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Future innovators look to transform the world at Friends’ Central School

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Friends' Central School
Friends' Central School Courtesy of Friends' Central School

Friends’ Central School students understand that creativity is fundamental to scientific breakthroughs and advancing the arts. Bound by their imagination and determination, students and teachers work side by side to explore and discover, each taking turns as experts and learners as the situation requires.

“We have a long, proud history of inspiration and progress sparked by collaboration and a collective, creative mindset,” said Head of School Beth D. Johnson ’77.

Friends’ Central School (FCS) is an independent, coeducational Quaker day school founded in 1845, serving 775 students from nursery to grade 12. Located in the Philadelphia suburbs, the school has two campuses. The Middle and Upper Schools share a campus on City Avenue in Wynnewood, Pa., while the Lower School is on the Old Gulph Road campus.

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Imagination is the root of innovation

An Innovation and Design Hub is on the horizon at FCS. Soon, an old gymnasium on the City Avenue campus will become a studio that functions as a makerspace, engineering hub, and a laboratory for students’ ideas and hands-on learning.

In the soon-to-be-retrofitted space, students will engage with tools, materials, and each other in the process of building objects imbued with meaning and information.

“We are excited to expand and re-envision this building into a makerspace. It’s yet another place here at Friends’ Central where students will be able to solve real-world problems and explore their unique talents and interests. We know that, through interdisciplinary projects and collaboration with their peers and teachers, students are going to innovate in ways that we can only begin to imagine,” said Alexa D. Quinn ’98, Middle School Principal and Assistant Head of School for Program & Instruction.

Courtesy of Friends’ Central School

The makerspace helps each student ignite bright ideas with hi-tech and low-tech tools. It currently houses a laser cutter, two 3D printers, two sewing machines, various hand and power tools for woodworking, electronics, microcontrollers, and supplies to fuel creativity.

In the makerspace, students design systems and objects to solve problems on their campus, in their communities, and around the world. Intellectually curious students can build anything from cathode-ray tubes to drama department sets.

“We hope to grow our students’ imaginations and foster innovation,” said Assistant Head of School for Enrollment and Communication Lydia Martin. “Every day, I’m inspired by their work. In our science wing, student experiments go far beyond what you’d expect to see in a high school lab. Meanwhile, artists like our very talented stage crew members have a hand in building beautiful stages that help shape our student-led performances.”

Courtesy of Friends’ Central School

Unlocking creativity in the classroom

At Friends’ Central, creativity belongs everywhere, not just in extracurriculars.

Teaching creativity introduces various approaches to learning and promotes concepts, ideas, and facts as fresh insights rather than obstacles.

In Middle School, students exercise their imagination, create improvisationally, and develop their unique voice.

Sixth-grade students grow through storytelling, seventh graders through playwriting, and eighth graders have an opportunity to join a semester-long elective in advanced acting, devising new work, and performing costumed classics and modern plays from around the globe.

Ashley Best-Raiten, an FCS sixth-grade History teacher, understands that achieving creative learning requires transformation across all subjects. So, as an exercise in creativity, students in her class authored an 80-page cookbook that explores history, culture, and geography.

“There’s more to geography than just memorizing countries on a map,” said Best-Raiten. “The main thing you learn in sixth grade is skills. It’s all about starting to have abstract thought, thinking outside the box, and starting to apply your knowledge. Geography provides a great framework to practice all of that.”

“All of the most important discoveries that the world needs will require creativity,” said Martin.

For more information, visit Friends’ Central School.