 21st century lives.  Students come to the Center, located adjacent to the school’s Faulkner Library, to receive mini-lessons that support their learning in all subjects; brush up their skills in specific subjects; study in groups with or without teachers; and tutor fellow students.

A hallmark of the College Guidance process at AFS is the individual focus on students. From the time students arrive in the Upper School, the Directors of Study help them shape their curriculum choices to match their academic goals. At the midpoint of their high school experience, as students begin the college process, Directors of Study become College Guidance Counselors, building on the foundational relationship started in the course planning process. This continued relationship makes our College Guidance Counselors at once familiar with their students but perhaps most importantly, able to articulate the nuance of their high school choices to admissions officers as they advocate for each student’s admission.

Our graduates tell us that when they get to college, they find it easy to talk to their professors and speak up in class because they have learned how to express themselves with poise and confidence when talking to adults.

High Impact, Experiential Learning

The AFS Experiential Learning program is a school-wide approach to connect our students in substantive ways to hands-on experiences and extended learning in the outside world. Our new Experiential Learning Center enhances our rigorous academic program and enlarges the landscape of discovery for our students.

The Center for Experiential Learning program works with students to help them uncover their passions and connect them to internships, workshops and other opportunities to extend those interests in the world outside of school. Our students have flourished in these experiences, participating in programs such as our MEDEx cohort program, the high school scientist program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, a service-learning project building trails in Northern California and a French language immersion program at Middlebury College.

“Thinning the walls of the school” through hands-on learning deepens the capacity of our students to navigate an increasingly complex and global world.


STEAM: problem solvers, logical thinkers and innovators

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) at AFS is about developing self-reliant and logical problem solvers who are able to carry out an independent and original investigation using the design and scientific processes. Our students learn to understand the nature of technology and apply its use appropriately and how to apply their understanding of the past to the future in order to innovate.

Student-centered, problem-based learning is driven by student interests. Students are immersed in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration, and that exploration is supported through rigorous cross-curricular integration and application of math, science, arts, and technology.

Through course work in Java, AutoCAD, Engineering, Graphic Design, and Robotics, AFS students are able to join a highly competitive and engaging Robotics team. The technology department at AFS helps students connect to resources in the area and takes students to programming competitions and tech meetups. The department also brings organizations to our campus to create technically orientated opportunities for our students.

The Computer Lab and the Robotics Room are natural hangouts for the intellectually curious, as students from across the grades gather to use the resources those spaces offer. These rooms have become natural gathering points that encourage creativity and play.

Student Leadership

Whether it is by participation in student clubs and government, on athletic teams, in diversity programs or via personal expression in the arts, AFS students learn through experience that each of them is a person of significance. Our students learn to express themselves with clarity and confidence as they learn how to lead change.

The teaching of leadership skills is intentional. Students take on primary leadership roles in some activities, and learn how to be good members/contributors in others. For example, they might lead the Outdoor Adventure Club and be one of the singers in an a capella chorus or a debater in the Model U.N. Club.

Meetings of the student-run clubs are mostly held during the school day, a sign of their importance in student life. Some clubs, like the literary magazine, are longstanding, while others form organically as student interests emerge. The emphasis in each of them is having fun and exploring new topics. Because club membership attracts students from different grades, making new friends is often an added benefit.

In athletics, all students are invited to be part of the teams. Some take on roles as managers, while others hone their skills by competing in sports — on the basketball court, soccer fields, tennis courts and baseball diamond.

In the arts, learning focuses on the experiential, creating theatre, art and music under the guidance of teachers who themselves are practicing artists and musicians.

Some of our students are actively involved as trained diversity facilitators who are rooted in the Friends tradition of equality. They are learning to be future leaders with the skills and insights to create a more equitable society.

Technology and Access in Upper School

Today’s most successful learners know how to leverage a variety of tools and resources, tapping into a global network of information, ideas and people. Collaboration, communication, content creation and media literacy are cornerstones of a modern education, and in our resource rich world, schools have a responsibility to model powerful 21st-century learning.

AFS is committed to creating and maintaining a robust technical infrastructure, that will continue to provide fast access speeds, reliable connections and is easy to use. Some of our highlights include:

  • Campus-wide open internet access
  • A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) requirement for all Upper School students
  • a laptop for every teacher
  • Support for ipads, macs, chromebooks and PCs
  • Drones
  • 3d printers
  • A CAD Robotics Lab
  • Makerspaces
  • A fully equipped Robotics Room
  • Printing from almost any device on campus
  • Cloud based infrastructure so students can access tools from anywhere

The AFS Upper School  is an exciting community of technically savvy learners!  Our faculty are  constantly finding new ways to leverage technology to help students learn. Assignments are posted on Google Classroom, online discussions happen, and students are taught how to live and learn in a resource rich world.

Student life: clubs and organizations

Student Clubs and Organizations at AFS

Our school has long prized experiential learning as central to the AFS experience. There are so many opportunities for students to encounter a larger world of learning through clubs and activities beyond the classroom. Most clubs are student-led with a faculty or parent advisor. Clubs and organizations are another layer for community and peer connection. Clubs are offered throughout Middle and Upper School and 100% of our students participate in a club, many participating in two or more. Clubs like Roobotics, our Robotics team has more of a time commitment at lunch and after school in order to prepare for a level of competition. The Poetry club may meet at lunch once or twice a week and can be more of a commitment if you choose. Meeting times are flexible to work with student’s academic, theatre, and/or athletics schedule. This list of clubs is as diverse and interesting as our student body! Here is a list of some of our current active clubs and organizations.

Quaker and independent: an essential freedom

As an independent Friends school, we enjoy an essential freedom in the day-to-day learning environment and powerful overall program we are able to build for AFS students and teachers.

We are free to create a lively and broad-based program rich in the arts, to teach explicitly for deeper understanding and student initiative, to create time for reflection, and to make room for a richly social dynamic inside the classroom and out.

This is a freedom to do what’s best. In an environment of highly developed skills for collaborative inquiry, students and teachers explicitly search for “what’s best” every day: in what makes for the richest classroom lesson, what next steps the community service council might make in its partnership with a local organization, what makes for the most productive approach to a disciplinary issue.

Our accountability is to the full development of our students, free from large bureaucracies, complex political policies and large-scale standardized testing. Daily, we live the difference made when outstanding teachers are supported and developed to do their absolute best in the development of children.

Curriculum Guide

You can access our current Curriculum Guide here.

Want to learn more?