Friends' Central Lower School

Our elementary school is a place where joy-filled learning is embedded in play, exploration, and discovery. Whether at a desk or in the garden, art studio, or playground, learning is engaging as “skills and drills” take their place alongside teamwork, collaboration, and critical questioning—why?, how?, what if? The experience is as academically challenging and exciting as it is supportive and structured.

An emphasis on the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and service underlies every aspect of our private Elementary School, including the academics. These values guide children and adults to treat one another with respect and appreciation, creating a safe and trusting atmosphere that inspires the very best in children.

The broad and varied lower school curriculum offers opportunities for each child to explore, discover new interests, and shine. Classes are small and instruction is individualized, allowing students to progress at their own rates, with many students excelling far beyond their grade levels.

Our thematic approach to education unifies learning across disciplines, from the core subjects of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies to electives like art, music, physical education, and foreign languages. The result is students that Friends’ Central Students have developed the confidence to speak up for themselves, as well as the skills to articulate their thoughts insightfully and effectively.

Lower School students learn to be good problem solvers—both academically and interpersonally. Through a careful balance of expectations and freedom, students are held accountable for their words and actions and learn to develop internal judgment and control. Individual social development and awareness of others are nurtured in tandem with academic benchmarks.

Early Childhood Programs

In addition to Grades 1–5, the Lower School has a number of early childhood education programs available for students as young as three years old.

The Nursery, Pre-K, and Kindergarten programs offer a stimulating and nurturing environment where young children can grow—academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Education is play-based, joyful, and hands-on, laying the foundations of curiosity while preparing students for the more structured classroom setting they will encounter in Grade 1 and beyond.

Meet the Lower School Principals

Kelly O'Connell Bird


Kelly joined Friends’ Central as Lower School Principal in July 2014. With degrees from Wesleyan University and the Bank Street School of Education, she began teaching in 1996. During her career, Kelly has gained both experience and a broad perspective on lower school education from leadership positions in teaching and administration at a number of independent schools in New York, including the Hewitt School, Packer Collegiate Institute, The Little Red Schoolhouse, and The Town School. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kbpierre.

Melody R. Acinapura

Melody R. AcinapuraAssistant Principal

Assistant Principal Melody joined Friends' Central in July 2017. Previously, she served as Dean of Lower School and Director of Student Support Services at Greene Street Friends School. Melody has a BA in Elementary and Special Education from Saint Joseph's University and a Master's in School Counseling Psychology from Boston College. She received a certificate from the New and Aspiring School Leadership Institute at Harvard University. Melody is also the Founding Executive Director of Horizons, a six-week summer program, the first Philadelphia-based affiliate of this national program that supports underserved youth ages kindergarten - grade 8.