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explore our CAMPUS

What's cool about our campus is that it's spread out over seven acres in Philadelphia's historic neighborhood of Germantown. The buildings are an eclectic mix of old and new, a unique look and feel more consistent with a college campus. With three gyms, three auditoriums, a student center, numerous open, green spaces and nine classroom buildings, it's a place worthy of adoration and exploration. The Meetinghouse, at the center of it all, provides a beautiful and spiritual focal point.

1. Main Building 2. Meetinghouse 3. Sharpless 4. Hargroves 5. Wade Science Center 6. Alumni Building 7. Admissions 8. Living Graveyard 9. Dead Graveyard 10. Loeb Performing Arts Center 11. Smith Gym 12. Cary Building 13. Friends Free Library 14. Field House 15. Scattergood Gym

we have deep roots in this place

Values Container

The Pillars of A

Quaker Education

At GFS, students and teachers gather in Meeting for Worship once each week. This is a time for shared, silent contemplation. Anyone who feels moved to speak may rise and do so. It is a simple formula, and can be a remarkably powerful experience.In these days of constant connectivity, the ability and opportunity to sit in silence have special value. Meeting for Worship is a cornerstone of the GFS culture that many come to cherish throughout their lives.

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speak the truth

We strive to deal fairly, equally and honestly with everyone. We aim to do as we say, reflecting our beliefs in our actions. even when it is inconvenient or challenging, we stand by our convictions, striving to lead lives of integrity.

Shine Together

We are all blessed with remarkable gifts. We are equally qualified to seek truth and to hear the voice of God. Every person deserves equal respect. For these reasons, we work against prejudice and discrimination and for equality.

stay connected

"Alone we can do little; together we can do so much."* We know there is strength in cooperation and wisdom to be found when many perspectives come together. We believe in the power of community.*
The words of Helen Keller.

keep it simple

In every way we can, we try to minimize the distractions that can draw our attention from the important things in life. This means not becoming overwhelmed by the busyness of daily routine. It means seeking balance. It means embracing simplicity.

care for all

This planet we inhabit, the talents we've been given, the community of which we are a part- all hold remarkable value. We must be responsible, imaginative and proactive in protecting these gifts and caring for the world and people around us. We must exercise good stewardship.

promote peace

We believe each life is precious and unique. We stand against war and violence and work to eliminate their root causes, including ignorance, racism, hatred and oppression. We are committed to creating peace.

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Learning Experiences

In Upper School, there are many educational opportunities beyond the expected—one-of-a-kind learning experiences that are there for the taking.

Directed Independent Study

GFS encourages students to take initiative in their own education. Last year, more than 140 students in grades 9-12 pursued their special interests by developing a Directed Independent Study (DIS) in consultation with a faculty advisor.

The DIS program allows students to pursue interests outside of the regular curriculum by studying a subject or undertaking a project that they develop either individually or in small groups. The experience of planning an independent project and sustaining it to completion is invaluable in helping students take responsibility for what what and how they learn. Read More

Global Online Academy

In the fall of 2011, Germantown Friends School was delighted to venture into the realm of online instruction. Along with Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C., Dalton in New York City, and the Lakeside School in Seattle as well as six other leading independent schools, GFS collaborated on the launch of Global Online Academy.

As a founding member, GFS is able to offer courses that would not otherwise be available to our students and also make some of our signature courses more widely available. GOA brings together great teachers and great students in an excellent, interactive, rigorous learning environment.

Read all about the GOA program here. 

January Term

January Term (or J-Term, as the students call it) enables our community to live the mission and values of our school and to explore new passions, interests and interdisciplinary ways of learning about the world and ourselves. Through a month-long program of “mini courses,” it provides teachers and students a space for experimentation, investigation, and reflection. Read More

Junior Projects

During their junior year, students complete a month-long independent study of their own design, away from campus. Each student submits a proposal that is reviewed by a committee of faculty and includes a description of the student’s goals for the project, contact information for his or her on-site supervisor, a description of what the student will learn and/or produce during the project, and a budget outlining all project expenses.

Most students do their Junior Project during the month of January, and then give a presentation and submit a written report about their experience when they return to school in February. Many students use this opportunity to gain insight into a particular career path, while others spend the time pursuing an interest that intrigues them, developing new skills, or do humanitarian work in this country or overseas. The Junior Project is often a life-changing experience for GFS students, and many go on to pursue careers in related fields.

Junior/Senior Seminar

In addition to the departmental offerings, students in their junior and senior years may choose from among the following course offerings.

Please note:

  • Each seminar fulfills a major course requirement.
  • If you wish to take a junior-senior seminar please indicate a 2nd and 3rd choice (seminar or other major elective course).
  • A seminar may be cancelled if fewer than 12 students elect it.
  • These courses will not necessarily be offered in successive years.

890 Dreaming in Chapters: The Art of the Novel
major elective | grades: 11, 12

That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.—Tim O’Brien

The novel, as a genre, has held readers spellbound since its inception more than four hundred years ago, and continues to reinvent itself in our own time. (Are television serials like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Wire a new form of the novel? And what about graphic narratives like V For Vendetta , Fun Home, Maus and Blankets?) Perhaps the novel’s resilience attests to its unlimited possibilities: It is the only genre that can contain every other genre inside its pages Furthermore, the novel seems uniquely equipped to reach the truth of human experience in ways that historical accounts cannot.

