Distinctive Programs

Interior Masthead

student explaining artwork

Lower School

Meet the Authors

Young writers as public speakers

Each May, lower school students read original stories they have written, illustrated, and bound into book form to a public audience of parents, peers and faculty. The event showcases work created in various literary genres and celebrates students' ability to conceptualize, pre-write, draft, revise and proofread. Even the youngest students learn how to speak in front of an audience, a valuable skill reinforced throughout each year of a Friends Select education.

Become an Expert

Researchers, Writers and Presenters

Third grade students select a book on a topic of interest in colonial American history and prepare a formal piece of writing to present to parents and classmates. In fourth grade, students select a history topic to research in depth, using more than one source. The Become an Expert project in both grades emphasizes the skills and strategies needed for deep research, writing and oral presentation. BAE culminates in the spring with a public presentation to parents and classmates.

Artist Study

Learning from the masters

Each year, the entire lower school studies one artist in depth--artists such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Santore, Faith Ringgold, and others. Each child creates art work in the style of the artist, based on the artist's techniques and themes. The project culminates with a music-drama-art performance and a public exhibit in Select Gallery that showcases every student's artwork.

Over 10 Years of Artists

  • 2016: Leo Sewell
  • 2015: Amelia Pelaez
  • 2014: Veronique Tadjo
  • 2013: Dr. Albert Barnes
  • 2012: Fernando Botero
  • 2011: Sam Maloof
  • 2010: Hayao Miyazaki
  • 2009: Sarah Mary Taylor
  • 2008: Isaiah Zagar
  • 2007: Julie Taymor
  • 2006: Josefina Aguilar
  • 2005: Charles Santore
  • 2004: Frank Lloyd Wright
  • 2003: Dr. Selma Burke
  • 2002: Walter Anderson

Middle School

Culminating Class Trips

In the spring, each Middle School class takes a trip.
Each trip is the culmination of each grade’s studies, tying together concepts from several subjects and solidifying the year’s worth of knowledge.

Fifth Graders Explore Philadelphia
Our year's theme "The City of Philadelphia" culminates in 4 days of trips to sites around our City that let us put our accumulated knowledge into action. Trips include a day of art, a day of writing, a day for science investigation, and a day for social studies.

Sixth Graders Study Water Cycles at the New Jersey Shore
Our science study culminates in a trip to Cape May, New Jersey where we observe wetland ecology, the lifecycle of horseshoe crabs, and actively engage in seining activities to explore the marine food web.

Seventh Graders Research American History in New York City
Our humanities study of who makes up our nation culminates in a 3 day trip to New York City where we learn about European immigration, Asian immigration, and the forced African migration. We visit Ellis Island, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Museum of Chinese in America, the African Burial Ground, and New York Historical Society's Slaves of New York exhibit.

Eighth Graders Travel to New Mexico for Ancient Civilizations
Our humanities study of ancient civilizations culminates in a 4 day field study of the United State's own ancient civilization, the Pueblo. Our guiding question: How is the development of civilization influenced by the natural world? We travel to New Mexico and visit 3 ancient sites and 2 modern Pueblo Nations.

Advisory and Support

Advisors play a central role in students’ lives and are a principal point of contact for parents. Students check in with their advisor at the start of each day and meet weekly in a small group setting. Advisors monitor academic progress, support personal and emotional growth, lead students through a transition-focused advisory curriculum, and help them gain important student skills including organization.

Research and Digital Literacy

The middle school research and digital literacy class for grades 6, 7 and 8 is designed to help students become comfortable with the technological tools available to them, to develop competence using print and electronic resources, and to use these skills in major projects during the school year. With a strong focus on digital citizenship, the class provides the space and opportunity for students to examine what they do online and why, and to explore and discuss what they can do to become upstanding and responsible members of their online communities. Each grade meets once during the six-day cycle. Lessons are based on the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

Author Series

Through the middle school author series, 27+ young adult book authors have visited the school since 2012. The goal of this initiative is to encourage students to read and to see themselves as writers as they learn about the challenges and writing processes of professional authors. The program takes advantage of the Free Library's offerings and gives students the opportunity to virtually visit with authors whose books they read in English class. The program has been successful in creating a community of enthusiastic readers.


Upper School


Every year, we take a break from regular classes to immerse ourselves in the study of a region or country. We bring in experts to teach us Farsi or Brazilian percussion. We discuss history, literature, politics, and what’s on television. We cook together and share perspectives. And in the end, we all see the world from a different point of view. Last year, 2016-17, we studied Russia and the Former Soviet Union; in 2017-18 we will explore Mexico. Learn more.

Internships and Independent Studies

All seniors spend three weeks interning in Philadelphia workplaces. They might make documentary films, assist doctors, learn about the legal system, conduct research, or create murals. Juniors may also undertake internships.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Research Project

Ninth graders select an Asian, Middle Eastern, Medieval or Renaissance artwork or artifact to study at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Over the course of the school year, museum curators guide our students as they research the history, cultural milieu and technique that inform the art or artifact they have chosen. On a Saturday morning in late spring, students present their research to a public audience of parents, peers, faculty and museum guests.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Study

Each year, our tenth grade students travel to Washington, D.C., to visit the museum as part of their study of peace, social justice, and spiritual resilience.

Washington Research Project

Juniors travel to Washington, D.C., to interview elected officials, policy makers and lobbyists, on contemporary issues ranging from education and welfare reform to tobacco regulation and the death penalty. The two-day expedition complements library and online research on topics of current interest to the American public.