Academics at SSFS

Sandy Spring Friends School is an exceptional school seeking to prepare students for life and further education. At SSFS, knowing why we learn, and how we learn, are just as important as what we learn. Our educational program is grounded in a deep respect for individual students and intellectual rigor. The School's teachers help students internalize a process we call "QRA"--Question, Reflection, Action--which ensures that they think critically, integrate new knowledge, and apply what they learn. We help students develop their individual sense of purpose as they become caring citizens of the world.

Seven Characteristics of a SSFS Education

David Hickson, Assistant Head of School for Academic Innovation, has identified seven distinguishing characteristics that define our model of education and help shape students whose actions speak volumes and whose lives become exemplars.

Close, cooperative relationships between teachers and students are the firmest foundation for effective learning.

Young minds learn best in an environment of trust and respect where each student is valued as a unique, gifted individual.

A Sandy Spring Friends education is rigorous.

Students are expected to move beyond just memorizing facts to “higher order thinking skills” to analyze, interpret, synthesize, and create. For this reason, multiple-choice tests are uncommon at SSFS. Working within an above-grade-level curriculum, students become skilled at prioritizing and managing academic challenges as they progress from pre-kindergarten to high school graduation.

Students learn best when they are acknowledged and included in the classroom.

For this reason, SSFS values small class sizes where every voice is heard. At all grade levels, most academic sections have between 10 and 16 students.

Sandy Spring Friends students interact with the natural world as a part of their learning environment.

Daily routines allow students to be outside as they travel between commitments. The School’s 140-acre campus is a natural laboratory for physical, scientific, and artistic exploration.

SSFS seeks to provide students a global perspective.

In a world that is increasingly international and cross-cultural, we emphasize our students' development of cultural competence and the ability to view each challenge and opportunity from multiple perspectives.

Classroom learning must be authenticated by real-world experience.

Signature trips and projects, the Upper School Intersession and Internship programs, and our outdoor education program all reflect our desire the make the world our classroom.

The School’s motto, “Let Your Lives Speak,” represents the Quaker belief that how we live our lives is the most direct indicator what we believe.

The School’s programs are grounded in an ethical framework of the six Quaker “SPICES:” service, peaceful resolution of conflict, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. These guiding values are infused through all areas of study and community life. Students of all ages participate in silent worship/reflection as they explore and develop their own moral compass.

Let Your Lives Speak Sign

Blog Posts by David Hickson:

Read more about SSFS' educational philosophy by reading David's posts on the 7 characteristics.

Our Curriculum Pages

We invite you learn about our educational philosophy by viewing each division's curriculum page.

Preschool Curriculum Page
Lower School Curriculum Page

Middle School Curriculum Page

Upper School Curriculum Page