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Back-to-School After a Lively Summer

August 26, 2019

Dear AFS Community,


A lively spirit of hope and possibility comes upon us each September. The feeling is infectious and energizes our entire school community as we reunite for Abington Friends School’s 323rd year. I look forward to all that this year will bring.

I hope that you have had a summer of renewal, refreshment and fun with family and friends. It has been a busy summer here on campus! Abington Friends Summer Camp adds such a vibrant presence to our campus, as it is filled with the sounds of young children at play, filling the walls with artwork and learning to swim. This year, twenty-one AFS alumni served on the staff, joined by a host of current Upper School students. Their commitment to the children in their care, joyful hard work and clear love of the AFS community are an inspiration.



Faculty were busy, as well, engaged in twenty-nine different summer fellowship experiences. Many teachers were engaged in research to support curriculum development in math, the sciences, robotics, English and the arts. Other faculty attended the National Diversity Practitioner’s Institute, the Exeter Math Institute, the Teacher Artist Leadership Lab at Lincoln Center, a National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Asian Pacific History, the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop and the AP Music teaching seminar. Faculty also travelled to Bolivia, Paris, Italy and Colorado to enhance curriculum in the languages and the art studios. It is this ongoing, lively and passionate learning of the faculty that makes our academic program so engaging and powerful for students. This year, we’re thrilled to welcome 13 wonderful new faculty and staff members to the AFS community. You can read more about them and their diverse experiences and gifts that they bring to our school, here.

Students have been similarly active this summer through our Center for Experiential Learning. Four students have just returned from our exchange program with Hobart Friends’ School in Tasmania. Our Robotics team met every Friday this summer to acquire new skills and master the challenging technology of the “swerve drive,” having built a prototype this summer and being ready to hand it over to our student software team this fall.




Other students attended competitive programs at the ACLU Summer Advocacy Institute, Curtis Institute of Music, Tanglewood, the Drexel Biomedical Engineering Summer Academy, the Dominican Republic Emergency Medicine/Wilderness First Responder Course, the Williams College Math Camp, the MIT LaunchX entrepreneurship program and the Forensic Mentoring Institute at Jefferson among many others. And we are so proud of our Class of 2019 graduates who are taking their next big steps this month in college. Our 64 most recent graduates will attend 49 different schools including Haverford College, the University of Pennsylvania, Tufts, William and Mary, Vanderbilt, the University of Chicago, Pitt, Drexel, Wake Forest, Brandeis and Syracuse. More than a quarter of our graduates are attending schools in the top 3.5% of nationally ranked colleges and universities.

Our preseason athletes are already back at practice and we are ready to begin the new year. Our entire community has much to look forward to and I am pleased to share the news of the opening of the new Richard N. Berman Athletics Center. This $9.5 million addition to our campus will become a new center of community for our students and families and a state of the art facility for fitness, wellness and athletic competition. We are proud of the AFS athletic tradition that encourages all students to be active and find their place on a team or in personal fitness. Along with our new building, we have developed and incorporated comprehensive new programs into our Physical Education, Health and Wellness curriculum. These new programs expand upon our school’s ongoing promotion of mindfulness, movement, skill development and comprehensive health education and will connect the dots of Quaker practices, AFS Outside and experiential learning. We aspire for well-being and athletics at AFS to reach the same level of excellence seen in our academic and arts programs, ensuring that children are receiving a multi-dimensional, well-rounded, and comprehensive education that prepares them for successful and meaningful lives.

Please plan to join us for the Grand Opening of our new athletics center at our Annual All-School Family Barbecue at 4:30 pm on Friday, September 6. RSVP here.

In the past year, we have successfully completed our 10-year accreditation processes with the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools and Friends Council on Education, as well as an ambitious strategic plan: Leading by Design: Education for a Changing World. Now, we are ready to involve our entire community in planning next steps for the future of Abington Friends School. We will be working with Carla Silver and Ryan Burke of the San Francisco firm Leadership + Design, who will help us to articulate generative questions about the changing world our students will be entering and how best to support and prepare them, how to best serve a new generation of families, the future of our campus and continued innovation for an outstanding academic program. School Committee member Rebecca Bubb ’03 will chair our Strategic Planning Committee and there will be invitations coming throughout the year to join conversations about our future. In the spring, the Committee will prioritize and refine actions steps for the next several years and we look forward to sharing the final outcome with you in fall of 2020.

Finally, our Quaker theme for the year is Collective Purpose. We are a school community drawn together by a clear vision for education and deeply grounded values. We are ambitious for our children and for creating a community that reflects our highest aspirations for the world around us: a community that thrives in its diversity, creates conditions for people to continually learn, grow and build together and one guided by the human potential for both excellence and goodness, collectively and as individuals. I hope this theme inspires us to reflect on the enormous potential of what we can build together, in our families, in our classrooms, in our school community and in the larger world around us when we are drawn together with a strong sense of collective purpose for the benefit of all.

I can’t wait to see our entire community together on September 6. Here’s to a joyful start to the new year!


Rich Nourie
Head of School

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