The Quaker testimonies and values are at the core of all aspects of our school life and influence program, curriculum, and the school’s culture and ethos.
FSM’s Quaker studies curriculum incorporates the Quaker testimonies of peace, simplicity, justice, integrity, and community, and our practice of meeting for worship, into the whole K-8 experience in order to support the school’s mission of attending to the formation of the spiritual as well as the academic life of its students.
Spiritual development practices reflect how collective actions affirm and demonstrate our identity as a Quaker school. Students will experience their time at FSM in a setting where academic work, spiritual reflection, artistic expression, physical development, and all aspects of school life are strongly influenced by the school’s Quaker identity. A central and consistent element of this identity is the practice of silence both in the classrooms and in weekly meeting for worship.
While there are many aspects of spiritual life that cannot be defined as particular activities, there are several specific strategies that help us live our mission as a Quaker school.
We hold meeting for worship each week on Wednesday, at which students and staff in each division or as the whole school school gather in silence for twenty to thirty minutes. Most weeks, a query to provide a seed for reflection is offered by staff or a group of students. Students and staff may rise from the silence of the meeting at any time as they are led to share a reflection on either the query or another matter. Quakers believe that these sharings (or leadings) arising from silence are the result of listening for “that of God” within each person. Students and staff may consider the silence in these terms, or use the time for meditation, reflection, or simply as a pause in their day to be quiet and think on their own.
Another founding practice of our school is our conflict resolution program. This is a structured opportunity for students and staff, under the guidance of a staff member, to talk about and solve problems with each other.
Classroom meetings occur at the beginning of each day and provide a time for students to connect with each other and acknowledge each classmate as an important member of the community.
Twice a year parents, students, and teachers meet for conferences to plan children’s goals and assess their growth in all areas of development and academics. Particular attention is given to the social and community life of students and to noticing actions that display students’ values.
Scope and Sequence
The FSM Quaker studies scope and sequence includes some specific practices for testimonies and grade levels, but is not a checklist of skills to be learned and assessed. The examples it provides are designed to demonstrate how the testimonies are lived and actively taught in the classroom, and are meant to be used by all staff to build a strong foundation in the core Quaker values. The goal of spiritual development at FSM is to integrate values in the whole life of each student.
Examples from the scope and sequence of ways Quaker values are integrated with everyday school life include the following:
- In kindergarten, students learn that “fair does not mean equal.”
- In all grades, students have access to the tools and instruction that help them to be successful.
- In middle school, social studies students learn about Minnesota history from different perspectives, including an emphasis on Native American perspectives
- From kindergarten through eighth grade, students participate in conflict resolution conferences in which they learn to solve problems with individuals, and group gatherings in which whole classes work to discuss problems and improve community.
- Students often work in groups or pairs in which conflict is expected, and peaceful ways of moving forward are taught and practiced.
- The annual all-school production is a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of non-violence.
- There are no locks on lockers.
- There is the assumption that what a student says is his or her own truth. Students’ perspectives can be different and simultaneously true.
- We don’t require hall passes, and students often move throughout the school informally in groups rather than formally in lines.
Meeting for Worship and Silence
- We meet for worship once a week by division or as a whole school.
- Celebrations, such as holidays or the beginning and end of the school year, include gathering for silence and sharing of a query.
- Classrooms use silence in preparing for work and transitions.
- We turn to silence in times of crisis or other big issues in our community or the greater world.
- We respect and share children's artwork as is it is, rather than changing it for display.
- Middle schoolers learn how groups and individuals prioritize needs and wants through their study of food and water systems.
- We value and provide unstructured time in the classroom and outdoors.
- Students are responsible for cleaning up after lunch, picking up trash in hallways, recycling, and composting.
- Teachers focus on partner work, explicitly teaching how to be a good partner, and grouping students carefully so that they get to know everyone in the class.
- We teach specific behavior and language to make new students and visitors feel welcome.
There are no defined benchmarks, as spiritual development is not static, but a product of ongoing reflection. The school seeks to notice and nurture, rather than rate or assess, values development in each student.