Mission and Philosophy


The Philadelphia School educates children for a future that is impossible to know but not impossible to shape. Learn here. Go anywhere.


The Philadelphia School’s progressive approach to learning and teaching has deep thinking, innovation, and agency as its guiding values. We encourage children to explore and push the boundaries of possibility to fulfill their intellectual, social, and civic potential. We approach learning through inquiry, projects, and community. Core values and new research inform the school’s program and pedagogical practices. Our interdisciplinary, theme-based approach prepares students to build a stronger and more inclusive school, community, and society for today and tomorrow. 

As an urban, preschool–8th grade school, we address specifically how young students develop intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, and physically. Through our commitment to diversity, we seek to nurture each student’s moral compass, sense of personal integrity, and respect for individuality. Learning in the city, country, and classroom affirms our founders’ goal of educating children to become responsible and active stewards of the urban and natural environments. 


Since our founding in 1972, The Philadelphia School has grown in size, complexity, and diversity. This growth has been rooted firmly in the progressive values with which our founders began: immersive learning, responsive pedagogy, and meaningful engagement with the world.

Today our school hums with vibrant activity. TPS students are dreamers, designers, builders, and questioners. They are not waiting around for life to begin. They co-create their education and their communities right here, right now — learning that agency does not begin with adulthood. In turn, adults in and out of the classroom guide students’ work with purpose and compassion, modeling the permanent place in life for curiosity and exuberant growth.

The future will find us deepening our commitments to experience-based learning and to equity, diversity, sustainability, and community. We want TPS to be a school without defaults. It will be a space defined and enhanced by the diversity within. Safe enough to be brave, the school we envision will be increasingly outward facing, less container than catapult. You will encounter our students pursuing projects out in the world with partners from other schools, other life paths, and other generations. Wherever they are, they will be absorbed in what they are doing. Hands on, hearts open.

Core Values

We value a relational approach to learning and teaching.  We believe that children grow best physically, socially, ethically, and intellectually within networks of trusted peers, families, and teachers.  We nurture, support, and sustain authentic, reciprocal relationships among individuals, groups, and communities.  We create learning experiences that help children understand themselves and their place in the world. We make explicit the interconnectedness of ideas, disciplines, and areas of study. We emphasize compassion, empathy, and respect as essential in shaping the civic leaders of tomorrow.

We value a developmental perspective. We track and support the path and progress of each individual through appropriate developmental stages. Current research influences our practice as we design curriculum, differentiate instruction, and nurture the potential of each learner.

We value an innovative stance. We live in a conceptual age with fast-paced change and growing complexities. Teaching and learning must therefore be a dynamic and responsive process. Our programs reflect the best of long-held practices and current educational research. We are open to new and diverse perspectives and incorporate emerging technologies as tools for expressing ideas, exploring issues, and communicating understandings. 

We value a constructivist approach to learning and teaching. We believe that children naturally make meaning of their lives by actively constructing their own understanding and knowledge of the world. Our curriculum and teaching methods are designed to provide context and experiences that will expand, develop, and challenge a student’s thinking, understanding, and knowledge. Children are encouraged to ask questions, to explore and assess what they know, and to reflect on how new learning connects to their own lives.