In The Art of The Novel, Milan Kundera writes, “A historian tells you about events that have taken place. A novel examines not reality but existence, and existence is not what occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man can become, everything he’s capable of.” We see this today in the example of Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad, a book that disrupts realism, crossing into fantasy, and yet becomes all the more true and powerful by means of this very disruption. In this seminar, we will travel across the imagined landscapes of the novel over three centuries, exploring a variety of styles and movements, including realism, the gothic novel, modernism, satire, magical realism, detective fiction, and the graphic novel. This seminar will also provide opportunities for students to develop their own storytelling gifts in a workshop setting. In addition to reading great novels, students will produce an original short story cycle, or a chapter of an original novel or graphic narrative.

A love of reading is the only prerequisite, and the reading list will be kept to a manageable length. We will read four or five novels over the course of the year. Authors and novels may include great works of 19th Century Realism, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment; gothic novels, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula; a great work of literary modernism, such as William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; a work of science fiction, such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; 21st century novels, such as Zadie Smith’s White Teeth or Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad; and an example of the graphic novel like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Tragicomic.

891 Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, Americans at the Crossroads in the 20th-century
major elective | grades: 11, 12
A general treatment of the turbulent 20th century in African American history, this course will examine the different epochs of African-American life, art, and politics through the lens of American nomenclature—Colored, Negro, Black, African-American. We will look closely at with African-American contribution to American music—Negro Spirituals, Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll, Pop Music, Hip-Hop)—and look, too, at contributions to literature and film. We will also examine African-American success during the era of “Jim Crow” (Black Wall Street, Emergence of the Black Church, Black Social Organizations and the model of the American Protest movement). Lessons on African-American contribution will be analyzed alongside those crossroad issues which gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan, the antilynching campaigns, Northern Migration, Marcus Garvey’s Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, students will learn about the effects of the “War on Drugs” and “Mass Incarceration” policies on African- American communities with a causality project, examining the root causes of both policies and making predictions on the decades of the 21st century. There will be a major paper, two short answer essay exams, and a group project on mass incarceration in the United States.

892 History of Science
major elective | grades: 11, 12
Science is an integral component of modern society and a crucial element of the history of Western Civilization and other cultures. In addition to providing a coherent understanding of the natural world, the scientific process plays a crucial role in a host of societal, political, and economic issues ranging from climate change to genetic engineering. In this seminar, students will explore how modern science developed and how new scientific knowledge impacts day-to-day life. We will begin in the first semester with an analysis of the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, exploring the influence of Ancient and Medieval philosophies and examining the impact of new institutions such as the Royal Society. In the second semester, we will turn our attention to the history of biology in the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning with new theories of species change (including but not limited to Darwin’s) and continuing to an examination of the rise of molecular biology, the biotechnology industry, and recent developments in synthetic biology. With the approval of the Science Department, students may present their research findings at Science Night.

893 Shakespeare Studio
major elective | grades: 11, 12

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good—in spite of all the people who say he’s very good. —Robert Graves

The influence of Shakespeare’s plays on our language and culture is evident and alive in daily conversation and across artistic genres—cinema, theater, opera, and pop culture.

Shakespeare Studio is a course devoted to the premise that few things are as interesting as the works of William Shakespeare. This course welcomes actors and non-actors alike: We seek a dynamic and diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. All voices are necessary when it comes to interpreting Shakespeare.

Centered around three Shakespearean plays (a history, tragedy and comedy), the course gives students the opportunity to delve in and get to know these plays well. In Shakespeare Studio we will work around the table and get up on our feet. We will study as actors, directors and dramaturgs in the staging of various scenes from all three plays.

Students will begin the course with a Shakespeare Tool Kit to introduce them to the world of text work, rhetoric, scansion and dramaturgical study. Professional theater artists will workshop various techniques and approaches to the plays of William Shakespeare. We will attend professional productions in the region and screen cinematic interpretations, considering varying directorial viewpoints.

894 True Stories: Creative Non-Fiction
major elective | grades: 11, 12

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. —Joan Didion

In this class, in search of inspiration and models for our own work, we will read a great variety of narrative nonfiction pieces, including investigative journalism, war reporting, personal essays, feature stories, sports writing, profiles, and travelogues. We will read not only as literary critics, but also as aspiring practitioners. We’ll take the pieces apart and try to figure out how to write them ourselves. We will invite journalists to come and tell us about their work and we will grow as writers ourselves. Using in-class prompts and excerpts from the pieces we read as inspiration, our class will be a generative, productive, and fun space. We will all give and receive a great deal of feedback, through workshopping and peer editing. During the course of the class, everyone will write four longer pieces of Narrative Nonfiction. And we will experiment with style, form, and length. We will investigate: How do you write about your own experiences? How do you shape your material? How do you tell a true story?

Equal parts reading and writing, our class will cover the following authors: Clarice Lispector, Joan Didion, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tracy Kidder, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Evan Osnos, Maggie Nelson, George Packer, Michael Herr, Rivka Galchen, and Katherine Boo.


895 Exploring Differences and Common Ground:
Social Justice Dialogue

minor elective | grades: 9, 10, 11, 12
The Intergroup Dialogue minor offers students a supportive environment where they engage in “real talk” about issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, social identity and power. Intergroup dialogue involves an exploration of the personal-interactional-reflective dynamics among individuals who analyze their social contexts and share their experiences. Students in this class lean into the work of building a learning community comprised of people of different backgrounds and social identities, they commit to sustained, face-to- face, facilitated and confidential conversations, and they engage in analysis and reflection about some of the most troubling issues facing U.S. society and the world in the 21st century. Through the process, students learn about possibilities for transformation and social change, they become leaders in diversity and social justice, and they learn how to design and facilitate Intergroup Dialogue.