Abington Friends School Cultivates Connection with Families During Pandemic Through AFS Everywhere

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Since the pandemic struck our country, families have been socially distancing at home and for some the transition to learning online has resulted in idled classrooms, broken community connections and academic setbacks. 

 At Abington Friends School, a Quaker school for ages 3 through grade 12, located in Jenkintown, they’re using the school shutdown to create a robust and positive learning  experience for their students that extends beyond physical boundaries.

The school has successfully launched AFS Everywhere, an educational program that sustains vital connections between students, families, faculty and staff.

“We know how critical simple connection can be at a time of relative isolation,” wrote Head of School Rich Nourie in a letter. “Our teachers thrive and are driven by this desire to connect; relationship is the essential medium for learning and the heart of an AFS education. “

So even with the campus closed, the school community and the spirited learning that typically takes place inside a classroom very much continues.

An active and engaging curriculum for the lower, middle and upper schools includes lessons over live video, writing and reading assignments, music and art projects, physical education, outdoor learning activities and service learning.

A few examples:

  • Poetry in a Pandemic. Mary Lynn Ellis’s 11th grade AP literature students chose a line of a poem that resonated with them in a new way during the pandemic. They wrote their own poems, weaving that line into the poem.
  • Write for What’s Right. Sunshine O’Donnell’s eighth grade English students picked an issue they cared about. They then researched that issue and created poems, speeches, essays, websites, documentaries and more to promote social justice for that issue.
  • Hear My Song. The Theater Arts Department replaced its spring production with a musical Zoom message of hope for the school community and the world. You can view “Hear My Song: A Musical Message of Hope and Possibility” from AFS Theatre here.

    The Middle School students created their own action figures from apps used from home and a 3D printer at school.
  • 3D Action Figures. Middle School art teacher Pete Thobaben transferred a 3D action figure art project from the school to home using online applications. Students worked on designing their movable figures before bringing them to life with the school’s 3D printers.
  • Stamps for Charity.  Susan Arteaga’s first grade class used a stamp sale project from the fall to learn math, counting coins and dollars and ultimately donating $49.85 from the sale of 498 stamps to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

A Community that Cares

In a blog post, Abington Friends’ parent and Consulting Psychologist Michael Cassano shared his thoughts on the surreal circumstances of the pandemic and how students can cope, even as they experience a wide range of emotional responses.

“I am so grateful that I am part of the AFS community and can experience this all with you,” Michael wrote, encouraging students to reach out in times of emotional need.

Head of School Rich Nourie talked about the advantageof students being able to connect over Zoom and participate in virtual Meeting for Worship, a reflective practice of the Quakers. He expressed that this way of  communicating had brought a different sense of closeness to the student and faculty gatherings, due to the relative windows into each other’s homes.

The paradox of our being apart bringing us closer, underlines that there is always a close connection in the realm of the spirit, no matter the distance,” he wrote.

Reactions

Parents and students have expressed their gratitude for the success of the AFS Everywhere program.

“During this uncertain time, it lifted their spirits (and mine too) to be reminded of some of the certainties that are part of AFS – love, light and community,” shared parent Christina Shellenberger, a parent of kindergarten and third grade students. “We are particularly grateful for each of those at this time.”

Ruby, an Upper School student, also chimed in.

“All of my teachers have been incredibly supportive of me and my peers during this unpredictable time, and I admire their dedication to give AFS students the best learning experience possible amid trying circumstances.”

This is a scene from the Abington Friends Upper School fall show, “Songs for a New World.” One of the songs from the show was featured in the recent video created by the cast members during the pandemic. Image via Abington Friends School.

To find out more about all that Abington Friends School has to offer, visit their website here. Application fees are currently being waived.

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