What is a Friends Education?

Quaker education represents a unique combination of academic excellence and spiritual depth.

SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, StewardshipAt Sandy Spring Friends School, we have a profound sense of hope in the individual's ability to create positive change within the world, and we foster the values that create change: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. These values are sometimes referred to by their acronym, the Quaker SPICES. Please click here for an informational booklet about SSFS’s Quaker roots and identity.

See a brief video, "What is a Quaker School?" in which students from SSFS talk about what going to a Friends school means to them.

Click to see video: what is a Quaker school?

SSFS seniors and their Lower School buddies explain what is meant by the Quaker "SPICES" in this video.

Click here to see SSFS Seniors and their Lower School buddies talk about the Quaker SPICES

Ever wonder what a Quaker Meeting for Worship is all about? Students, teachers, alumni, and the Head of School at Sandy Spring Friends School share their perspectives about what it means to gather together in silence in the "What is Quaker Meeting for Worship?" video.

Click here for video: What is Quaker Meeting for Worship?


Quaker education is a 325-year old approach to learning. Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore were all founded as Quaker institutions of higher learning. The founders of Cornell and Johns Hopkins were also inspired by the Quaker approach to education. A Quaker education can be characterized by the following principles*:

  • Learning through inquiry
  • Learning through reflection
  • Learning through collaboration
  • Learning through service
  • A culture of respect
  • Teachers as partners in the learning process

* Taken from "Teaching Tolerance and Valuing Diversity," by Irene McHenry, former Executive Director, Friends Council on Education.

Is Sandy Spring Friends School open to students of all faiths?

Absolutely! We welcome students of all faiths with open arms. Students of all faiths continue to report to us that their experiences at the Sandy Spring Friends School have made them more committed to their own faiths. We operate under the care of the Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which hold a majority of seats on the School's Board of Trustees. Approximately 10-15% of our students are Quaker.

What does it mean to be a Quaker?

The Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, hold as a core belief that there is that of God in everyone. This belief – along with the understanding that each of us has the ability and responsibility to seek the Truth – is central to Quakerism. It is an inquisitive faith that encourages self-reflection, open and personal dialogue, inquiry, and peace-making. Most Quakers consider themselves Christian, but the emphasis, unlike other branches of Christianity, is not on dogma, but on the strength of preparing oneself to hear the Truth and to live a life committed to universally-admired values such as simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship.

Quakers are sometimes confused with the Amish with whom they share pacifism; they are, in fact, different faiths.

How does Quakerism manifest itself in a Sandy Spring education?

A Sandy Spring classroom balances disciplined academic discourse with experiential and outdoor activities. Each individual student, as a self-advocate, has a voice in his or her classroom experience and in the administration of the school. With that equality comes transparency, and with both comes a confidence in student interactions with teachers, administrators, and adults in general. Students are full of questions and enter into long and profound inquiries into matters; they advocate for themselves. They also take on service projects that promote social justice and environmental initiatives. A Sandy Spring Friends School education creates confident, resilient students who are open to hearing a diverse range of voices and opinions; who are willing to have their own ideas critiqued and challenged; who are comfortable with both silent reflection and active engagement in the world around them; and who are optimistic about their own ability to affect positive change in the world through peaceful means, dialogue, and concensus-building.

Is there religious instruction?

There is no formal religious instruction in the Lower and Middle Schools; Upper School students take a one-semester Quakerism class to introduce the history, traditions, and principles of Quakerism. All students have Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House 1-2 times each week, depending on the division. There is no officiant, and there are no sacraments or ceremonies. Students and staff sit in quiet reflection and are given general themes to focus their thoughts. If they are so moved, they stand and share their thoughts. It is a peaceful and pressure-free break from the academic week, with an important opportunity to pause and reflect on life and larger things.


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