The Philadelphia School: Progressive Attention to the Whole Child
This project-based, diverse educational environment explores urban surroundings, the natural world, and the limitlessness of children's potential.
“We chose TPS for many reasons but mostly the progressive education. We loved that traditional desks and chairs were nowhere to be found, even in the higher grades. We also loved that the kids spend one day a week outdoors outside of the city. It was important to us that our city kids have regular exposure to nature.”
– Leah Stolker Jordan, The Philadelphia School parent of two
In 1972, a small group of parents seeking out a more progressive, holistic approach to early education than could be found in traditional school systems did something revolutionary: with just 14 students and a solid mission, they opened The Philadelphia School. Nurturing the whole child is at the core of The Philadelphia School’s philosophy, fostering intellectual, creative, emotional, social, and physical development through project-based learning.
Now more than 450 students strong with a diverse population in the student body, faculty, and staff, the founders’ vision of a City Country Classroom is realized every day on campus, at outdoor partner Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, in museums, theaters, and city streets. Using the city itself, the surrounding region, and indeed the world at large as its classrooms, TPS offers a prime setting that fosters and celebrates each child’s curiosity, joy of learning, creativity, intellect, and innovation, while holding fast to exceptional academic standards.
“TPS provides an environment that helps kids become critical thinkers while also attending to their social-emotional development,” says Kristen Foca, Director of Communication and Marketing.
Notable aspects that set The Philadelphia School apart from other schools? A focus on social and civic
responsibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion, plus hands-on learning, theme-based learning, and presence and participation in the surrounding community. Students learn to garden, navigate the city, and take part in activism and community service, just a few of the ways the progressive TPS educational model is applied in real time and space.
The Philadelphia School, Voice of Experience
Maxime Damis, a 2008 K-8 graduate, now 25 years old with a blossoming career in engineering, values the advantage of nine years of learning at The Philadelphia School.
“I’m not a natural test-taker,” says Maxime. “[TPS] gave me the language and skills to talk about what I knew and prove it without [the primary assessment being] traditional tests.”
Other highlights of The Philadelphia School for Maxime include the school’s close-knit community, small classrooms, mixed-age activities, immersive Spanish language program, music programs, and differentiated approach to teaching for each student.
Excelling in math from a young age, Maxime was moving quickly beyond her grade level. “They were able to place me in classes that would accommodate my different level of skills,” says Maxime. “You could move beyond…you could shine.”
The project-based approach to learning that is the heart of The Philadelphia School’s model had instilled in Maxime an alternative way of understanding, absorbing, and putting into practice the material that many schools present via textbooks in the classroom.
“[Many of my peers] didn’t have the hands-on approach to the topics and the ability to go at a problem and solve it creatively. Project-based learning is what gave me the tools to excel,” says Maxime.
Today, that ability still serves Maxime in her work as an engineer. “I have a more detailed eye when it comes to presenting a final product because that’s how I was educated.”
The Philadelphia School Summer Camps
The Philadelphia School’s progressive approach is not limited to the school year. For six weeks each June and July, campers can explore through TPS Summer Camps.
Enrichment Camps offer campers the ability to dive deeply into their areas of interest with seemingly endless prospects for fun and development. From chess to film, coding to woodworking – and so much more.
City Country Day Camps provide an opportunity to engage in a variety of theme-based activities, such as a Young Inventors experience for preschoolers and kindergartners, and first through fifth-graders enjoy Adventures.
Summer Institutes provides first-hand field experiences, nationally and internationally, to help campers gain a deeper understanding of complex social and global issues.
“The Philadelphia School helped our children become smart, kind, caring, and engaged citizens. And TPS also helped my wife and me become better parents by equipping us with the skills to be more patient, listen to our children’s needs, let them succeed and fail, and provide support while still promoting their independence.”
– Derek Jokelson, TPS Board President and alumni parent
“We want our children to grow up and be the best version of themselves, and I think that a school like TPS that allows creativity and choice allows them to develop their own voice.”
– Sarah Campbell Cooper, TPS parent and alumna ’93
Are you seeking a progressive place to nurture your child’s inquisitive nature and open his or her future? Learn more about The Philadelphia School’s our admissions process!
The Philadelphia School educates children for a future that is impossible to know but not impossible to shape. Learn here. Go anywhere.
Photography provided by The Philadelphia School.