Quaker schools are deeply rooted in values, but are welcoming to families from all religious and spiritual traditions. Friends schools tend to appeal to families seeking a combination of an academic program with depth - one that truly asks students to think - and a caring community that instills a sense of responsibility to the common good.
Many of the school’s distinctive qualities are related to its Quaker DNA, but here are a few things that parents tend to note about Wilmington Friends in particular as they learn about the school:
Language study (Spanish), computer programming, service learning, and a STEM Lab curriculum all begin in pre-kindergarten.
Friends is the first and so far only Delaware school chosen for the national Malone Scholars program; that recognition is based on a school’s academic caliber; quality faculty; excellent accommodations for gifted students; strong IB and enrichment programs; attention to individual student needs, interests, and talents; financial strength/stability; commitment to financial aid; and diverse school population.
There is a "global" approach at all grade levels, in content and in teaching students to engage complex issues intellectually and in action, in and outside of the classroom, with a sense of confidence and responsibility.
The signature international programs include a Chinese program, the International Baccalaureate (first authorized IB school in Delaware), and School Year Abroad (first member school in Delaware).
The 860-panel solar PV system at Friends provides 16% of the school’s electricity.
Friends offers highly individualized college guidance and academic advising (including a middle school advisory program that has become a national model).
The integrated technology program includes the lower school STEM Lab curriculum, middle school robotics, and a "one-to-one" student laptop program in grades 4 -12, with iPads for preschool through third grade.
The intellectual tradition of Quakerism is very demanding; it’s a tradition in which “truth” is something you have to pursue actively and constantly - you can’t memorize it. Students at Friends do have to memorize facts, but they also really have to think. They have to ask good questions; they have to demonstrate that they can think independently, creatively, and cooperatively; and they are asked to be open-minded, always testing ideas against experience and new information. Some people now describe that kind of approach as “21st century education,” but it’s what Friends education is at its very core, and why you sometimes hear the school described as “a 21st century school since 1748.”
There are many benchmarks along the way, but ultimately, the meaning of a Friends education is measured by how graduates “let their lives speak,” how they make the world a better place, whatever their professions and pursuits. Each year, the school recognizes alumni as representatives of all Friends graduates whose lives speak to that standard. Recently recognized alumni have included: an award-winning historian, a leader in global health initiatives, a long-time school trustee and community volunteer in conservation and urban greening, a former U.S. ambassador and advocate for higher education, a best-selling author, a leading financial manager with an interest in cancer research, a social worker, a professor of theatre and arts administrator, the White House Director of Communications, and a surgeon in the U.S. Navy who did a volunteer mission in Uganda.
The truth is, even the welcoming, caring community tradition in Quaker schools is in itself demanding. Students at Friends are taught that developing their talents to the fullest is an obligation - and so is respecting and encouraging what’s best in everyone around them. Friends students are expected to be active contributors to their communities, from the classroom to the world. Again, Quaker education becomes a lifelong way of being in the world - a way of regarding other people with respect and openness, and of approaching challenges and opportunities with a sense of responsibility to act and with the confidence to lead.
Global education refers to some specific, distinctive programs at Friends, and also to an overall educational approach. Signature global programs include Chinese (as one of three modern languages taught in middle and upper school), language study beginning in pre-kindergarten, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and School Year Abroad. The overall “global” approach refers both to content and to the process of teaching students how to engage complex issues intellectually and in action, in and outside of the classroom, considering a variety of perspectives. It’s teaching the skills and habit of “global” thinking - open-minded, expansive, in-depth, and informed.
Friends does not “teach to the test” at any grade level, but Friends students do very well by quantifiable measures –
from ERB’s and qualifying for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program (50-65% of each participating class qualifies), to success in earning the IB Diploma (the Friends success rate is 90% vs. a global success rate of 80%), to finding the right fit in college admissions (see the most recent college admissions list).
But the short-term, quantifiable measures can’t really capture it. The unique impact of Friends education is that it becomes a lifelong habit of thinking big; it is great preparation for the challenges and opportunities of the future, even - maybe especially - those that we can’t predict.
The laptop program is an extension of how Friends always has regarded technology - most useful as a thoughtfully applied tool within a quality curriculum, implemented by skilled and caring teachers. The school’s objectives with the laptop program include:
To advance the development of 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and adaptability - skills recognized as increasingly essential to advanced studies, public service and citizenship, and leadership in industry.
To enable faculty to use technology more easily in support of teaching and learning.
To deepen our student-centered approach to teaching and learning.
To provide all students with equal access to and compatible forms of technology at school and at home. The school also hopes to move more and more to cost-saving and environmentally responsible digital textbooks.
The IB is a perfect fit with the program and philosophy at Friends. The IB emphasizes high academic standards, global perspective, informed and engaged citizenship, respect for others, and the active application of classroom experience. It also is structured to give teachers a lot of control over the process and fitting the program to the school and its students. In addition, the IB is recognized globally as among the highest standards - indeed, often as the highest standard - in college preparatory education.
There are advantages to being an IB World School that benefit every student at every grade level. Among other things, the IB provides: a structure for ensuring the high quality of the curriculum; professional development programs for teachers; and a global network of partner schools. The IB also represents an international certification of excellence for Friends, an external standard and validation of quality that goes much deeper, in terms of the quality of the academic program, than any traditional accreditation. So both as a quality assurance program of the highest caliber and as a gold-standard guide for the scope and sequence of the curriculum, the IB benefits every student, from the preschool to upper school, whether they choose to pursue the IB Diploma or not.
Colleges routinely award credit for work in IB Higher Level courses and for the Diploma, and IB preparation is a proven advantage in the admissions process.
The lower school at Friends has the lowest student-teacher ratio of any of our peer schools, and the associate program in pre-k through fourth grade is the main reason why. But it isn’t just about the ratio. Having two teachers in the classroom allows for much greater flexibility. One teacher can work with students one-on-one for individual assessments, while the other leads the large group; or each teacher can work with small groups, whether for differentiated instruction or other reasons, like reading books based on interest. There are also two perspectives and sets of insights about each student and about the classroom program. The two-teacher approach also gives the students two adults, with compatible teaching styles but different personalities, with whom to build positive relationships. In addition, the larger student peer group, in combination with the low student-teacher ratio, allows for more potential friendships. In a small class, for example, of 15 students, there might be seven girls and eight boys, and it is easier for some students to be shut out of (or to dominate) the friendship circle. It can be tempting just to ask, “how many kids are in the class?”, but in terms of the actual educational and developmental experience for children, a slightly larger class with two teachers has tremendous advantages.
Because there is this obligation in the Quaker tradition to live up to what is best in you, there is an inherent value of excellence - including in athletics and other competitive activities like Science Olympiad and Mock Trial. Friends teams play to win, and more broadly, the School recognizes competition as an activity that helps learning and supports growth. The School supports competitive activities; specifically in athletics, there are great facilities, an emphasis on quality coaching and training, and an incredible number of Friends kids go on to play varsity sports in college. You do hear people at Friends talk about winning “the right way” - not at any cost - but measuring up to the best you can be is not just consistent with the school’s philosophy, it’s central to it.
Friends graduates are prepared to do well and inspired to do good.
If you have additional questions, or if you would like to schedule a visit to Friends, please contact the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid: email@example.com, or 302.576.2930.