Core Teams

Students in the Upper School are encouraged to join one (or more) of our Core Teams, a signature academic program at FCS. While we currently host three different Core Teams – science, humanities, and justice – with the possibility of more teams to come, each team offers a similar experience. A group of students from grades 9 through 12, working together with the guidance and equal participation from members of the faculty and staff, takes a deep dive into the work of a particular, scientist, artist, scholar, and/or activist. These weekly sessions, which may involve everything from analyzing a particular experiment to “performing” a play together to reviewing how activism was used to bring about change, offer students a chance to look closely at the work of an expert in their field and, in so doing, prepare for each team’s capstone experience: the expert’s visit to campus later in the year. On that occasion, in addition to giving a talk open to all FCS students, families, and the public, our distinguished visitor spends a day on campus visiting with members of the Core Team, who get to ask their questions, offer their insights, and hear about the visitor’s current endeavors. Going a step further, members of the Science Core Team end the year with a trip to visit the distinguished scientist in their laboratory. 

FCS Core Teams represent the very best of scholarship and inquiry. Modeled after intensive college-level seminars, hands-on laboratory work and active ensemble building, the Core Teams thrive on collaboration, curiosity, creativity, and the collective energy generated by learners with a shared purpose. There are no prerequisites to join a team and little, if any, homework is required. Meetings are scheduled during the school day at lunch or during community blocks. Even though no academic credit is offered to the participants, each fall, Upper School students join the Core Teams because they are interested in a field of study, a social justice issue, or a particular artistic pursuit. Put simply, students on the Core Teams want to learn more. These teams offer students a stress-free opportunity for growth, relationship-building, and exercising their academic muscles. 

Sparking intellectual passion and a spirit of inquiry are central to our mission and vision. Bringing scholars who are at the very top of their fields to Friends’ Central to work with our students is a natural extension of the scholarship they do every day with our own talented and passionate faculty. Our distinguished visitors come from major universities, research centers, and artistic hubs. In the last few years, Friends’ Central has hosted, with the Science Core Team, Helen White, geochemist and associate professor at Haver ford College; Rebecca Saxe, cognitive neuroscientist and MIT professor, and Douglas Emlen, evolutionary biologist and professor of biology at the University of Montana. In that same time frame, the Humanities Core Team has welcomed Daniel Immerwahr ’98, author and professor at Northwestern University; novelist and Haverford College professor Asali Solomon, and Daniel Torday, novelist and professor at Bryn Mawr College. The Justice Core Team, our newest team, has hosted filmmaker and activist André Robert Lee; Dr. Steve Larson, physician and co-founder of Puentes de Salud, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician whose research exposed the Flint water crisis. Each visitor has enriched our students’ experience and, through their public lectures, shared Friends’ Central’s intellectual fire with the public. 

Visit our Distinguished Lecture Series page for more details.


In each semester, the Science Department offers a certificate program in ecological monitoring called "Natural Lands."  Those enrolled will attend three meetings and four weekend outings during the semester.  This program is different from traditional departmental course offerings and may be taken in addition to a six-class course load.  It will not carry departmental course credit, but students who complete the semester will receive a Certificate in Natural History and Ecology. 

Core studies will focus on ecological field work and data analysis, coupled with exploration of the regional policy issues of greatest importance to conservation.  There will be extensive field work during the warmer months (September to mid-November in semester one, mid-March to early June in semester two), studying pollinating insects (especially flower flies and native solitary bees), fungus and lichens, native wildflowers, and migratory birds.  Site visits will include trips to Natural Lands preserves and other nearby natural areas. Students will generate focus study topics in connection with specific organisms and may develop web-based publications or seminar presentations outlining individual findings.  (Open to students in  grades 10 - 12)